Gantt charts

Gantt chart basics 

When you search for “construction scheduling software”, you will likely end up here on our blog, or at www.builditsystems.com – and you need something that can generate a Gantt chart for construction. 

A Gantt chart is commonly used in construction project management as an easy way of showing tasks/activities as they relate to time (days/weeks). Sometimes referred to as construction timelines, or construction bar charts, Gantt charts help you and others see how a project is tracking. Construction tasks are shown on the left of the page, vertically in sequential order, and the time is expressed in days (or weeks) along the top of the chart, from left to right. Each task is expressed by bars of time… and you can see relationships between tasks - which ones can run concurrently, and which ones need to finish before the other ones start.

Brief history

It’s an unfortunate name really. Hard to pronounce, we are often asked for a ga-nat chart or gnat chart (where the “g” is silent and I picture flies buzzing around a spreadsheet !!). The Gantt chart was the brainchild of Karol Adamiecki, a polish engineer around 1895. Originally named a “harmonogram”, it had limited appeal until an American engineer and management consultant named Henry Gantt created his own version in English around 1910… it quickly gained traction in project management circles (construction, government, education, manufacturing, etc.). And thanks to his last name, “Gantt” chart is what we are stuck with (could be worse).

For decades, Gantt charts were created by hand. Each time a change to the schedule took place, they would have to be redrawn. The process was time consuming, arduous… a real pain. And despite their value, most projects involve managing change. This kept those pink eraser companies humming, and generated a lot of frustration when sub trades didn’t show up, things took longer than expected, and you got a couple feet of snow the day before you were to sheathe the roof trusses.

Gantt chart software

Today, you can create Gantt charts using tools like Microsoft Word or Excel. However, they are the wrong tools for the job. You’ve just replaced the pink eraser for dozens of key presses, back spaces, deletes, copy/pastes... frustration builds, and time is consumed. If this is you, congratulations… relief is spelled B-U-I-L-D-I-T 

Scheduling software makes creating Gantt charts a breeze. Microsoft Project has been around for years, and it tends to be the one that comes up with our future customers that are making the switch from paper based, and whiteboard scheduling. Click here to review the differences between Microsoft Project and BuildIT.

There are several options available to help you create a printed Gantt chart. Heck, we can help you do it. As a matter of fact, many customers who come to BuildIT get a printed Gantt chart (PDF) before they even subscribe to our service. It’s simple really, and we’ll help you do it. But… a printed Gantt chart becomes stale quickly, like, within hours. And if you have staff and sub-contractors relying on a printed schedule that is out of date, that’s when costly errors and delays occur.

BuildIT scheduling "system" vs static Gantt schedule software

Some specialized spreadsheet programs and online Gantt software claim they are the answer to creating Gantt charts for your team. While they may be easier to use than Microsoft Project and cost less, the benefit that sets BuildIT apart from the rest is the ability to collaborate in real time.

BuildIT’s schedule is online, and can be shared with anyone on your team. You make a change to the schedule, your contacts are notified, and they see that schedule in real time, just by clicking a link within their email. When they add a note to a task, you (the BuildIT user and master of the schedule) get that note, date and time stamped by them. Everyone is apprised of changes, and nothing gets missed.

Simple. Automatically configured by BuildIT. Your clients and sub-contractors/vendors do not have to go to someone’s website, find the right place to login, and try to remember a username or password combination – that is a pain, and it’s the big reason the other guys still are dealing with costly screw-ups. BuildIT’s approach is super easy – all you do is create a schedule, assign the contact to one or more tasks, then email that contact a link (by pressing a button) – you don’t even have to write the email – we do it all for you.

Gantt charts are great, and there are times when you want to print to a PDF, and send to a client or contractor. BuildIT is better… for those who want to keep everyone in the loop, and notified of changes. 

Try us on your next Gantt chart. And start scheduling the easy way.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

The best builders are the best schedulers

When we started BuildIT, we knew that companies with strong underlying systems were successful (think: franchise companies). We saw the opportunity to provide systems for small to mid-sized contractors and specialty trades to help them get control of their job tracking, scheduling and general organization. We heard loud and clear that scheduling was a nightmare... and the company that could provide solutions for better scheduling would find no shortage of customers.

It stands to reason that if your jobsites are a mess, if your scheduling tools are outdated (or non-existent), and if you end up with piles of waste materials at the end of the job (which completed days if not weeks after your projected completion date), then you're hemorrhaging profit. While you may not be this extreme, you wouldn't be reading this if there wasn't some opportunity for you to make gains in your scheduling and bottom line dollars.

Which brings us to our title... the best builders are the best schedulers.

Go to any jobsite that is well run, talk to any builder that is swimming in profits... and you'll find a "lean" builder, one who has mastered the art of scheduling, collaborating with trades, and "conducting the orchestra" of different moving parts on jobsites. They have systems in place, processes and procedures, and well trained staff who have bought into the vision of the company. They manage change, not react to it. They predict crises/weather events/holidays and seasonal realities... and have built in cushions for such disruptions. Successful builders have trades that WANT to work with them, because it is a privilege to work on their jobsites. The have tight schedules with dates that the trades can rely on... and they equip their trades, staff and clients with the right information well in advance so specifications can be nailed down, documentation is clear and accessible, and products with longer lead times are on order and arrive at just the right time.

