Improving the Scheduling Process
Despite considerable attention by researchers and practitioners, the process of construction planning and scheduling still presents problems and opportunities for improvement. The importance of scheduling in insuring the effective coordination of work and the attainment of project deadlines is indisputable. For large projects with many parties involved, the use of formal schedules is indispensable.
The network model for representing project activities has been provided as an important conceptual and computational framework for planning and scheduling. Networks not only communicate the basic precedence relationships between activities, they also form the basis for most scheduling computations.
As a practical matter, most project scheduling is performed with the critical path scheduling method, supplemented by heuristic procedures used in project crash analysis or resource constrained scheduling. Many commercial software programs are available to perform these tasks. Probabilistic scheduling or the use of optimization software to perform time/cost trade-offs is rather more infrequently applied, but there are software programs available to perform these tasks if desired.
Rather than concentrating upon more elaborate solution algorithms, the most important innovations in construction scheduling are likely to appear in the areas of data storage, ease of use, data representation, communication and diagnostic or interpretation aids. Integration of scheduling information with accounting and design information through the means of database systems is one beneficial innovation; many scheduling systems do not provide such integration of information. The techniques discussed in Our website are particularly useful in this regard.
With regard to ease of use, the introduction of interactive scheduling systems, graphical output devices and automated data acquisition should produce a very different environment than has existed. In the past, scheduling was performed as a batch operation with output contained in lengthy tables of numbers. Updating of work progress and revising activity duration was a time consuming manual task.
It is no surprise that managers viewed scheduling as extremely burdensome in this environment. The lower costs associated with computer systems as well as improved software make "user friendly" environments a real possibility for field operations on large projects.
Finally, information representation is an area which can result in substantial improvements. While the network model of project activities is an extremely useful device to represent a project, many aspects of project plans and activity inter-relationships cannot or have not been represented in network models. For example, the similarity of processes among different activities is usually unrecorded in the formal project representation. As a result, updating a project network in response to new information about a process such as concrete pours can be tedious. What is needed is a much more flexible and complete representation of project information.