Fundamentals of Project Scheduling

My notes from NASCC 2018: Fundamentals of Project Scheduling Processes [P2]
(PDH# 46282) Date: 04/11/2018

Mark Holland, P.E.
Intended Audience:  Engineers, Fabricators, Erectors, Detailers, Architects
Session video link.

Session Description:
This session will provide basic concepts necessary to plan and schedule steel fabrication and erection process from award to final billing. Attendees will learn the fundamentals of Critical Path Scheduling (CPM) and how to determine the level of detail required to predict outcome but still enable efficient updates to the schedule. The speaker will emphasize the importance of the project schedule at bid and use examples to show how the schedule evolves with time. Concepts of baseline, resource management, and presentation of the schedule in different forms to provide tools to manage the shop and customer demands will be taught.

Learning Objective 1: Explain the fundamentals of Critical Path Scheduling (CPM)

Learning Objective 2: Explain the importance of project schedule at bid time.

Learning Objective 3: Explain the concepts of baseline, resource management and presentation of schedule.

Learning Objective 4: Explain how to adjust when encountering deviations from the plan.

Scheduling is a process not an event!
Steel fabrication is not manufacturing.
Rules of scheduling in manufacturing do not all apply to fabrication of structural steel.

Why make a project schedule at all?

  • Bid Schedule
    • What did you sell/promise your customer?
  • Schedule while the project is running
    • To do list to keep on track
    • Predict when something should be done
    • Show the effect of changes
    • Show the effect of delays
  • Review of the project when it is finished
    • Help resolve change orders
    • Lessons learned

Scheduling Definitions

  • Project schedule: a plan of procedure, usually written, for a proposed objective, especially with reference to the sequence of and time allotted for each item or operation necessary to its completion.
  • Project task: a definite piece of work assigned to, falling to, or expected of a person; duty.
  • Project summary task: in project, an indented task becomes a subtask of the task above it, which becomes a summary task.
  • Project milestone: a project milestone is a task of zero duration that shows an important achievement in a project. They symbolize a point of time in a project.
  • Gantt chart: illustrate the start and finish dates of the terminal elements and summary elements of a project.
  • CPM: (Critical Path Method) scheduling with the CPM calculation.
  • Other definitions:
    • Duration
    • Start
    • Finish
    • Early Start
    • Early Finish
    • Late Start
    • Late Finish
    • Baseline
    • Predecessor
    • Successor
    • Critical Path
    • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
    • FS, SS, SF, FF

Inputs to the Project Schedule

  • What starts the project / schedule?
    • Award
    • Release of design information
  • What tasks will be performed / scheduled?
  • How long will a task take / duration?
  • What are the required dates / milestones?
  • What resources are available / required?

Tools for Project Scheduling

  • Excel
    • Pros
      • Everyone knows Excel
      • Everyone has Excel
      • Will do the math for resources easily
    • Cons
      • Not a scheduling application
      • Will not automatically update your dates.
      • Speaker recommends not using Excel for scheduling
    • MS Project
    • Synchro (4-D)
    • Primavera P6
    • ProjectManager
    • Smartsheet
    • Office Timeline

Level of Detail for Project Schedule

  • Release of design information
  • Material procurement
  • Engineering (connection design)
  • Detailing & approval
  • Fabrication
    • Cut, fit, weld, paint, load, etc…
  • Ship
    • Travel time, unload, etc…
  • Erect
    • Mobilize to site, laydown, crane, erect, bolt up, rack, etc…
  • Project close-out

Be careful about how detailed the tasks are scheduled. You want enough detail to predict the outcome but no so much that the schedule is hard to updated and manage.

Make a Sample Schedule

  • What you know at bid time
    • 300 ton office building
    • Concrete core
    • Delegated connection design
    • Contract detailing
    • Mill and warehouse material
  • Sequence the project
  • Organize the sequences/tasks
    • Sequence number
    • Drawing number
    • Number of submittals
  • List the tasks to be scheduled (brainstorming)
  • Estimate the durations
    • Material procurement
      • Look at mill rolling cycle (8 to 12 weeks) available on all mill websites
      • Warehouse delivery cycle (2 weeks)
    • Engineering and Detailing
      • Connection design duration
        • Estimate from engineer
        • Historical data from similar projects
        • Percentage of detailing cycle
      • Number of submittals
        • Estimate from engineer
        • Assumptions about submittal size & number of drawings
        • Historical data from similar projects
      • Fabrication
        • Fit & weld man-hours from estimate
        • Man-hours per ton
        • Historical fab durations
        • Inspection
      • Finish
        • Coating/painting
        • Galvanizing
        • Anodizing
      • Transportation
        • Loading
        • Travel time to site
      • Erection
    • Organize the summary vs. child tasks
      • Indent child tasks
    • Finish listing tasks with submittal
      • Separate mill and warehouse orders
      • Submittals by sequence
    • Review schedule
      • Add durations and connect tasks
      • Mill order vs. warehouse (planning set)
      • Close up of submittals
      • Detailing cycle of XX weeks
    • Final cleaned up schedule (compressed)

Always give your plan to the contractor.
Whenever possible include a schedule in your bid.
Know what you sold them!

What can be shown from the schedule?

  • Effect of mill or warehouse material
  • Shop drawing submittal cycle
  • Shop drawing approval cycle
  • Fabrication durations
  • Impact of a design change
    • Set baseline
    • Show release of design change
    • Add additional submittal / approval
    • Show impact on fabrication / delivery
  • Impact of late approval
    • Multiple fab cycles on top of each other

Updating the Schedule

  • Showing delays and how to address them
    • Work out of sequence?
    • Deliver out of sequence?
    • Put a different job in the shop?
    • Accelerate the schedule?
      • Add resources?
      • Work overtime?
    • Adding resources to the schedule
      • Filter the schedule for the task you want to evaluate and use a spreadsheet.
      • Use (export) the schedule data and some simple math in Excel.
      • Use features in the applications to track resources.

Different Schedule Views

  • Whole schedule view
  • Compressed schedule view
  • Percentage complete view
  • Collapse what is finished


  • Why we should make project schedules and when.
  • What inputs make up the project schedule.
  • Different kind of tools for project scheduling.
  • How to think about level of detail for the project schedule.
  • We made a sample schedule.
  • We updated the schedule and show impact.
  • We discussed what you get for your efforts.

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