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

Refrigerator shopping

Brian Regan is one of my favorite comedians. Clean comedy at its best.  

He's got this one routine he does about a guy going shopping for refrigerators, and there are all these options... and the salesman does a great job leaning on each refrigerator as he's trying to sell this guy:

     "this refrigerator here keeps all your food cold for $600"

     "this refrigerator keeps all your food cold for $800"

     "check this out, $1400, keeps all your food cold"

And of course the salesman tries to work the guy on the expensive model with all the "bells and whistles".

Have you been "worked on" by someone trying to sell you software? Especially when you're still trying to recover from sticker shock?

And admit it... have you ever bought the $1400 model and regretted it? I did, just recently. A fancy tea kettle for my wife, stainless steel, with way too many buttons, blue lights... settings we'll never use, and to make matters worse, it doesn't shut off like our old plastic one did (with one button)... it keeps reboiling !! Maybe there is a firmware update I'm not aware of :-)

There are a lot of options out there in the construction software space. Some big companies with massive payrolls (and massive venture capital backers) are making some slick, comprehensive applications. But as one customer put it, they are just too "sexy", too much going on, to the point that while the system may have what they need, their staff can't make it work. Plus, these companies have to charge higher rates to cover their cost structure (and make payroll for their 100's of employees)... and you are paying for it, and in may cases, hemorrhaging each month financially.

Fortunately that's not the case with BuildIT.

We've been around for 15 years and have stood the test of time. We were fortunate that at the onset, we attracted real customers who got real value from our system... and many of them have continued to benefit from BuildIT over a decade later.

The difference you'll find is that BuildIT is more of a boutique software company... we are laser focused on construction scheduling, and collaboration.

  • Team collaboration.
  • Contractors connecting efficiently with their sub trades and clients.
  • Specialty trades managing their crews.

We offer concierge service. One of the owners of the company will personally ensure you get off to a solid start, and achieve success with the system. It starts with getting one or more of your projects scheduled, right out of the gate. And if you need something customized to really make BuildIT rock for you, chances are we can build it for you in short order. It's in our name !

Plus, the BuildIT management team comes from the construction industry. We don't hire sales people whose job it is to close the deal. Yes, we want your business and will at some point ask for your credit card to join the BuildIT camp. The big difference is, we've been where you are, literally, on job sites, in plan rooms, in construction site offices, and reviewing blue prints on the hoods of trucks. 

Essentially, we "keep your food cold" for the lowest subscription pricing in the construction software space. You don't pay $1000's more for features you'll never use, and unlike most of the home builder software today, you won't be penalized for doing more jobs.

If you don't need the crisper or the egg area, choose BuildIT.

And start scheduling today... the easy way.

(December 2019 Update: The fancy kettle buttons stopped working, not under warranty, so it got tossed... more e-waste... we found our old "analog" kettle, cleaned it up, and are using that once again. Shiny isn't always better, but it's usually much more expensive. Lesson learned.)

 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