Construction planning and scheduling: a quick intro
Construction planning and scheduling are key aspects in integrating all your construction activities and phases needed to complete a given construction project at a given budget and time frame. Although having individual functions, planning and scheduling are inseparable when it comes to successful project management.
Construction planning essentially covers the choosing of relevant policies, procedures, and processes to achieve your project goals. Construction scheduling adapts your construction project action plans for scope, time, cost, and quality into a functioning calendar. This process of adaptation of the project specifications including requirements for resources (labor, equipment, materials, etc.), communications, risks, and procurement into an operational workflow system is critical for your project team.
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Together with your project plan and budget, your schedule becomes your central tool for managing your projects. Additionally, having an integrated or coordinated cost-time schedule function as your foundation for monitoring and controlling activities all throughout your project’s life cycle.
Why construction planning and scheduling are important
Proper construction planning and scheduling are important in ensuring that your construction project gets completed on time and within budget. A thoroughly planned construction schedule not only outlines the pace of your work but it dictates how your work gets done. It also helps define your processes, methods, and sequences for when materials are put in place.
Preparing your construction schedule meticulously and ahead of time maximises your efficiency and productivity. As your construction schedule allows you to improve your quality control measures, it is effortless to sequence work and to ensure you have the correct quality and quantity of materials used in each step.
Materials and resources procurement is on track as you can use your schedule to purchase the right materials exactly when you need them. Safety performance is improved as you use your schedule to track which worker is on site and make sure that protection guidelines are properly followed.
Having a reliable construction schedule also allows you to allocate your time better among all your project stakeholders, which helps them plan their activities better. By getting total control of your project, you reduce unpleasant surprises, making it easy to avoid cost overruns and delays.
What is construction planning?
Construction planning is essential in managing and executing your construction projects as it involves selecting the technology, defining the work tasks, estimating the required resources and extent of individual tasks, and identifying possible interactions and workflows among different activities.
An efficient construction plan is fundamental in setting your budget and schedule for the entire work needed. Creating and developing the construction plan is a highly challenging and critical task in construction management.
You have to develop the technical aspects and on top of that, you have to make organisational decisions about relationships between project stakeholders and even the subcontractors you will have to include.
According to The Constructor, a civil engineering informational resource website, there are three major types of construction project planning:
1. Strategic planning
It involves a high-level selection of project objectives. Strategic planning is usually done by the project owner’s corporate planners. In order to achieve the owner’s project goals, they decide what project to build and the completion deadline with the project teams developing the master construction execution plan that falls within the guidelines set in the strategic and contracting plans.
2. Operational planning
It involves detailed planning by the construction teams to meet the project’s strategic objectives. Before the project teams can detail the construction schedule, they have to go through a series of questions so they can prepare the construction master plan:
- Will the operational plan meet the strategic planning target date?
- Are sufficient construction resources and services available within the company to meet the project objectives?
- What is the impact of the new project on the existing workload?
- Where will we get the resources to handle any overload?
- What company policies may prevent the plan from meeting the target date?
- Are usually long delivery equipment or materials involved?
- Are the project concepts and design firmly established and ready to start the construction?
- Is the original contracting plan still valid?
- Will it be more economical to use a fast-track scheduling approach?
It involves the detailed operational plan set on a time frame as per the strategic objectives.
What are the first steps in planning a construction project?
The classic approach to developing a construction plan, which is the basis for modern construction planning, is based on the 1998 published book, Project Management for Construction by Chris Hendrickson. The common development strategy is to adopt a primary emphasis on either cost control or on schedule control.
Construction planning may be cost or expense oriented, or schedule oriented. With cost-oriented project planning, there is a distinction between costs incurred directly in the performance of an activity and indirectly for the accomplishment of the project. Indirect costs may include borrowed expenses for project financing and overhead items. For schedule oriented planning, the emphasis is on the schedule of project activities over time, and this is considered critical.