Construction projects are notoriously difficult, and they’re known for encountering delays. They involve a lot of moving parts, teams, equipment and materials. If any discipline needs a well-thought-out schedule, it’s construction project management.
Tools that are embedded in construction project management software, such as Gantt charts and resource management, are key features to control the many phases of a construction product. But they just facilitate the process. The construction schedule is the backbone of any successful project management for construction.
Yes, construction scheduling is time-consuming. You want to take all the steps, avoid shortcuts and work towards creating the most accurate schedule you can. The more time you put into the construction schedule, the less issues you’ll have when you execute the project plan, which is key to good construction project management.
What Is a Construction Schedule?
A construction schedule is a timeline for every task and event in a construction project. The construction schedule is a fundamental part of the project planning phase, as it also defines the resources needed and the teams responsible for each task in the construction process.
5 Steps to a Make a Construction Schedule
If you follow these five steps, you’ll hit all the major points that need addressing when creating a construction schedule.
1. Get Info and Tools
Construction scheduling involves different types of resources, stakeholders and participants. Begin by listing all subcontractors involved in the job. There are always many in a construction project. Once you have the list, reach out to them and ask how much time it’ll take to procure materials. Once you have that information, ask how long their part of the project is estimated to take. This is key for sound time estimation on your part.
You’ll also need to speak with the local code office and get a list of requirements and what inspections will be needed throughout the build. Code restrictions vary depending on the type of construction and materials you’ll be using, so you’ll need to do the research to make sure your project is compliant.
When it comes to budgeting your project, you’ll need to go through the process with your bank and determine when they’ll release funds. You’ll need a steady influx of cash to keep the project moving forward, so before it starts, it’s key to have an understanding with your bank and its process about disbursing money. Talking to the bank before scheduling gives them a big-picture view of the project and you valuable insight into how to schedule.
Figure out a project management tool that will suit your needs. There are templates that can help you get started with your construction schedule if you don’t want to build your plan and schedule from scratch. Naturally, ProjectManager being an online project management software, recommends a cloud-based tool. But we’ll get to those benefits in full later.
2. Collect and Prioritize Tasks
You have context and tools, but now you need to step up to the project and break it down into the steps that will lead it from a construction plan to a completed project. These are the tasks. You can’t have an accurate construction schedule until you have a thorough listing of every task that must take place to end with a successful construction.
You can use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to get a handle on the size and scope of your project. You can think of this tool as a way to visualize your deliverables by starting with whatever you’re going to construct and then breaking it down level by level until you’re at the most basic parts.
At this point it doesn’t hurt to gather the team and whatever subcontractors you’re going to employ and pick their brains. Remember, the more thorough your task list, the more accurate your construction schedule. Tasks are what can derail a project, so keep your mind on scope. And don’t forget that some tasks are dependent on others, so you’ll want to link those.
Once you have your task list as complete as possible, you’ll next need to put those tasks in an order. The WBS can help with this, as it takes a complex project and boils it down to the essential parts and when they need to be worked on. You can use Gantt chart software to spread these tasks over a project timeline. We’ll get into more detail on that in a bit.
Tasks are small, which is good. You need to breakdown larger jobs into manageable smaller pieces. But it also helps to break up the whole project into larger phases or milestones. A milestone is a point in the project that marks the end of some large phase, say cementing the foundation or adding electrical. Accurately assessing all the different tasks and milestones that make up your project is critical for effective construction scheduling.
3. Add Duration
Now take each of the tasks and give them a start and finish date, which will create a bar chart on the Gantt that represents the duration of the task. These determinations must be realistic. A construction schedule is impacted by climate and weather forecasts are only so accurate, especially long-term. Therefore, look at historical data about the weather to get an estimation of how the climate might impact the work.
Depending on how long-term the project is, you’ll need to calculate into your construction schedule holidays and consider sick and vacation days for employees. If there are other seasonally related or personal issues that might come up, then be sure to use them as a ruler when measuring your schedule’s duration.
Outside of those issues, there is working with subcontractors and suppliers. The specifics will be outlined in your contract, but more often than not those dates are subject to change. It’s best for your construction schedule to have the wiggle room to accommodate fluctuations.
It’s important to make the schedule realistic. You might want it done at a certain date, but to achieve that goal, you have to cut corners and sacrifice quality. This is not possible in construction. The repercussions are too serious. So, be honest with yourself and give everything enough time in your construction schedule to be completed correctly.
