What Is Planning and Scheduling in Construction Management?
Planning and scheduling are two separate processes. Planning generally refers to the process of creating a timeline for a construction project and allocating resources to specific tasks, including milestones and deadlines. The goal is to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget. Scheduling encompasses the allocation of your human resources, including employees and subcontractors.
Planning and scheduling are both essential to construction management because without the right planning and scheduling, you can’t ensure that your projects come in under budget or before their deadlines.
Why Planning and Scheduling Are Important in Construction Projects
There are several reasons why planning and scheduling are important in construction projects:
- To ensure that the project is completed on time. This is the most obvious benefit of planning and scheduling. By creating a timeline and allocating resources, you can better control the progress of your project and ensure that it is completed within the specified timeframe.
- To ensure that the project is completed within budget. By allocating resources and planning ahead, you can avoid costly last-minute changes and unforeseen expenses.
- To improve communication and coordination. Planning and scheduling can help you improve communication between different team members and subcontractors. By having a clear understanding of the project timeline and tasks, everyone can work together more efficiently.
- To improve project quality. By taking the time to plan and schedule your project, you can avoid mistakes and ensure that the project is completed according to your specifications.
- To keep clients happy. While many construction projects run over time and over budget, they don’t need to, nor should they. You can keep your clients happy by ensuring that your construction project comes in on time.
An unplanned project is a project that can quickly spiral out of your control. And if you aren’t planning and scheduling your projects carefully, you may not be making as much money as you should.
The Benefits of Better Construction Planning and Scheduling for Your ROI
Any business is about the bottom line. How do better construction planning and scheduling improve your ROI?
- When you’re able to better control the progress of your projects and ensure that they are completed on time and within budget, you’re able to generate more repeat business and referrals.
- By improving communication and coordination among different team members, you can avoid mistakes and reworks, which can save you time and money.
- By taking the time to plan and schedule your project, you can improve project quality and avoid issues that could lead to legal problems down the road.
- Improved planning and scheduling can help you keep your clients happy, which can lead to more repeat business and referrals.
- By scheduling more effectively, you can fit more jobs into the day. You’ll be able to reap the benefits of scaling without difficulties.
It’s about running a tight ship. And the better you manage your existing business, the more business you can take on.
Modern Challenges in Construction Planning and Scheduling
Most people do want to plan and schedule effectively, so, what’s holding them back? The construction industry notoriously goes over both budget and deadlines very frequently.
Here are some of the most common challenges we face:
- Not understanding the project. This means having a clear understanding of the scope, timeline, and budget. Without this information, it’s impossible to create an effective plan. Quite frequently, this has to do with initial communication with the client.
- Lack of collaboration. Construction projects are often complex and involve many different people, from architects and engineers to subcontractors and material suppliers. If everyone isn’t on the same page, miscommunication and reworks occur more frequently.
- Dependencies on other contractors involved in the project. Other organizations not completing their work on time or as the expected specification can significantly impact your schedule.
- Changes in scope. The scope of a construction project can often change, which can throw off the entire schedule. It’s important to be flexible and able to adjust the plan as needed.
- Unrealistic deadlines. One of the most common causes of construction projects going over budget is unrealistic deadlines. This often happens when the client doesn’t understand the scope of the project or fails to account for unforeseen circumstances. Rein in their expectations early.
- Lack of resources. If you don’t have enough people or materials to complete the project on time, it’s going to cause delays. Today, supply chain issues are a major hazard. Don’t just plan for the materials you need, but also have a Plan B.
Running a construction business is complex. Every project has its own set of moving parts. But by improving your planning and scheduling processes, you can increase the chances that your projects will go as expected.
The Five Phases of the Construction Life Cycle
Construction projects are complex. Breaking a construction project into major milestones can improve your planning. There are roughly five phases of the construction life cycle (though sometimes you may see as few as four or as many as seven).
- Project Initiation. The project is first defined and scoped out. The client will come to you with their vision, and you’ll determine its viability and how much it will cost. At this point, you’ll put together a great team and start to create a list of resources.
- Project Planning. You’ll develop a more detailed plan that covers the entire scope of work. You’ll also create a schedule and budget. This is the phase where you’ll get into the details of the project and may encounter any potential underlying problems.
- Construction. Your team will execute the plan and, ideally, everything will go according to schedule. If you can’t be on-site, you can use an app like Workyard to see where your employees are and monitor their assignments in real-time.
- Post-Construction. After the project is complete, you’ll conduct a review with the client. At this stage, it’s possible that you’ll encounter reworks or issues. Better planning leads to fewer reworks.
- Closeout. This is the final phase where you make sure all of the paperwork is in order and all loose ends are tied up. The project is now complete, and you can move on to your next one.
By breaking your project down into these phases, you can make the process of planning and scheduling much easier.
The Most Popular Construction Planning and Scheduling Methods
There are many different methods you can use to plan and schedule your construction project. As a project manager, you likely are aware that these can range from very simple to very complex.
- Critical Path Method (CPM). The Critical Path Method is one of the most popular scheduling methods in the construction industry. CPM is a network-based scheduling technique that first identifies the critical path of a project. The critical path is the longest sequence of activities that must be completed for the project to be finished on time.
- Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM). The Precedence Diagramming Method is similar to CPM in that it is a network-based scheduling technique. However, PDM is more flexible than CPM and can be used for projects of any size. PDM was developed in the 1970s and has since become one of the most popular scheduling methods.
