Technology in construction planning

In a construction project, program is probably the single most important factor in profitability.
A combination of astronomical daily project costs such as people, plant & equipment, plus penalties (such as liquidated damages) or incentives can mean each day is worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. If you don’t get the program right, then forget making any money.

After all, some project costs such as materials are pretty well fixed- a cubic metre of concrete normally costs the same on a Tuesday or a Wednesday, or for company A or B. One construction company can only differentiate themselves from the next by executing work so that it is quicker or more efficient.

Furthermore, a delay in one part of the work can have a massive knock-on effect to others, and just a small problem can get amplified by these dependencies.

Despite this, the tools used for planning, analysing & communicating a complex program are surprisingly basic. Nearly all projects will have a program in the form of a gantt chart, or if it is a linear project perhaps a time chainage diagram. Out of the program, other outputs such as histograms or graphs might be produced, or analysis such as Monte-Carlo (essentially probability distribution), PERT or network logic diagrams.

In recent years, use of model-based ‘4D’ techniques have become more widespread- more on this later.

I don’t think I am alone in while I do understand gantt charts, and can follow the logic through of one activity starting after another has finished, but it is difficult to get a sense of the ‘big picture’ and to understand what is planned in a spatial and temporal sense. In other words, what happens where and when.

Nice Wallpaper

In my experience, a project gantt chart (possibly consisting of tens of thousands of activities) can be used on the site office wall as a kind of decorative wallpaper, or used in a project report to give the impression that someone has it all worked out- but generally the program is not widely understood.
It is virtually impossible (for me at least) to mentally reconstruct the program beyond a small time period or section of the overall program. It is fairly typical for individuals to take a small section of a program (such as a ‘3-week lookahead’) and independently develop it in an application such as Excel.

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Tags: Planning , Analyse , BIM
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