Much has been written about the return on investment with scheduling systems like BuildIT. And there are great resources online to help you accelerate your scheduling success as we start a new year. One such resource that I've referenced before is True North Development, whose president Scott Sedam is a prolific writer and industry expert. We highly recommend his "Gospel of Schedule" article, in which he outlines his "25 Essential Scheduling Practices for Home Builders" (and while addressed specifically to home builders, other construction professionals will find some takeaways here). Below is a summary to whet your appetite for the full article (and seminars that he conducts):

  1. Simplify (the product, process, paperwork, etc.)
  2. Pre-construction checklist is a must.
  3. Schedule customer input pre-build and during.
  4. Get buy in from trades and suppliers up front in the importance of scheduling of their work and deliveries.
  5. Establish clear scopes of work, expectations on what 100% complete looks like.
  6. Develop a realistic schedule with input from trades and suppliers.
  7. Create a predicable schedule, whereby specific tasks start on specific days.
  8. Find trades that can adapt crew sizes to meet scheduled durations.
  9. Establish a system for weather events and other contingencies.
  10. Value engineer your plans to help eliminate waste at the end.
  11. Choose manufactured components to reduce production time.
  12. Keep your plans list current; omit plans that seldom get chosen.
  13. Limit options to those most customers will pay for.
  14. Provide unit pricing and upgrades up front.
  15. Provide firm cut-off dates, hold staff, trades and clients to those.
  16. Space out/phase your starts to help with trade conflicts.
  17. Provide superintendents with everything they need to build... at the start.
  18. Establish quality control guidelines, deliveries, daily logs.
  19. Keep building site clean with site plan/placement for deliveries of building materials.
  20. Superintendents to be in each unit daily.
  21. Endeavor to shoot for shorter cycle times ("turns").
  22. Broom sweep each unit at end of day.
  23. Have a schedule (like BuildIT displaying ALL JOBS) that shows where ALL units are at in production.
  24. Pay on time all work that is 100% complete according to the schedule.
  25. Pay for the best crews/suppliers.


I'm sure some of our BuildIT veterans out there could add to this list. Feel free to send BuildIT your success stories on how you used BuildIT to reduce cycle times, increase profit, or secure a new client.

The best builders are the best schedulers... and in our humble opinion... the best schedulers that we know use BuildIT !!

To your scheduling success,

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

Cloudy... with a good chance of success

There was a time when the cloud was that white or grey thing that got between you and the sun.

Still is, but "The Cloud" represents something much cooler, hipster.  Cloud Logo

You're "in the cloud", "using the cloud", accessing your data "from the cloud" whether you know it or not. While the "cloud" may be the current buzz word, it's really just a metaphor for something that has been around for some time now... the Internet! 

With the cloud comes "cloud computing", the basic idea is there are a bunch of computers (or "remote servers") around the planet that are all networked together. Your data is stored remotely on these remote servers (not your own hard drive), and you access your data via application software (cloud software, or web based software) from your Internet connected device.

There are huge benefits to cloud computing. Your computer just becomes a disposable device. If it blows up, you spill coffee on it, or it walks out the door that you forgot to lock, well, just get on another computer with Internet access, and you're back in business. Plus, the servers that run web based software are built and managed WAY better than anything you're likely to buy from Office Max... so if you have high speed Internet access and are using a reputable web based software company, you'll enjoy really fast page serving times.

One of our competitors uses the phrase "Build in the Cloud"... which strikes me a bit funny. Construction professionals build "on the ground", and use physical objects like tools and 2x4's to accomplish their goals. Software is just another tool to help get the job done.

In the past, software would be sold in a box, and you would purchase it (one time) and install it on your computer (some of you are too young to know what a floppy drive is!)  More recently you would download software and install it on your computer, saving you the box and the thick paper manual that few people ever read.

Since the mid 90's, web based software, "SAAS" (Software as a Service), or as it's called now... "Cloud based software"... it's really just software that runs off our server, not your computer. You never really purchase/own cloud based software... you "rent" it, or subscribe - and it is kept current by the developers. We own the software, you own your data, and have a licence to use our software to access/create/manage your data. When you do online banking, you are connecting through the cloud. Same goes for adding an appointment to your Google calendar. Or logging into BuildIT.

Fortunately, you don't have to fully understand what is happening under the hood, leave that for the geeks and computer nerds. We can just get in the car, and drive. We can leverage companies that do the heavy lifting, making sure software is updated, bugs are fixed, and the latest, fastest software is available each and every time we log on.

As I write this, Sony Pictures computer system has just been hacked, and personal emails and data are flying about the Internet, creating an international crisis and a lot of embarassment for a lot of executives and Hollywood elites. Which brings up an important consideration - TRUST. You are banking on the fact that the software system you subscribe to, and the Company behind it, are reputable, and will be around for a while. You are also assuming that the company has taken great measures to ensure the protection of your data.

BuildIT - 13 years of service to our customers. Not one byte of data lost. A super strong firewall that fends off any attack by unscrupulous hackers. When it comes to cloud based software from BuildIT, you're in good hands.

Forecast - cloudy, with a good chance of success!

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1