For a construction project to be successful, it has to stay on schedule. First, sticking to a schedule helps ensure your labor, materials and equipment are working as they should. When you manage these assets efficiently, you’ll minimize downtime; when your workers are waiting for equipment or don’t know which job site to show up at, you’re losing money. And secondly, when you focus on a schedule, you help keep your project in budget. Accurate estimates with correct timelines and labor requirements keep unexpected costs at a minimum.

How to Make a Construction Schedule

  1. Gather all your information and tools. Subcontractors, workers, equipment and more go into planning a construction project. Starting a schedule requires you to figure out how many different pieces need to come into play to finish the project on time and on budget. Talk to your subcontractors about how much time they need to complete their portion of the project. Make sure all your permits are in order and determine what inspections you’ll need to complete in order to keep the project moving ahead.
  2. Anticipate all possible delays. Accidents, bad weather, faulty equipment and other factors can delay or even derail a project, leading to unprofitable work. A good way to figure all possible delays is to review your past projects and look at what went well and what could have been done better. Analyze any delays, what those delays were attributed to and how you can prevent them, or account for them, in future projects.
  3. Create a timeline. Segment the project into smaller tasks and set goals as to when those tasks will be completed. Not only will this keep you on schedule, but you’ll understand how each task impacts the overall project as different milestones will affect the timeline of the overall project. These goals or markers will also give clarity on important decisions that will need to be made along the timeline.
  4. Assign work to teams. Once you have divided the project into tasks, with timeline goals set for each, then you can begin to assign crews to complete each of the tasks. You don’t want two different groups of workers showing up at the same job site or starting the next step of the project. This will also prevent you from overstretching your crews.
  5. Be flexible. You can schedule every detail but it is inevitable that something will not go to plan. The best way to combat these hiccups is to act on them quickly, let stakeholders know when necessary and decide what you need to do to remedy them.

Top Construction Scheduling Methods

Several methods exist to help construction companies schedule projects.

Bar Charts Method

Bar charts are easy to use and can be adapted to multiple situations. A bar chart features a list of activities with specific start dates, duration and completion dates that are then plotted on the timeline. A Gantt chart is a common type of bar chart that shows updated schedule status using “actually completed” shadings and vertical lines representing the actual date. It has advantages in that it is simple and doesn’t need specialized software.

Critical Path Method

The Critical Path Method is a scheduling process that links activities together, showing which critical activity must be completed before another can be started. For example, when building a house, a foundation must be laid before walls can go up. The Critical Path Method establishes and assigns start and end dates based on certain logic like ES (early start), EF (early finish), LS (late start) and LF (late finish) that are indicators of how activities must be sequenced. This logic helps determine how early or how late a construction project will be completed depending on the start dates of each path.

Line of Balance Scheduling Technique

The Line of Balance scheduling technique is used for planning repetitive work. This process shows what resources will be needed for each step of the project, reducing delays. According to the Balance Small Business, this technique’s principles are taken from the planning and control of the manufacturing processes and easily applied in construction.

Once you decide on a method, you can create a construction schedule template and work off of it, tweaking as you go, for years to come.

Quick Tips for Staying On Schedule

No matter which construction scheduling method you use, there are other ways to keep a project on track.

  • Use Time Tracking. Time tracking software allows you to view reports that detail an employee’s start and stop times, including which tasks the employee spent his or her time completing, so you can see a breakdown of who is doing what and how long it takes. This helps make job sites more efficient, keeping you on schedule and everyone more accountable. Reports can be generated per location or per employee giving you the opportunity to accurately see how time is being spent so you can keep productivity high.
  • Use Scheduling Software. Employee scheduling software allows you to create, edit and manage employees’ schedules in a cloud-based calendar. Schedule by location and attach a custom cost code to each shift, so you know exactly who is working and where. Admins set up shifts and tasks that employees can access from their mobile devices. Managers can label which employees were late, early or no-shows, allowing you to track performance so you can schedule the right teams for the job. And, scheduling software eliminates the possibility that multiple teams will show up at the same project site, helping your construction project stick to its set tasks and timeline.
  • Use Reports to Track Progress. When you use time tracking and scheduling software you automatically collect valuable data on your construction projects. If that project hits a snag and you need to deviate from your original schedule, you can run a report to see what factors may have contributed to its delay. Was there a team that didn’t show up on time? Did equipment break down? Were the labor hours high? Reports also offer 100% accurate labor cost data allowing you to make better cost estimates for future projects.

ExakTime offers solutions like a time clock app, scheduling and reports that work together to help you make informed decisions that will affect the outcome of your finished projects. When you can track how much your employees are working, which job sites required the most labor and how much your machines are used, you can stay on schedule with both your current and your future construction projects.