- Gantt Charts. Gantt Charts are a type of bar chart that is popular in construction for their ability to show the relationships between activities. Gantt Charts can be used for projects of any size and are especially useful for large projects, but you will need to be familiar with a project management suite to build a Gantt Chart.
- Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT). PERT is a network-based scheduling technique that is similar to CPM and PDM. PERT was developed in the 1950s for the US Navy’s Polaris missile program. PERT is a more complex scheduling technique and is best suited for large projects.
Taking the time to identify a popular method of construction planning and scheduling—and stick to it—can help improve your organization’s results and consistency. But there will also be times when all you really need is a checklist.
How To Get Started With Construction Planning and Scheduling
Now you know why it’s so important to have reliable construction planning and scheduling. But you still need to get started. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to improve your construction planning and scheduling, starting today.
Identify the Right Tools
Many software options on the market can help you with construction planning and scheduling. Do your research and find one that fits the needs of your business.
Many construction companies are still doing their construction planning and scheduling through paper processes. This can be disastrous—employees don’t know when they’re scheduled and can’t easily change their schedules when they need to.
By moving your construction scheduling to an app, instead, you can ensure that you and your team are always aware of the most recent schedule. And when it comes to payroll time, you’ll know exactly how many hours they worked.
Workyard makes it easy to schedule your construction crew. Not only can you (and all your crew members) easily review your schedule through the mobile app, but you can make changes in real-time.
Create a Checklist
When you establish project milestones and tasks, how do you make sure they’re completed on time and in order? Checklists. Checklists are frequently used throughout the construction industry because they are simple and easy to manage. Your construction crew may not be able to fill out a bunch of paperwork at the end of the day, but they can check off the tasks that need to be completed.
In Workyard, you can create a comprehensive list of tasks for employees to complete on each project. As each task is completed, employees can upload supporting documentation and images to ensure project compliance. This improves both scheduling and accountability.
Establish Your Team’s Roles and Responsibilities
Establish clear roles and responsibilities for everyone involved in the project. Make sure everyone has access to the same information and understands the project plan. When employees are accountable for specific roles and responsibilities, they are more likely to perform at their best.
When a team is well-trained and well-organized, they work better. But they need to understand what their goals are. Poor organization means that employees don’t know what they need to be accomplishing on a daily basis, they don’t know which projects they’re working on, and they don’t know who to escalate issues to when encountered.
Build a Template for Your Project Planning
Construction is a process. And like any process, it’s much easier to manage when you have a template to follow. For each type of project you have, create a template that consists of the major milestones that you will need to hit. Take a look at your previous projects, how long they have taken, and the most essential elements.
By creating a template for your project planning, you can ensure that every project follows the same steps—and that no steps are forgotten. You will increase the accuracy of your bids and have a game plan to follow.
The construction industry is unpredictable. Whether your client changes their mind or mistakes occur, there will likely be issues throughout the course of a project. Before you begin a project, ask yourself: What could change? Be prepared for scope changes and other unforeseen circumstances by building padding into your initial plans.
It can be tempting to cut corners when it comes to your initial bids. You know that a project takes ten days on average, but you really feel like you can get it done in eight. While this is a great way to land the project, it’s overly optimistic and will only lead to unsatisfied customers. Instead, give yourself a proper margin of error. Overpromising and under-delivering will never lead to sustainable results.
By following these tips, you can set your construction business up for success. Planning and scheduling may seem daunting, but it’s essential for keeping your projects on track.
Best Practices and Tips for Construction Planning and Scheduling
Planning and scheduling are areas for continuous improvement. As your business grows, your planning and scheduling techniques will grow, too. In addition to the above, here are a few best practices, tips, and strategies for your construction planning and scheduling.
- Review your construction projects after they’re completed. Were they completed on time? If not, why? Auditing your previous projects can help you identify inefficiencies.
- Keep your plans simple when you can. While there are a lot of very complex scheduling and planning solutions, you can often get away with a much simpler set of milestones. The most important aspect is consistency. You will get better at what you do frequently.
- Keep everyone on task. A construction scheduling suite like Workyard will ensure that every employee knows what they need to be doing at all times rather than standing idle.
- Identify your crew’s strengths and weaknesses. Each crew member brings their own set of skills to a project. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team, you can assign tasks more efficiently.
Following the above best practices won’t just help you plan and schedule better—it’ll make your company less hectic and more efficient.
What Is the Difference Between Construction Planning and Scheduling?
Construction planning is the process of deciding what work needs to be done when it needs to be done, and who will do it. Construction scheduling is the process of creating a timeline for the construction project.
What Are the Most Popular Scheduling Methods?
There are a few different scheduling methods used in construction. The most popular are the Critical Path Method (CPM) and Gantt Charts.
Improve Your Construction Planning and Scheduling Today With Workyard
Workyard is a complete workforce management app, designed to make it easier for you to schedule your team members, track their mileage, and log their hours. With Workyard, you can easily schedule your team members throughout multiple projects and check their progress in real-time.
With Workyard, you can:
- Build checklists for construction projects and reports on progress
- Send construction schedules and schedule changes directly to your employees
- Review employee hours and breaks project-by-project and site-by-site
- Track employee hours accurately through a GPS-powered, geo-fenced system
- Audit and review employee travel time, for better scheduling and planning
- Check-in on progress and milestones through tasks reported and completed
The more data you have, the more accurate your construction planning and scheduling will be. But it all starts with having the right tools on your belt.