- What is construction planning?
- Steps in construction planning.
- Types of Construction planning.
- Construction scheduling.
- Why is it important?
- Tools and techniques for planning and scheduling
What is Construction Project Planning and Scheduling?
Human Beings have been engaged in the construction of buildings for millennia.
Construction project planning can, in some form, be traced back to the Neolithic period, when builders in Western Europe were erecting Stonehenge.
Today, the technology for constructing structures has changed significantly, but planning remains an integral part of the construction management process.
For any construction project to complete in time without cost overruns, it takes diligent planning efforts.
The construction industry has become fiercely competitive these days and hence reducing time delays and cost overruns are even more important.
The processes of planning and scheduling are important functions of construction management. These functions if well performed can help in the efficient execution of construction projects.
We will discuss each of those further to get an understanding of how they are done and why they are important.
Construction Planning is an essential activity in construction management and has to be performed by competent persons for it to be successful.
Since the construction projects are dynamic and are affected by a lot of different factors, it is important to plan dynamically i.e. to constantly update plans and change them as the need arises.
The process of construction planning involves many steps and requires analysis of many variables like
- Location of the site where the construction project has to be executed.
- Estimation of materials required to complete the project. The raw materials are a major cost in any construction project, therefore, it is important to plan and estimate the required materials for a project.
- Definition of tasks that are required to be performed to complete the project. There are myriad tasks that need to be performed to complete a project and defining all tasks involved is important for defining the schedule and costs involved.
- Estimating the duration of all activities that form a part of the project.
- Deciding what type of technology shall be used in the construction process and the methods that would be appropriate for the type of project. The technological advancement in the industry has helped in reducing the costs of construction in many ways. It is important to plan what type of technology can be employed given the budget and complexity of the project to complete it efficiently.
It essentially covers the description of all the activities that are needed to be performed for the completion of the project and the people and teams responsible for performing them.
Steps in construction planning.
The steps usually involved in construction planning include
- Defining Project Scope and Objectives– The project scope is an outline of what all activities are required to be performed to complete the project and the objectives include the milestones that need to be reached, It is important to clearly define the project scope to prevent scope creep. In this first step, the project scope is defined, which is required later for estimating and scheduling.
- Determining Deliverables- Deliverables can be the tangible structures that are required to be built. The project plant involves determining what these deliverables will be and the parties responsible for producing them and accepting them. Far too often lack of clear definition of the deliverables expected by the client and anticipated by the construction company causes disputes. It is therefore important to plan in advance to avoid these disputes.
- Creating the Schedule of the Project and defining Milestones– The project schedule defines the dates and time required for completion of the project. The Milestones are defined as to when certain activities should have been finished and are references for monitoring the project progress.
- Assigning Tasks– Every team member needs to know their roles and responsibilities. The tasks are assigned to people involved in the project for effective coordination.
- Monitoring– The project progress is monitored for any discrepancies from the actual plan.
- Making necessary changes-The The construction project is affected by a multitude of variables and plans constantly need to be modified. The necessary changes are incorporated into the plan in this step.
The steps laid above are not set in stone and different construction projects may involve different steps.
Types of Planning
Construction planning can generally be of three types
- Strategic Planning: It involves determining and selecting project objectives. Strategic planning is usually done by the project owner for accomplishing larger and long term objectives
- Operational Planning: This involves detailed planning of how the project will meet its strategic objectives. A detailed evaluation of the resources required to meet the strategic objectives is carried and any shortfalls are identified and the sponsor’s approval is sought to cover those shortfalls.
- Scheduling: This involves laying out the operational plan formulated in the planning process on the project timescale.
It may be noted that Project scheduling is a separate function of construction project management, that usually follows project planning.
Apart from these Construction planning also involves
- Project Planning: It includes creating a Work break down structure, determining interdependencies, drawing network diagrams, drafting project schedules, etc. Project milestones are also formulated in this step.
- Site planning. It involves analyzing the job site to determine the environmental conditions of the site. These such as soil conditions, wildlife, etc- that have a significant impact on the project.
- Resource Planning: A resource plan lists the resources required like materials, labor, and machinery. The resource plan is used to determine costs and budgets.
- Financial Planning: It involves detailing the costs that will be incurred during the execution of the project. It also accounts for administration expenditure and overheads.
- Quality Planning: The quality of the project is one of the most important factors. All parties involved in the project must know and agree upon the standards of quality. It helps in defining those quality deliverables. It also entails the steps that would be taken if the quality standards are not met.
- Risk Planning: Every construction project is inherently risky and hence having a plan to mitigate risk is essential. A good risk plan lays out the procedures for monitoring the risks and also formulates ways of dealing with them.
- Communications Planning: Construction projects often have many stakeholders involved and hence can become complicated. Since adequate information flow is critical for coordinating and keeping everything updated, having a communications plan in place is important. A communications plan addresses the flow of communications i.e. through email, letters, paper documents, meetings, etc., defines who is responsible for handling information, etc.
- Procurement Planning: A procurement plan explains how the raw materials and services required for the project will be procured.
Scheduling is one of the key functions of construction management. It is the process of listing tasks and activities that are involved in a project with their estimated start and finish dates. In the construction industry time is money and one of the major reasons for cost overruns is delays in construction. Hence proper scheduling of a construction project is essential.
A construction schedule is important for monitoring the project progress and can be an invaluable tool for avoiding failures.
Schedules can be of many types depending upon the nature of work.
Why is it important?
The activities of planning and scheduling are very tedious and time-consuming and require diligent efforts from the management, not to say the time and resources it requires. But these are, however, indispensable for the success of any project.
A study conducted by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) found a positive correlation between the successful completion of capital construction projects and the level of effort expended during the pre-project planning phase of the project.
The budget and schedule of activities for the project can be determined from the project plan and hence it becomes exceedingly important for it to be as accurate as possible.
There have been various cases of construction projects in the past that failed primarily because of poor planning and many construction projects executed are not planned properly, leading to unnecessary delays and cost over-runs.
Therefore developing a sound construction plan and schedule is critical not only for the successful execution of the construction project but also for the company involved.
Tools and techniques
There are various tools and techniques that construction managers use to plan and schedule a construction project. Going through all of those will be out of the scope of this article; however, we will briefly discuss some of the important ones below.
Work Break Down structure
A project has many tasks that need to be performed to complete the project. A WBS or Work Break-down Structure is a tool used by construction managers and engineers to break the project tasks into individual components and their sub-components.
It is often the first step in the project planning and execution, and the output is used for formulating various plans and schedules.
The Critical Path Method
This is one of the most widely used scheduling techniques in construction management. It is used to calculate the minimum completion time for a project. It makes use of a network diagram to represent activities required to be performed in a project.
Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
PERT Project Evaluation and Review Technique or Program Evaluation and Review Technique is a network-based planning tool like the Critical Path Method but unlike CPM it is used in projects where there is no prior information available. It is used for estimating project durations for novel projects.
Apart from these, there are many digital and cloud-based tools used by construction managers these days to make the process of planning and scheduling even more efficient and less time-consuming.
Planning and scheduling are important activities in construction management and need to be given much attention. If done properly they can help immensely in the efficient execution of the projects.
The use of tools like Work break down structure and network diagrams can greatly help construction managers in executing projects efficiently.
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