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Defining Precedence Relationships Among Activities

Defining Precedence Relationships Among Activities
Once work activities have been defined, the relationships among the activities can be specified. Precedence relations between activities signify that the activities must take place in a particular sequence. Numerous natural sequences exist for construction activities due to requirements for structural integrity, regulations, and other technical requirements.

Civil - Construction Planning And Scheduling

 

Defining Precedence Relationships Among Activities

 

Once work activities have been defined, the relationships among the activities can be specified. Precedence relations between activities signify that the activities must take place in a particular sequence. Numerous natural sequences exist for construction activities due to requirements for structural integrity, regulations, and other technical requirements. For example, design drawings cannot be checked before they are drawn. Diagramatically, precedence relationships can be illustrated by a network or graph in which the activities are represented by arrows as in Figure 9-0. The arrows in Figure 9-3 are called branches or links in the activity network, while the circles marking the beginning or end of each arrow are called nodes or events. In this figure, links represent particular activities, while the nodes represent milestone events.


More complicated precedence relationships can also be specified. For example, one activity might not be able to start for several days after the completion of another activity. As a common example, concrete might have to cure (or set) for several days before formwork is removed. This restriction on the removal of forms activity is called a lag between the completion of one activity (i.e., pouring concrete in this case) and the start of another activity (i.e., removing formwork in this case). Many computer based scheduling programs permit the use of a variety of precedence relationships.

 

Three mistakes should be avoided in specifying predecessor relationships for construction plans. First, a circle of activity precedences will result in an impossible plan. For example, if activity A precedes activity B, activity B precedes activity C, and activity C precedes activity A, then the project can never be started or completed! Figure 9-4 illustrates the resulting activity network. Fortunately, formal scheduling methods and good computer scheduling programs will find any such errors in the logic of the construction plan.


Forgetting a necessary precedence relationship can be more insidious. For example, suppose that installation of dry wall should be done prior to floor finishing. Ignoring this precedence relationship may result in both activities being scheduled at the same time. Corrections on the spot may result in increased costs or problems of quality in the completed project. Unfortunately, there are few ways in which precedence omissions can be found other than with checks by knowledgeable managers or by comparison to comparable projects. One other possible but little used mechanism for checking precedences is to conduct a physical or computer based simulation of the construction process and observe any problems.

Finally, it is important to realize that different types of precedence relationships can be defined and that each has different implications for the schedule of activities:

 

z Some activities have a necessary technical or physical relationship that cannot be superseded. For example, concrete pours cannot proceed before formwork and reinforcement are in place.

 

z Some activities have a necessary precedence relationship over a continuous space rather than as discrete work task relationships. For example, formwork may be placed in the first part of an excavation trench even as the excavation equipment continues to work further along in the trench. Formwork placement cannot proceed further than the excavation, but the two activities can be started and stopped independently within this constraint.

 

z Some "precedence relationships" are not technically necessary but are imposed due to implicit decisions within the construction plan. For example, two activities may require the same piece of equipment so a precedence relationship might be defined between the two to insure that they are not scheduled for the same time period. Which activity is scheduled first is arbitrary. As a second example, reversing the sequence of two activities may be technically possible but more expensive. In this case, the precedence relationship is not physically necessary but only applied to reduce costs as perceived at the time of scheduling.

 

In revising schedules as work proceeds, it is important to realize that different types of precedence relationships have quite different implications for the flexibility and cost of changing the construction plan. Unfortunately, many formal scheduling systems do not possess the capability of indicating this type of flexibility. As a result, the burden is placed upon the manager of making such decisions and insuring realistic and effective schedules. With all the other responsibilities of a project manager, it is no surprise that preparing or revising the formal, computer based construction plan is a low priority to a manager in such cases. Nevertheless, formal construction plans may be essential for good management of complicated projects.

 

Example 1-4: Precedence Definition for Site Preparation and Foundation Work

 

Suppose that a site preparation and concrete slab foundation construction project consists of nine different activities:

 

A.Site clearing (of brush and minor debris),

B. Removal of trees,

C.General excavation,

D.Grading general area,

E. Excavation for utility trenches,

F. Placing formwork and reinforcement for concrete,

 

G.Installing sewer lines,

 

H. Installing other utilities, I. Pouring concrete.

 

Activities A (site clearing) and B (tree removal) do not have preceding activities since they depend on none of the other activities. We assume that activities C (general excavation) and D (general grading) are preceded by activity A (site clearing). It might also be the case that the planner wished to delay any excavation until trees were removed, so that B (tree removal) would be a precedent activity to C (general excavation) and D (general grading). Activities E (trench excavation) and F (concrete preparation) cannot begin until the completion of general excavation and tree removal, since they involve subsequent excavation and trench preparation. Activities G (install lines) and H (install utilities) represent installation in the utility trenches and cannot be attempted until the trenches are prepared, so that activity E (trench excavation) is a preceding activity. We also assume that the utilities should not be installed until grading is completed to avoid equipment conflicts, so activity D (general grading) is also preceding activities G (install sewers) and H (install utilities). Finally, activity I (pour concrete) cannot begin until the sewer line is installed and formwork and reinforcement are ready, so activities F and G are preceding. Other utilities may be routed over the slab foundation, so activity H (install utilities) is not necessarily a preceding activity for activity I (pour concrete). The result of our planning are the immediate precedences shown in Table 1-1.

 

With this information, the next problem is to represent the activities in a network diagram and to determine all the precedence relationships among the activities. One network representation of these nine activities is shown in Figure 9-5, in which the activities appear as branches or links between nodes. The nodes represent milestones of possible beginning and starting times. This representation is called an activity-on-branch diagram. Note that an initial event beginning activity is defined (Node 0 in Figure 9-5), while node 5 represents the completion of all activities.


Alternatively, the nine activities could be represented by nodes and predecessor relationships by branches or links, as in Figure 1-6. The result is an activity-on-node diagram. In Figure 9-6, new activity nodes representing the beginning and the end of construction have been added to mark these important milestones.

 

These network representations of activities can be very helpful in visualizing the various activities and their relationships for a project. Whether activities are represented as branches (as in Figure 1-5) or as nodes (as in Figure 1-5) is largely a matter of organizational or personal choice. Some considerations in choosing one form or another are discussed in our website.


It is also notable that Table 1-1 lists only the immediate predecessor relationships. Clearly, there are other precedence relationships which involve more than one activity. For example, "installing sewer lines" (activity G) cannot be undertaken before "site clearing" (Activity A) is complete since the activity "grading general area" (Activity D) must precede activity G and must follow activity A. Table 1-1 is an implicit precedence list since only immediate predecessors are recorded. An explicit predecessor list would include all of the preceding activities for activity G. Table 1-2 shows all such predecessor relationships implied by the project plan. This table can be produced by tracing all paths through the network back from a particular activity and can be performed algorithmically. For example, inspecting Figure 1-6 reveals that each activity except for activity B depends upon the completion of activity A.

 

 

 

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