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  1. What is CPM Scheduling?

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    What do construction crews, software developers, and NASA have in common? They, and many others, use CPM scheduling to manage projects and predict the amount of time a project might take.  CPM, or critical path management, is essentially a project management technique that identifies milestones and activities in any given project.

    Basic CPM Scheduling Technique

    Before understanding the basic technique, there a few terms that are important to know. First, what does critical path mean in the first place? A project’s critical path is the shortest possible project duration. That means it’s order of activities with the shortest durations that add up to the shortest total project time.

    Float is another important term that refers to the amount of time that an activity in your project can take without delaying the project’s overall date of completion or the next activity’s start date.

    To set up your own CPM schedule, you will need to know the following:

    • A list of activates that need to be done for the project to be completed,
    • An estimated amount of time each activity will take,
    • Dependability between activities.

    To determine the first two, depending on the size and scale of the project, you typically only need to work backward from the end result to determine what you’ll have to do and how long it will take. For instance, if you want to paint a room, you know you’ll need to:

    • choose a paint
    • buy the paint
    • buy brushes and rollers
    • remove furniture from the room
    • paint the borders
    • paint the walls
    • clean the brushes

    If you know generally how long each of those activities will take, you have the first two prerequisites complete. Determining dependability between the activities means looking at the list of tasks and finding ones that need other activities to be competed before they can begin. For example, you can’t paint the walls before you choose the paint.

    Once you know the dependability between different activities you can determine an ideal order of activities. That, coupled with the amount of time each one will take, can help you find the total duration of the project and the starting time for each activity.

    Critical Path Scheduling

    Scheduling something like painting a room seems fairly straightforward but larger projects can be more complicated. In that case, you would need to determine an optimistic early dates and realistic late dates. With those dates, you can calculate each task’s total float with the following equation:

    Total Float = late start – early start (or late finish – early finish)

    Once you have the total float for each activity you will be able to see the critical path schedule by which activates have the lowest float or no float.

    Usefulness

    The critical path method helps you determine three things about your project: the dates that each activity should start and end, the date the overall project will end, and your project’s critical path.  The best use for CPM scheduling is when a project involves activities with unknown durations. Great for situations which activity durations are unknown.

  2. Why is P6 Scheduling perfect for your construction project?

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    P6 scheduling is used by a variety of industries and organizations including NASA, engineers, and software development companies. Many construction companies use the P6 scheduler to plan building projects. But what makes P6 scheduling so ideal for projects across so many industries?

    First, its ability to integrate critical path method scheduling into an easy to use software, allows you to plan otherwise unpredictable schedules. The way it facilitates scheduling out tasks with uncertain start and end times, allows you to stay on schedule and adapt when the unexpected occurs. However, there are several other features P6 construction scheduling software offers that can help you plan and efficiently execute a construction project.

    Resource Management

    One helpful feature that can assist you in creating a more accurate construction plan is resource management. Every construction project uses some type of material or resource. Having too much wastes money and having too little slows progress. Resource management tools are included in most P6 schedulers and they allow you to visualize your resources with charts and graphs. You can also set alerts to notify you when one of your resources are running low.

    Many construction managers choose to focus solely on timelines when mapping out a construction project. However, managing the flow of resources and materials is a big part of keeping a project on schedule.

    Risk Analysis

    Construction projects are often surrounded by risks that can potentially delay the completion date. Red tape, delays in financing, soil sample delays, and many more building hindrances can cause your project to miss deadlines. Risk assessment is common in large and expensive construction and city development projects. However, P6 construction scheduling allows construction projects of any size to analyze risk and plan accordingly.

    Some clients prefer (if not require) a risk assessment but even if they don’t, a little risk management can go a long way in keeping you on track. Keep in mind, that risk management tools are not as ubiquitous in P6 scheduling software as resource management. However, there are programs that offer it, if it’s something you’re interested in.

    Cloud Access

    A relatively new feature to come out of construction scheduling innovation is cloud and mobile access to your software. This means you are able to access your schedule from a mobile device or any other device connected to the internet. Foremen can also update your schedule in real time. This can help you overcome obstacles, create accurate reports, and adapt to changes faster and more efficiently.

    Ability to Collaborate

    In the same spirit as cloud-based scheduling, the ability to collaborate on projects allows you to be more efficient when creating and managing your schedule. Especially with large projects, it’s important to communicate with all the members of your team. Using a P6 scheduler can help you avoid emailing project files back and forth and potentially having a member of your team miss something. Collaborating on one schedule can help everyone see the same plan at once.

  3. The Best Way to Schedule Your Construction Project

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    In the day to day for many jobs, you can pick and choose which tasks you’d like to tackle next. Start with the hardest part and work your way down, or get the small things out of the way before tackling the biggest task. In construction, however, you have to follow a specific sequence. You can’t build the fourth floor, then the roof, and finish off with a nice foundation. Scheduling a project correctly is vital for a building project and, as the old saying goes, its best to work smarter, not harder.

    With critical path management software, you can plan out your construction process, determine time frames for individual tasks and the project as a whole, and you can find the most efficient path your project can take.

    Here’s the best way to apply your construction scheduling software to your next construction project:

    Construction Scheduling Breakdown

    Breaking a small project into tasks should be simple. If you are building a small wall you just need to plot out the space you are going to build, buy the materials, start from the bottom and work your way up. However, this step can be more difficult for huge construction projects. You can choose to take a basic snapshot of your project by setting large milestones or you can focus on smaller tasks.

    Either way, you should make a list of all the tasks that must be completed before the project is finished.

    Organize Information with CPM Scheduling

    Using a construction planner software like BAR Scheduling CPM software, you can begin to organize the project.  Look for connections between tasks. What has to be done first? What is dependent on another task? Think about how long each project will take. Once you determine timing and dependability, you can begin to see your ideal schedule unfolding.

    You can also use construction planning software to plan for resource allocation, risk analysis, and you can even set up the ability to collaborate with other members of your team.

    Find Your Critical Path

    Now that you have all your tasks listed and planned, you can find your critical path. The critical path is the longest path that starts with the beginning of the project and ends with its completion. Your critical path should also take “float” into account. Float is the longest a task can be delayed without delaying the beginning of the next task of the end date of the whole project.

    Knowing your critical path can help point out more dependencies between tasks and outlines which tasks you should tackle first.

    Make Blueprints Reality

    Once you’ve scheduled your project, you can get your contractors involved to begin building. What happens if you fall behind schedule or your schedule hits a snag? Well, just like when a GPS system recalculates a new path if you miss an exit on the highway, CPM scheduling helps you adjust and rework your schedule to make room for unplanned roadblocks. The algorithm works out everything for you. All you need to do is to make a change to the schedule and watch as your whole project is adjusted around it.