Technical Stuff

How BuildIT handles Critical Path scheduling

Critical Path (also known as Critical Path Method, or CPM) is a scheduling method for dealing with multiple activities (or "tasks" as we call them) required to complete a project. The absolute minimum duration of a project (start to finish) is the sum of the duration of sequential tasks.

The relationship between "critical" tasks (or "interdependent activities") is such that a change in a single critical task will most likely change the overall construction timeline, either shrinking it, or extending it. I say "most likely" because in construction, scheduling tends to be more of an art than a science, and often there are negotiated activities that take place to ensure the project is kept "on track", like doubling up of trades, working on non-working days, or cramming more "man hours" into the day.

CPM is taught at the university level as part of construction project management courses. Volumes are written on it. Thick ones, expensive ones. There is a Project Management Institute that teaches and certifies project managers. There is a science behind CPM, and some big words /phrases that come along for the ride:

  • predecessors/successors
  • resource levelling
  • sequential dependencies / linked tasks
  • float
  • crashing / fast tracking

BuildIT made the decision years ago to provide a better solution to small to mid sized construction professionals, many of whom are artisans, business owners, and do too much without enough hours in the day. We saw the landscape of software available to this audience, and quite frankly, it was way too complicated and costly for the majority of the folks we had interviewed, and continue to speak to on a daily basis.

There is not a week that goes by that we don't hear from someone that "we tried software X for scheduling, and it was way more than what we needed". How can that be if software X had all the bells, whistles, buzz words, logic, fancy computer algorithms and a printed Gantt chart that would make any Ph.D. drool!?

There is enough complicated, complex, "enterprise level" software out there for those who need it (call me and I'll make some recommendations). One project manager quipped that "you could run a small country with Microsoft Project" – but that's not what our customers are trying to accomplish!

BuildIT offers a simpler scheduling solution that gets the job done without a bunch of overhead. Our schedule is easy to understand, even by those outside your company who you share the schedule with.

Consider a simple schedule with a dozen or more tasks. All tasks are displayed in chronological order. That's how most contractors and trades would view a schedule.

At some point, something happens that affects the schedule - a delay in a shipment, the crane broke down, someone forgot to show up on Monday, you forgot your kid's birthday – all throwing a wrench into the system.

You have some options:

1. Modify one task, independent of the rest of the schedule

2. Modify two or more tasks, independent of the rest of the schedule

Taken together, these two approaches handle the majority of scheduling concerns. Easy to do.

Now for the Critical Path adjustment:

3. Select a task and reschedule all following tasks in your Critical Path (CP) each by the same number of working days.

Once you build a schedule, you can define which tasks are critical and assign a code of CP to them.

Consider this example below, all tasks are CP except the Sidewalk and Landscaping tasks. The user wants to reschedule the task "Electrical" by 5 working days, and push the rest of the CP tasks out by the same.

Once complete, BuildIT refreshes the schedule and displays all tasks in chronological order. The Electrical task and all following tasks EXCEPT Sidewalk and Landscaping tasks were extended by 5 working days.

For more help with how to use BuildIT to accomplish your scheduling goals without the nightmare of task linkages, sequential dependencies and arrows all over the page, call BuildIT support.

 Scott Hutchinson
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1