8 Tips for Optimizing Your Project Scheduling

Getting critical path scheduling right can mean faster completions and more revenue.

Completing a building project on time keeps your customers happy, helps you stay profitable and allows you to move your resources on to the next job. Creating and sticking to a project schedule is the best way to keep a project on track.

While an effective, realistic schedule is critical to avoiding bottlenecks and holdups, creating one is no simple task. Further complicating matters, projects don’t always go according to plan, and when they don’t, schedules can lose their relevance.

Shelby Sarnowski, a scheduler/estimator with Preferred Construction Management, offered his top advice based on what he’s seen construction companies do right — and wrong. To keep a project on track and on time, here’s what Sarnowski recommends.

Get submittals in and approved as soon as possible

Submittals can include everything from shop drawings and material/product certificates to surveys and safety plans. The sooner the paperwork is approved, the sooner construction can begin.

Focus on the critical path

Delays in completing critical path tasks will have the biggest impact on your schedule. Critical path is one of the most widely used scheduling methods and involves identifying the activities that drive a project’s completion date and their logical sequence.

Include all critical activities (and not everything else)

A common mistake is neglecting to include certain activities (installing doors, for example) on the critical path. But some contractors go to the opposite extreme, including items like toilet accessories. “If everything falls on the critical path, it’s a clear sign that there are logic issues or that the contractor is setting up for delay claims so that they can show that a schedule is always being impacted,” said Sarnowski.

Allow sufficient time for critical path activities

Too many contractors underestimate the duration of these activities, according to Sarnowski.

Supply the appropriate manpower

If you don’t plan for enough craftspeople to work on a particular critical path activity, you can fall behind. If that happens, adding more workers to the task may help you get back on track.

Update the schedule monthly at a minimum

“Fast-track projects like data centers do updates weekly so they can constantly track whether they are ahead of schedule, behind or on time,” said Sarnowski.

Modify the schedule as necessary

“Contractors may have a baseline for a job, a schedule that’s sequenced in the way that they planned to do it. Then they start demoing, and they realize that they have to do the job in a totally different way. Sometimes they don’t think about revising the logic [the sequence of activities] to reflect how they will now install it.”

Track RFIs and change orders and understand their effects on the schedule

Determine how they will affect your critical path and make any necessary adjustments to it.

By helping you stay focused on the most important tasks, a critical path schedule can be your pathway to success, if you know how to use it.


Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

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