Is your team taking advantage of project scheduling to stay on track? Or are you avoiding the creation of a schedule because you think it takes too long, it’s too complex, or overkill for your projects? If so, you could be setting yourself up for avoidable problems later.
Schedules are not a “chore” that must be done to meet contract terms. It is an invaluable tool to guide your team to execute with more foresight, manage with greater visibility, and control the countless surprises of a busy jobsite. Yes, planning and scheduling does require some up-front time and effort. But, a rock-solid schedule can pay big dividends throughout the lifecycle of a project – from bidding to final invoice.
Consider just a few ways a rock-solid construction schedule can help your project efficiency and profitability:
Bid correctly/Set Reasonable Expectations: A proper construction schedule can help ensure that the scope of work is do-able in the allotted time at the allotted price. Additionally, a solid schedule shows your client that your firm is serious about project controls and likely to deliver.
No one likes surprises – not contractors who need to make a profit on their team’s work or the project owner who has plans for the building due to be completed by a certain date.
Plan Resources: A detailed schedule allows you to visualize the many different tasks of a job and how those tasks, as well as the necessary workers, can most efficiently be deployed. For instance, if your crews are assigned to multiple jobs, schedules will help you structure their task lists so they focus more often on one job at a time and spend less time moving from site to site.
Subcontractors can be given specific time windows so they can plan their resources. As an added bonus, your ability to forecast and commit to when you will need them often means you are able to employ the better, more in-demand subs.
Material deliveries can also be more easily controlled and coordinated with a schedule. The goal is to have the materials on site when needed but not so early that they get in the way or risk damage and theft.
Anticipate/Manage Cash Flow: Some contractors fail simply because they don’t have enough cash on hand to manage a project until they can get reimbursed. As mentioned above, a resource plan gives you a chance to clearly understand your site expenses (e.g. labor, materials and subs) at each stage so you can forecast cash flow more accurately and reduce capital costs.
Sometimes a schedule may actually indicate you should avoid a project altogether if is too large for you or is not set up to pay in a timely manner. A schedule may help you establish more favorable payment terms based on milestones. You can then easily prove to the owner when those milestones have been reached and another payment is due.
Collaborate/Communicate Better – One of the most important benefits of a detailed schedule is as the ability to quickly keep all project participants ‘in the loop’ and looking forward.
The best construction scheduling systems allow your team to update the task completion status from the jobsite using mobile technology so progress data in the schedule is always current. Real-time progress reports and forecasts enable suppliers and sub-contractors to clearly understand your expectations and prepare accordingly.
Some systems also include the ability to filter and share task lists with trades and subcontractors. A project schedule reduces the risk of misunderstandings as each sub will be able to clearly see how long they have to complete the job and the number of labor hours anticipated. That leads to fewer missed deadlines, fewer headaches for you and fewer disputes or claims later.
Create Milestones and Daily Goals: It is easy to lose track of the project’s end-goal and how you plan to get there . A schedule lets everyone on the project team know exactly what needs to be accomplished each day to meet the ultimate deadline.
Project managers and superintendents can see both which tasks should be in process now as well as which activities they should be preparing for next so potential challenges can be spotted and mitigated before they occur.
React More Quickly – Profitable construction firms know that a rock-solid project schedule is the essential tool for pro-active management and execution of the work. They know the earlier they can uncover potential problems, the longer they have to craft the best solution. Weather, delayed deliveries, labor constraints, design errors or one of a thousand other things can go wrong, can put the project deadline at risk. A good schedule helps you see the mess by conducting “what-if” scenario planning. You can determine how adding additional resources or sequencing tasks differently would allow your team to minimize lost time, maintain profits and meet project objectives.
Start Scheduling and Take Control
So if you have been avoiding scheduling because you thought it hard or too complex, take a fresh look. Scheduling really doesn’t have to be daunting with the right software and processes. Be sure to look for scheduling system functionality that is construction specific, able to record task completion for real-time status visibility, fits into (or improves) your team’s processes, and is easy to use for part-time or occasional schedulers.
Remember, a schedule really is so much more than a document. It is a powerful tool that can help your team stay in control and maximize their productivity so that a project can be completed in the shortest amount of time possible. That, in turn, means better profit margins and happier customers.
— The Catalyst Team
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