Gantt charts are among the most popular methods for visualizing a construction project’s progress. But what is a Gantt chart and why is it important? Keep reading to learn all of the details.
What is a Gantt chart and why is it important?
A Gantt chart lays your project schedule out using a bar chart format. This layout is very effective for visualizing the dependencies between various aspects of the project.
While the Gantt chart was not designed specifically for construction, it offers several advantages for workers and operations teams in this field, which we’ll explore shortly.
A brief history of Gantt charts
The Gantt chart was developed by Karol Adamiecki all the way back in 1896. Around 1910, a man by the name of Henry Gantt introduced an updated version of the chart that more closely resembles what we know of today, including interdependencies.
The recorded use of Gantt charts in a construction project context dates back to 1912 when civil engineer Hermann Schurch used something very similar.
Gantt charts have, of course, come a very long way since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Because each chart was drawn by hand, changes in project scope or timing could take hours to visualize.
Chief among the benefits of Gantt charts today is their nimbleness. Whether you’re building a skyscraper or renovating a house, Gantt charts are living, breathing documents that conform to your needs with just a few mouse clicks.
Key components of a Gantt chart
Every Gantt chart has four main components. Let’s take a quick look at each.
The Gantt chart format places labels along the y-axis to indicate what you’re organizing.
Traditionally, these labels would consist of your various project components (i.e. “Pour Foundation” or “Install Windows”). Our workforce management software allows you to list personnel along this axis so you can allocate your team’s time efficiently.
Time runs along the x-axis of a Gantt chart. Bars on the chart attached to each label allow you to visualize duration. For example, if you’re tracking a project, each bar will tell you how long its associated task is expected to take. When tracking your workforce, each bar will inform you of the associated worker’s availability.
When tracking a project, you’ll naturally want to identify which tasks are associated with important milestones such as project phases. These milestones are linked to their relevant bars and easily visualized in the Gantt chart.
As mentioned earlier, one of the major advantages of Gantt charts is the ability to map out dependencies among tasks or resources you’re tracking to help visualize progress and prevent bottlenecks from occurring on specific tasks.
Advantages of Gantt charts
When attempting to understand why Gantt charts are important, you’ll eventually uncover a number of tremendous benefits they provide that many other schedule types do not. Let’s take a look.
Easy project visualization
Many other project schedule formats make it hard to properly visualize important factors like interdependence and resource allocations. Gantt charts are fairly unique in the way they conveniently display this information. The layout is so simple that elements of the Gantt chart have been adopted by productivity applications meant for the average person.
In a professional construction context, Gantt charts help you visualize your entire project, including the tasks that need to be completed and who is taking care of them using what resources. If you’re looking for help creating a Gantt, check out this page.
Better team communication
Gantt charts are very useful for running effective construction manpower planning meetings. This is particularly true of meetings conducted amid the COVID-19 crisis with a remote team. Because a Gantt chart offers a complete picture of your project, it can serve as the single source of truth that all discussions get framed around. Plus, because it’s so easy to manipulate Gantt charts using software, you can implement agreed-upon changes immediately. This will eliminate the common issue of different teams working off conflicting understandings of what needs to be done.
Measure task progress, not just completion
Chief among the advantages of Gantt charts is the ability to measure progress towards a task’s completion rather than having the task exist in a binary “finished” or “not finished” state. The format allows team members to update a task’s percentage of completion and track task dependencies, which is something many other scheduling layouts lack.
There are also benefits of Gantt chart software for this particular purpose. The bar layout displays percentage completion in a very sleek manner that you don’t get with the few other formats that have a similar feature.
Encourages fewer time delays
Another key Gantt chart benefit is the layout’s conduciveness to keeping everyone focused and on track. Other planning and scheduling types rely on workers communicating (and then subsequently remembering) which tasks and resources are tied to another team’s success. This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to capacity planning on complex projects and puts projects at risk of not being completed on time. A Gantt chart remedies this so easily it’s almost hard to believe.
A properly-maintained Gantt chart will make it very clear which workers or aspects of your project are excelling – or stalling. This can help management make effective decisions about where to allocate extra attention and resources to keep things running smoothly.
It also helps contextualize worker output. A particular employee stalling may not be doing so because of incompetence but rather because an item their role is dependent on has fallen behind. You wouldn’t be able to deduce this from other schedule layouts.
As mentioned a few times now, the ability to see interdependencies is a chief Gantt chart benefit. One of the ways this benefit manifests itself is in encouraging flexibility.
Responsible managers can often fear adjusting other types of schedules that don’t display interdependencies clearly because doing so can have unknown consequences. When you adjust a Gantt chart, however, you can immediately see the ripple effects your change will produce.
If the bar you’re adjusting overlaps with another one, you’ll know there’s a potential conflict. If the change produces a gap between previously-adjacent bars, you’ll know some resources will be freed up for allocation elsewhere within that gap.
Another key advantage of Gantt charts is their ubiquitous nature. When sharing your schedule with a third party, you can pretty much count on them knowing exactly what they’re looking at.
The popularity of Gantt charts also means software companies (like us at Bridgit) have spent considerable resources on implementing the format in programs that help the many organizations seeking such technology.
This means better tools for you to manage your projects and workforce!
We hope this post has done a good job of answering the question “what is a Gantt chart and why is it important?”
To summarize, Gantt charts are a very convenient means of visualizing progress on construction projects. The many benefits of Gantt charts can bring enhanced productivity, efficiency, and flexibility to any construction company’s operations. Gantt charts that are updated in real time can also help to track the progress of your projects and improve time management. For more tips on improving construction labor management, check out this article as well as others on our blog. Workforce management is what we’re all about!
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.
See Bridgit Bench in action
Set up your free tour of Bridgit Bench.