The Construction Schedule, Part 1

Charles Mahaffey

January 2006

There is, or there should be, a direct correlation between the estimated labor and the construction schedule for every project. All the money you have allocated in your estimate for the different labor categories does relate to how much work your crews can perform within a given period of time.

In advance of the actual bid date, the general contractor should have a preliminary schedule available. It is at this time that the general contractor should be able to let you know the anticipated start and completion dates for the project on which you are about to bid.

After the project duration is given, you can evaluate how the manpower requirements for this project effect the overall manpower requirements for your company. Now that you know the project duration, you should also obtain material price quotes (and price protection) that are good for the project duration.

Typically, after the project is awarded, the general contractor or construction manager will go about the task of assembling a project schedule showing the project activities by trade, how they interface with one another, and the major project milestones.

Many projects do not have a basic construction plan on which to build a schedule. Some schedules are logical and easy to follow; these schedules come with supporting documents that outline assumptions and constraints.

If the schedule is to have any real value, subcontractors must have the opportunity to provide the information to the project scheduler that is relevant to their particular scope of work. First of all, let us assume that your estimate is accurate, and the amount of labor in the estimate is proportionate to the amount of work within the given area of the building. As a subcontractor, it is your responsibility to provide the duration for each activity in each area.

If the project scheduler says he is unable to give you the amount of time to you requested, you need to take a hard look at what you are going to do. Do not agree to a schedule that gives you any doubt about your ability to accomplish it. Once you agree to a schedule, you have no one to blame but yourself if you can’t meet the dates you provided.

Now, here’s a surprise: A large percentage of project schedules are not completed on time. "Murphy’s Law” seems to be applicable in construction scheduling. As a matter of fact, I strongly suspect that Murphy could have been a construction scheduler in his day because if things can go wrong, they certainly will go wrong in a construction schedule.

Some general contractors seem to apply their own "logic” to the schedule—"If it takes nine months for a woman to have a baby, get nine women and have a baby in a month!” Sometimes it just seems as though the people we work for have never managed a project schedule in their life.

In part two, next month, I will address what you should do when the schedule "goes to hell in a handbasket.”

About the Author
Charles Mahaffey is president of Accuest, LLC, Marietta, Ga. Accuest provides estimating and consulting services for commercial drywall subcontractors.