What Is a Construction Schedule and How Do I Make One?

Much like blueprints show you structural details, the construction schedule shows how and when your project will be completed.

How to Create a Rock Solid Construction Schedule


Today’s construction industry moves quickly. Having a solid construction schedule in place makes a big difference in your project’s success. Continued labor shortages, growth between 4.6% and 18.1%, and continued supply chain issues will keep the average contractor hopping to stay on top of their projects. One way to avoid some of these issues is by creating a rock-solid construction schedule, helping you avoid construction cost overruns. But what exactly is a  project schedule, and how will it help your construction business succeed? In this post, we’ll discuss what a construction schedule is and the 10 steps to create a solid schedule.


What Is a Construction Schedule? 


Much like blueprints show you structural details, the construction schedule shows how and when your project will be completed. It’s a vital part of construction management that outlines project milestones and timeframes while tracking progress so everything stays on time and under budget. Though it’s time-consuming, it helps avoid problems on the job site while providing direction and allowing intelligent management of the project’s resources.

There are aspects that a construction schedule should include, such as resource management, project deliverables, asset allocation, budget, and costing, dependencies between tasks, tasks to complete construction, deadlines, and task duration. The schedule is regularly assessed by the project manager to ensure everything is going to plan and will be completed within the expected timeframe.

Generally speaking, there are seven different types of construction schedule methodology, which include:

  1. Line of Balance
  2. Quantitative
  3. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)
  4. Resource-Oriented Scheduling
  5. Gantt Charts
  6. Last Planner System (LPS)
  7. Critical Path Method (CPM)


10 Easy Steps to Build an Airtight Project Schedule


1. Collect Info & Choose a Scheduling Tool


Creating your schedule on paper or a spreadsheet leads to a lot of problems, so consider construction schedule software tools. Gather all the information that you’ll need for the project, including specifications, materials lists, site tests, and similar information. This allows you to have the basics on hand as you continue determining the depth of information to gather for the project.


2. Conduct Research


Put every detail you can find about your upcoming project for schedule depth. Talk to inspectors about what permits should be filed and how long they will take. Break down the project’s materials and when you’ll need them. Calculate available working hours, including details about which days workers are available. Check your budget during this time, as many events you schedule will have related expenditures, such as material purchases, labor, and administrative expenses.


3. Choose a Construction Schedule Methodology


Also referred to as a schedule type, this includes a Line of Balance for projects that have repetitive blocks of tasks, Quantitative Scheduling uses bar charts to track the quantity of material, time, and location, PERT provides for differences between set deadlines and milestones, Resource-Oriented Scheduling tracks the availability of resources that needed by different parties at the same time, Gantt Charts take the tasks and spread them out across the calendar, Last Planner System adds detail when the project’s close approaches and CPM identifies the tasks that need to be completed alongside the amount of time needed to complete them.


4. Consult Subcontractors to determine task durations


Contact each of your subcontractors to find out how long they will need to complete specific tasks, as well as how long they will need to have materials arrive after ordering. Gathering this information makes it easier to lay out your schedule in a single sitting instead of having to chase down each sub as you’re into the process. However, don’t completely trust the estimate either. People tend to underestimate how long it takes to complete a task, so add some extra time in so that your project isn’t held up at a critical point.


5. Collect and Prioritize Tasks


Take time to break your entire project into tasks, describing each task in a detailed fashion. This description should include what work it will require, how many working hours are needed, materials required, equipment needed, and similar details. This gives you context on the task for your next step, determining task duration. A key part of successful project management is being detail-oriented, so detail every aspect of each task so that you’ll be able to fit it into your schedule confidently.


6. Determine Duration


Once all the tasks are listed, look at each task and make a smart guess on its duration, including at what point you’ll reach key milestones. If you miss an early milestone, you’ll know that you need to make some changes before the project becomes delayed and falls into risk. Make sure to create a few alternate plans, just in case. As with your subcontractor estimating, don’t be too optimistic. A task may only take three days if everything goes perfectly, but how often does everything go perfectly in construction?


7. Develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)


Your WBS helps you visualize the tasks needed and breaks them down into easier pieces. It shows any conflicts that require management. As with your task collection and prioritization, be as thorough and detailed as possible. Draw a tree to separate every project component, with individual subcomponents following, with smaller and smaller breakdowns until you’re at the final task, which is considered a work package. This should include every task to meet the project’s goals.


8. Review the Schedule with Key Stakeholders


Once you’ve got everything listed out, schedule a meeting with all key stakeholders to ensure you’ve not missed anything in the project and you have a reasonable schedule. Ask for feedback so that adjustments can be made, as very few schedules are perfect on the first attempt. Listen to stakeholders with an open mind and allow your schedule to be changed to adapt to their needs.


9. Allocate and Execute


Allocating the work to specific teams is confusing when you have subcontractors to manage, so color-coding tasks make it easier to pick out different types of work and teams. After you’ve allocated your resources, both in terms of manpower and materials, stay on top of them to determine if they aren’t keeping up with the schedule. Balance your resources across the entire project so that everyone stays active.


10. Monitor/Track Your Schedule


As your project progresses, compare your initial schedule to what’s actually happening on the job site. As today’s construction industry marches forward, technology, such as construction schedule analytics, makes a big difference in performance. One option to consider is SmartPM, which takes all your tasks, workers, and resources and helps you allocate them in the most intelligent way possible. Analyzing a construction schedule can seem difficult, but it’s fairly simple when you have the right tools for the job. Ready to learn more about SmartPM? Why not take a deeper look by scheduling a demo?

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