The Importance of Scheduling – Why Scheduling Software is Imperative for Successful Projects
Completing a construction project without a schedule is like going grocery shopping without a list or taking a road trip without directions; you may accomplish your goals but not without wasted time and money. A construction plan is imperative to the success of a project as it ensures that all team members are on the same page, all resources have been properly allocated, and that production proceeds without bottlenecks. Due to the vitality of project scheduling, it is important that the subcontractor takes the time to create an accurate and detailed schedule before proceeding. Continuing the road trip analogy, a traditional map might get you to your destination, but a GPS that automatically accounts for traffic, roadblocks, and other factors will get you there faster and more efficiently. Construction software works the same way; it will allow the subcontractor to create a schedule quicker and more accurately which will lead to time and monetary savings on behalf of the subcontractor, and higher satisfaction on behalf of the client.
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Stages of Scheduling
Before creating the schedule, the subcontractor must engage in the Planning or Pre-Scheduling Phase of project management, which includes determining all of the tasks from start to finish that are going to be necessary to complete the project. This can be completed using a list format, or any other non-chronological fashion.
After the planning phase, the subcontractor must engage in the Scheduling Phase, in which he can start to determine the duration of these tasks, their chronology, and their precedence relationships. Depending on the complexity of the precedence relationships and the experience of the subcontractor, scheduling software may become necessary at this stage before continuing. Construction scheduling software has the capability to help the user understand complicated precedence relationships and identify costly errors that would be overlooked by the naked eye.
This should allow you to be able to determine the critical path, or the longest path from start to finish. The duration of all of the activities in the critical path is the shortest possible time period to complete the project.
Once the durations and precedence relationships are established, the subcontractor can complete the second half of the scheduling phase, which involves scheduling labor and material to meet the demand created by the tasks identified in the planning phase.
Why is the construction project schedule so important, and how does scheduling software help?
Can be Useful to Present to the Client
Many contractors and subcontractors will create a schedule prior to bidding on a project and submit this along with their bid. There are two main reasons why a contractor would choose to do so:
- Sometimes clients provide unreasonable timeframes for their projects. If the contractor does not take the time to investigate the requirements for a project before accepting it, he may be stuck with an impossible deadline that will lead to extra costs and leaving the client unsatisfied. In response to this, many contractors will create the schedule before accepting a project to come up with their time estimation and compare it to the one provided by the client. If the two schedules are not similar, the contractor has the option of not bidding on the project or submitting his project timeline to the client for review.
- Another reason why a contractor might complete and submit a schedule with their bid is to show the client that they have thoroughly thought through this project and understands what it entails. This impresses the client and may lead to winning the project.
Predicts Costs and Cash Flows
Another important reason to schedule a project before accepting it is to make sure that it is affordable. One of the challenges of a subcontractor is that they are required to cover all of their costs out-of-pocket and are not paid until after the project is completed. A thorough schedule will show the cash flows at any given time and will allow the contractor to decide whether or not it is financially responsible for him to take on such a project.
Gives You a Plan B
Creating a schedule requires the identification of the critical path(s), which becomes critical (hence the name) should the client request an expedited completion date. Not everything goes according to schedule, but having already thought out the many paths you could take to complete a project without falling behind will provide you with a backup plan should your original plan go awry. In other words, scheduling helps you plan for the unpredictable.
Accurate scheduling and the implementation of a scheduling software will allow the subcontractor to staff each task appropriately with no wasted labor or understaffing. The software will allow the project manager or subcontractor to be able to avoid overlaps in the schedule that cause confusion and delays.
Many construction project management solutions offer visual tracking of projects, which includes checking the progress of a project, tracking employees’ location and hours, comparing projected timeline to actual timeline, etc. All of these things will help the subcontractor to control the project after the planning and scheduling phase. Many scheduling solutions also alert the subcontractor when things are due or if things are falling behind. This allows the subcontractor to take action to remedy this immediately before it becomes problematic.
Less Last-Minute Ordering
A thorough schedule will allow the subcontractor or project manager to order all necessary materials in advance and have them arrive right when they are needed. This early planning and ordering of materials eliminate the cost and production delays that come with having to order materials at the last minute.
Do not take on a project without a game plan. Proper scheduling practices can allow you and your team to be more cost effective, productive, and efficient.