Don’t neglect non-task related scheduling, such as procurement, delivery and other sources that are crucial to the project. You need to have a clear picture of what to order or reorder supplies. It’s as important as the build. So is scheduling in any inspections, so there’s time in your schedule to respond to any code issues.
There’s also the financial portion of the project to keep in mind when scheduling. Add the bank draws, and link them to the appropriate tasks in your construction schedule. You and the bank need to know when money will be required. You don’t want to chase the cash and stall the project.
4. Allocate and Execute
In a nutshell, construction scheduling is about activities and resources. Tasks won’t get done by themselves, of course, but allocating that work to teams can get confusing in your construction schedule when you have so many subcontractors to keep track of. By color-coding tasks, you can easily distinguish the different teams and work. Now you can pinpoint who is working on what once the project execution phase begins.
You should have already made estimations on the length of work from your teams and have a detailed profile of their skills and experience to assign them appropriately. After allocating your resources, a project management tool like ProjectManager can send alerts when new tasks are assigned and deadlines are due.
Once you have the people assigned to the work, the construction schedule is ready to venture into the real world. Make sure that your resources are balanced. You don’t want to over-allocate one team while another is twiddling their thumbs. ProjectManager has workload calendars to help with this process.
5. Review, Review, Review
Construction scheduling is highly complex and requires permanent monitoring. No construction schedule is written in stone, at least none that will succeed. Things change, and if you’re not monitoring and reviewing throughout the project, those changes will send you off-track—or worse.
Therefore, you’ll need to look over the construction schedule throughout all phases of the project to make sure your actual progress is in line with your plan. Look at your schedule daily and depending on your time, update frequently. You can use our construction daily report template to keep track of the progress of your construction project.
This is a matter of time management. If you find that a daily update is taking you away from other project issues and responsibilities, then maybe you need to set aside time each week to respond to the changes you’ve noted daily and apply them to the schedule. It’s up to you, but monitoring and adjusting your construction schedule as on- and off-site issues arise is perhaps the most important aspect of keeping your project on schedule.
How to Create a Construction Schedule with ProjectManager
We’ve been dropping hints about how ProjectManager and construction scheduling go hand in glove, so let’s take a moment to go into greater detail about the many features available in our software that can assist you when scheduling your construction project.
Gantt Charts for Plans and Schedules
Beyond templates to get you started, we have an online Gantt chart that helps you plan your construction schedule. You can import your task list, and it instantly populates the timeline. Then add the duration of each task and a bar chart marks the start to end dates. If any tasks are dependent, they can be easily linked. You can also set milestones across the timeline.
You can then assign directly from the Gantt chart. Any relevant schematics or notes can be added directly to the task, and team members can collaborate there as well. They can add as many documents as they want with our unlimited file storage and comment on any issues with other team members by simply tagging them.
When a change in your construction schedule occurs, adjusting the Gantt chart is simple. Just drag and drop the start and end dates. That’s it. There are automated notifications, so team members are alerted of any changes, which keeps everyone on the same page.
Resource and Team Management
When it comes to tracking time and money over the course of your construction project, we have you covered with resource management software. Managing your resources can be complicated in a construction project, but our cloud-based software gives you real-time data to better meet that goal.
You can categorize teams, supplies, equipment, etc., adding hourly rates that will be reflected across our software. When those hours are logged into our software the actual cost is compared to the planned cost, automatically. This gives you the tools to manage construction costs.
Teams can be managed, too. Our software details working days, holidays and planned hours over the course of the project, whether they’re on site or even in different time zones. You can block out vacation and holidays: keeping your project schedule on track. With our workload feature you can easily see who is assigned to what. Workload is color-coded, so you can catch any imbalances quickly and reassign from the workload page. Filter by project, team or both and get the data you want. These features are essential for creating and managing your construction schedule.
That’s not all, there is in-depth reporting on project workload, availability, timesheets and more. Reports can be filtered to show just what you need to know or offer a more broad overview when presenting to clients and other stakeholders. ProjectManager keeps your construction schedule on track. Check our article about the best construction scheduling software of 2021 to learn more.
ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that has the tools you need for construction scheduling. Our features make planning, monitoring and reporting on your project more efficient and effective. Being online means our software is accessible everywhere and at any time. Plus, the data you get is more accurate because it’s updated immediately. Try ProjectManager free with this 30-day trial offer.