The Critical Path: How a Construction Manager Keeps Your Project on Track

The Critical Path: How a Construction Manager Keeps Your Project on Track by March Associates Construction

The Critical Path: How a Construction Manager Keeps Your Project on Track by March Associates Construction

In an industry where time is money, project scheduling has to be estimated with a realistic consideration for life’s variability. The Critical Path Method ensures that projects are completed on-time, resources are available when needed, and increases overall efficiency.

What is the Critical Path Method?

CPM is a scheduling methodology that calculates project progress and completion times. It used to be drawn with pen and paper as a flow chart. Today, we have software applications to schedule project activities, calculate completion times, and combine it with other techniques such as WBD (Work Breakdown Structure), PERT (Program Analysis and Review Technique), and the Gantt Chart used to estimate the duration of individual steps.  

The PERT method is a task-duration estimating technique considering three factors, the “optimistic duration,” the shortest length of time necessary to complete a task, the “pessimistic duration,” the most extended amount of time, and the “most likely duration,” which is in between the two. The average results of the “most likely” task durations will become the “expected duration” of the project. 

The Work Breakdown Structure includes all tasks involved in the project detailing the work to be performed by contractors, subcontractors, and vendors. It includes what immediately precedes each task, what follows that task, and what can be done at the same time. It is illustrated along with the Gantt Chart by a week/month/yr timeline with colored bars stretching the length of completion time for each. 

Time-oriented scheduling focuses on project completion times, but it isn’t only about planning dates. It also includes matching the arrival time of resources and equipment with tasks to eliminate downtime and lower costs. Resource-oriented scheduling focuses on the provisioning of limited resources to help alleviate constraints.

While the CPM model can keep a project on track, it is dependent on having accurate information put into it. Inaccurate estimates, poor communication from engineers, architects, or project teams, change orders, and other variables can cause a project to fall off course. 

Experienced Construction Management professionals are mindful that conditions may vary, project scopes change, and estimates revised. Updating the critical path model as these variables occur throughout the process is essential.

In CPM, a critical path is identified. As long as the critical tasks are not affected, minor duration changes or revisions will not delay the project or jeopardize the completion date.  

A post-project analysis examines the documentation for what happened during construction and determines the causes and impacts of deviations from the project schedule. This analysis helps construction companies learn and gain experience from previous projects. This is why it is vital to have an experienced construction management company assigned to your building project.

Critical Path Method Best Practices

  • Collaborate with Owner’s Representatives and project teams to plan in detail.

  • Include owner responsibilities that could delay the project in the scope of work.

  • Monitor submittals, approvals, ordering fabrication time, and delivery in the schedule.

  • Document all non-project work that could affect the completion of the project.

  • Carefully lay out the plan for resource use on the schedule.

  • Allow adequate time for the development of a highly detailed schedule, quality control review, updates, and analysis.

  • Use cost/schedule/risk assessment and monitoring.

  • Include pre-construction tasks in the schedule.

  • Efficiently sequence the critical path.

  • Ensure accurate task duration estimates.

  • Consider resource-workflow relationships.

  • Create buffers for inevitable delays.

  • Decide on an indicator for project completion.

  • Learn from history.

What questions, stories, or experience do you have relating to construction and The Critical Path Method? Leave a comment below and start a conversation!

  • Article by Briana J Samman at March Construction


About March Construction

When you work with March Construction, you are working with our company principals—Lou March and Todd Laubach—who are a crucial part of each project March tackles. We provide better hands-on service and communication than larger construction companies can offer. March has a passionate and hard-working management team.

Over the last decade, Lou March Jr. has brought March Construction into a new generation of quality construction management. He places March, it’s employees, and their families as his top priority. Maintaining this responsibility also means minimizing unnecessary risk in a fast-growth market, selecting quality projects, and only accepting opportunities within our resources. We have a thorough safety program run by Safety Director Frank Brady, which teaches best practices and to ensure the health, wellbeing, and compliance of subcontractors and their employees. 

Learn more about what our experts have to say about their experience working in the construction industry by reading the March Pro Articles section of our Blog. Our employees are proud to work at March, voting us one of The Best Places to Work in NJ 2018 by NJBIZ. 

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