In this video, Jim discusses the future of planning and scheduling. He describes ideas for improving the accuracy of the schedule and the activity durations, and introduces the concept of lean productivity and lean scheduling to improve schedule reliability and reduce waste.
- Throughout this course, I've discussed the importance of developing and maintaining an accurate schedule in order to make it a useful tool in managing your construction project. Sometimes though, we do things like padding the schedule by adding more days then we think we'll actually need, because we're unsure of the actual duration. Sometimes we generate unrealistic schedules just to make the owner happy, or to make it look like we'll hit a certain date. Other times, we might fail to keep our schedules properly updated. All of these things tend to lead to one of the biggest problems we have in construction, and that's productivity.
Not necessarily productivity out there at the work face, but productivity of the overall project. Think about it, should it really take four or five, or even six months or more to build a simple single family home? No, not really. It's all that downtime that occurs at the site due to this perceived need to pad the schedule. Why do we do this? Well, it's partly just the way our industry has evolved. The contracting process and our traditional design-bid-build method of project delivery, have created a sort of adversarial environment where each trade on the project is working to protect their own bottom line, and they tend to put that ahead of any concerns for the project, or the other trades.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the need to protect the bottom line, but the way we tend to do that when it comes to scheduling, usually results in the addition of days to the schedule where nothing gets done. If you spend any time in the construction industry you probably know what I mean. There are two really typical scenarios. One, I check with my sub on when they can start and how long it's going to take them to complete the foundations. They give me a start date and they tell me they need seven working days.
I know that they're just telling me what I want to hear, and that they have a habit of missing their dates, so I plug in two full work weeks or 10 days, and then I use this information to schedule the framer that follows them. At that point, I've given my framer a start date, so it now really doesn't matter if the foundations are done in seven days, or in five days, or in 10 days, because my framer has a start date. Finishing foundations early just means the job will sit for a few days waiting for the framer.
Of course, that is usually better than scenario number two, where I go ahead and I use the information from the concrete sub, and I use that to give the framer the start date. Then, the concrete crew shows up late, doesn't finish on time, and the result is that the framer shows up as scheduled only to find that the foundations aren't done. They refuse to move on till they have all the foundations, and they take off, leaving you to reschedule, which often means waiting even longer because they now have started a new project and since your schedule was wrong, you have to wait till they free up another crew.
It's a frustrating cycle and it really boils down to reliability. There's a new scheduling and productivity model out there called lean, and lean is a tried-and-true process improvement method in the manufacturing industry. It started with Toyota in their plants and factories. In the construction industry though, we tend to not get too excited about new innovations in manufacturing processes because they historically have not been able to be brought over to the construction process.
I believe that lean is different. I think lean shows some real promise in being able to be ported over to construction. It really attempts to address this reliability problem by using what's called pull planning instead of the push planning that we use today. It focuses on getting the trades to communicate and work together to develop realistic and reliable schedules with the goal of compressing the overall schedule by getting rid of waste, like these extra days in the schedule.
We have some great courses related to lean productivity here in the online library and they're a good place to start, but there are some challenges in porting lean from the manufacturing industry over to construction. If you're interested in that topic, the Lean Construction Institute is a group that's working to solve that challenge and they're a great source of information, and that's also a topic that we have slated for a future course here so stay tuned. I also want to mention the effect that alternative project delivery methods are having on scheduling.
Methods such as the construction manager at risk model, and other integrated methods of project delivery. When the general contractors hired as a construction manager to help with design, it can really facilitate the ability to accelerate the project schedule. To be successful though, the general contractor has to develop reliable and accurate information about the construction process during that design phase which means that they need to get accurate information from their trade contractors that they involve during the pre-construction process.
Again, all of this attempts to address reliability and it is a somewhat new concept to many in the construction industry. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out my course on alternative project delivery methods for the construction industry.
This course identifies the steps needed to develop a proper plan, and demonstrates how that plan is transformed into a construction schedule. Throughout the course, instructor Jim Rogers shares examples of his own successes and failures in the areas of construction planning and scheduling, so as to lend real-world context to the concepts he covers.
- Types of schedules
- Planning versus scheduling
- Work breakdown structure
- Developing a schedule
- Creating a network model
- Assigning durations, costs, and resources
- Identifying the critical path
- Letting the software do the calculations
- Checking and updating the schedule
- Scheduling's impact on productivity