Five Best Practices For Construction Project Schedule Management


Follow this helpful guide and keep your project on track.

Best Practice 1: Generate contingency plans


Construction projects can be derailed by so many factors, so identify potential issues in your construction schedule and plan accordingly. Material price escalation, scope creep, contractual disputes and poor weather are just some of the reasons for project delays and ultimately, nasty cost-overruns. Consult with your broader team to identify potential bottlenecks and plan for the unplanned.


Best Practice 2: Be methodical about reviewing and updating your schedule

Effective schedule management requires the constant review and evaluation of tasks versus the plan, overlaid with any new inputs or variances. Set aside time at a regular cadence to thoroughly review the schedule in detail. The schedule is only as good as the effort made to keep it updated, so capture any new relevant detail within the schedule and communicate accordingly.


Best Practice 3: Socialise the schedule early and regularly


Construction managers can do themselves a favour by sharing the schedule with the key stakeholders early in the project and regularly. This serves to gain greater buy-in from all parties as they feel involved in the broader process and will take greater ownership of advising of any changes that might impact the schedule. Having more eyes on the master schedule will also add an additional failsafe to ensure no details are overlooked.


Best Practice 4: Be visible, observe and ask questions

A construction project cannot be managed entirely behind a desk. Factors such as subcontractor absences, machinery downtime and incorrect or delayed material deliveries can have a significant impact on a construction schedule. Regular walk-throughs and conferences with subcontractors will ensure nothing flies under the radar and derails your overall construction project schedule.


Best Practice 5: Capture your learnings for future projects


Upon project completion, evaluate your actual timeline against your initial project schedule to see how they match up. Ensure that you identify any areas that ran over or were completed ahead of schedule and the root cause of these. This can help improve your planning and scheduling accuracy for future projects, while also allow you to establish a benchmark for comparing projects against one another.

What is a construction schedule?

A construction schedule is a document that sequentially captures each step of a project that should be completed by a specific date, before the next step is undertaken. The schedule essentially captures two main elements:

  • Each activity that needs to be completed and in what timeframe
  • Which party or trade is responsible for completing each activity

What is the purpose of a construction schedule?

A construction project schedule is vital in helping construction managers keep a job on-time and on-budget. A well-planned and executed schedule helps manage materials, labour and equipment, which also has significant implications on a project’s profitability. It should predict the completion date of the entire project based on the contract, the plans and how the work should progress through the various phases.

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What are the five phases of construction?

Each construction project is subject to the following five phases, which may vary in complexity based on the nature of each individual job:

  1. Initiation: the initial phase where the viability of a project is determined. It should identify the problem or opportunity and a business case in response. If deemed feasible, a project is initiated.
  2. Planning: involves detailed scoping of the work to be done to meet the project objectives. Here, tasks and the associated resources are identified, alongside the strategy to procure or produce them.
  3. Execution: the implementation of the project plan on site. Progress is mapped against the plan, adjustments are made and any variances are recorded.
  4. Performance and Monitoring: often occurs simultaneously with the execution phase. Progress and performance are measured against the construction schedule.
  5. Closure: the provision of the final deliverables to the client. This includes project documentation, termination of supplier contracts, release of resources and communication of completion to key stakeholders.

How do I create a construction schedule?

The key elements to creating an effective construction schedule are as follows:

  1. Define the activities: identifying and documenting the specific tasks that need to be performed to deliver the project. The list should be exhaustive so as to avoid any surprises during the project.
  2. Sequence the activities: identifying the relationships between the activities (ie, whether they need to happen sequentially, or can some happen concurrently).
  3. Estimate activity resources: forecasting the quantity of resources required to complete each task. This will consider the four major types of resources: labour, tools and equipment, facilities and fixed cost items (eg, subcontractors).
  4. Estimate activity durations: forecasting the required time period required to complete each individual activity with the projected resources.
  5. Develop the schedule: visual representation of the schedule, including the official start and completion dates of each activity and the overall project.

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