Every construction project has its own challenges. That’s why it’s helpful to be familiar with various approaches. In this post, we’ll take a look at seven construction schedule types that every professional should be aware of. We’ll also tell you how to schedule construction projects regardless of which method you decide is right for you.
7 key construction schedule types
Line of balance
The line of balance scheduling method breaks your project into repetitive chunks (e.g. building a skyscraper, which happens floor by floor). Each graph represents one of those repetitive tasks, with time spread out on the x-axis and the y-axis displaying the work area (e.g. each floor of the building).
As workers make progress on the task, the chart will reflect how long each iteration takes. Given the repetition, you’ll be able to plan resources effectively as there will be many similarities.
Goodyear developed the line of balance method in the 1940s and it was later refined by the U.S. Navy.
What is the line of balance method good for?
On projects involving lots of repetition, it can be tricky to discuss your actual progress alongside a formal objective plan. The line of balance method addresses this challenge. It also helps in forecasting your team’s future performance. Both of these advantages are very useful for effective resource and workforce management.
Line of balance disadvantages
The line of balance technique is suited toward assembly line-type tasks with several similar phases. Other construction schedule types would make more sense for tasks not involving that sort of repetition.
It’s also difficult to get an overview of the entire project’s critical path since line of balance only displays progress on individual activities.
Quantitative scheduling is sometimes referred to simply as Q scheduling. It utilizes bar charts to help you visualize quantities of resources as well as the locations and times they’ll be needed. This is the only method for scheduling in construction management that ties the order of tasks to your expenses per resource.
What is quantitative scheduling good for?
Quantitative scheduling is great for projects involving some repetition but with variable quantities of resources.
Quantitative scheduling disadvantages
Quantitative scheduling falls short on projects that involve significant repetition. It is also a fairly new type of construction schedule. If some collaborators on your project aren’t familiar with it, you may have to spend more time explaining things than is justified by quantitative scheduling’s benefits.
Program evaluation and review technique (PERT)
PERT is not construction specific but, as Inc. points out, is useful in organizations that seek to analyze key events and interdependencies along a project’s ideal path to success. In other words, it lays out the milestones that will indicate progress on the project.
What is PERT good for?
PERT lays your schedule out very neatly and allows for differentiation between fixed deadlines and milestones that you as the contractor have some flexibility with. It also keeps fixed deadlines top-of-mind and features a layout simple enough to encourage collaboration across many teams, even in the context of complex projects.
PERT also encourages you to create different timelines for activity completion:
Optimistic time: The best-case scenario.
Pessimistic time: The longest foreseeable time it will take you to complete a task.
Most likely time: Assuming no major challenges present themselves, this is the time your activity should be completed.
Expected time: Accounting for problems (which are largely inevitable in construction anyway), this is an estimate of how long it will take you to complete the activity in question.
As such, you’ll be able to communicate your intentions given a few different circumstances.
If you are running multiple projects that share resources, a PERT chart won’t accurately convey that. PERT can also become quite complicated on projects involving thousands of interdependent tasks, increasing your expenses and maintenance efforts.
Your ability to provide accurate timelines for activity completion will also be limited by your previous expertise. Unless you have access to relevant and useful data, your predictions will likely be way off.
Resource oriented scheduling
As its name would suggest, resource oriented scheduling puts your available tools at the forefront of planning project completion. The goal is to identify and address situations in which multiple parties will need access to resources at the same time.
What is resource oriented scheduling good for?
As Chris Hendrickson of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University writes, resource oriented scheduling is ideal in situations where resources are limited yet essential for a project to be completed properly. This is especially true when those resources are in high demand.
Resource oriented scheduling disadvantages
This is one of the trickiest types of construction schedules in situations where you have many resources to allocate to several activities throughout your project.
Gantt charts are among the most popular construction schedule types — and for good reason. They help you visualize your project schedule and make locating the critical path (more on what that is shortly) much easier.
Gantt charts typically consist of a calendar with activities and details about them spread out across start and end dates.
What are Gantt charts good for?
Gantt charts are very helpful for finding new ways to look at your project, which will help you identify the best path towards completion. They also simplify management of projects that involve many overlapping activities. The bar layout makes it very easy to shuffle projects around if overlapping would prove to be an issue.
You can find Gantt chart functionality in many different construction software programs, including Bridgit Bench. It’s become quite popular in all types of company management applications as well, with programs like Asana offering their own Gantt chart layouts. This makes it easy for even the layman to understand your project’s progress.
Gantt chart disadvantages
If you have a massive project with hundreds of tasks taking place at the same time, a Gantt chart will quickly become confusing. The bar layout also does not really provide context as to how much work and resources are required for the completion of a particular task — only how long it’s expected to take.
Gantt charts are also impractical for large projects given how difficult it can be to print all of the relevant information out on a reasonable amount of paper.
Last planner system (LPS)
The Last Planner System sees the specificity and detail of your schedule increase as the project deadline approaches. With the Last Planner System, workers start with the deadline in mind and then work backwards to identify strategies for accomplishing each milestone.
As Designing Buildings Wiki points out, you’ll also often hear the Last Planner System referred to as “pull planning.”
What is the Last Planner System good for?
The Last Planner System works very well in situations where collaboration between team members is strong. Team members must make an effort to adequately coordinate completion at each phase of the project. This coordination will take place during “pull plan sessions.” An experienced leader is required to keep these meetings on track.
Last Planner System disadvantages
The Last Planner System tends to exacerbate faults in your team’s cohesion. You may want to try increasing collaboration in other areas (such as workforce planning) before betting the success of entire projects on the fruits of pull plan sessions.
Critical path method
The critical path method is perhaps the most popular of all methods for scheduling in construction management. It involves identifying the resources and time required to complete a milestone as well has how said goal is relevant to the overall project.
What is the critical path method good for?
The critical path method is valuable when you are looking to identify the most appropriate sequence in which a project’s tasks must be completed. As its name suggests, it also helps identify the most critical “branch” of your project’s path, allowing you to very easily see which tasks are essential for project completion and what are merely supportive of those tasks.
Critical path method disadvantages
The critical path method may not be the only type of construction schedule you rely on. This is particularly true on projects involving hundreds of interdependent tasks. While you may identify a critical path in such a scenario, you may fail to adequately account for resources required by tasks dependent on those within the path.
In other words, the critical path method is not a one-size-fits-all solution for construction scheduling.
How to schedule a construction project
Now that you know the various types of construction schedules, you may be wondering how to implement them in your company. By far the easiest method of achieving this is to utilize software that allows you to utilize your scheduling method of choice.
Consider beginning with a list of your subcontractors and square away any regulatory details (building codes, etc) relevant to your project. All methods for scheduling in construction management will also require you to identify key milestones for your project’s completion. They don’t even have to be in order at this stage; just list them.
Then, apply this information to your construction scheduling software, which will help in laying out your best path forward. Most construction SaaS will help you with this step since it is highly dependent on their software and its interface.
We hope this guide has been helpful in identifying how to schedule construction projects. You have many methods to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages that are highly suggestive of which projects they’re best suited towards. Happy scheduling!
Lauren Lake is the COO and co-founder at Bridgit. She holds a degree in Civil Structural Engineering and is well-versed in construction workforce management and resource planning processes. Lauren has been named to the Forbes Manufacturing & Industry 30 Under 30 and Best Of Canada Forbes Under 30 Innovators lists. Lauren has presented at industry events and conferences, including BuiltWorlds, Canadian Construction Association, Procore Groundbreak, and more. Follow Lauren on LinkedIn and Instagram.
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