Scheduling Programs: Do You Need One?

The old adage better late than never might be a good way for teachers to encourage their students to submit their homework even though it’s late, or for the hopeless romantic waiting for their forever valentine to come into their lives. But, if you work in a time-sensitive industry like construction, being late is not an option because it can cost a lot of money, you can face litigation, and if that’s not consequence enough, your firm’s reputation can be damaged irreparably.  And, in the construction industry, reputation can make or break you.

You might think that just because you’re operating a small construction business that you don’t need a scheduling program. But, that’s where you’re wrong. The key point to remember is that if you are working on anything more complicated than a garden shed, then you would probably benefit from a scheduling program.

If you need any more convincing, let’s take the case of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport which started to be built in 2006 and was scheduled to open in 2012. The airport started off with a budget of 2 Billion Euros. But, due to poor planning, and other unfortunate circumstances, the airport is still being built, and the latest opening date will be in the year 2020. And to top it all off, it needs another 720 Million Euros to be completed, bringing the total cost of the unopened airport to a staggering 7.3 Billion Euros.

What is a Scheduling Software?

There are many kinds of scheduling software, but a construction scheduling software is a program that AEC professionals use to assign, systematize and forecast the work on a construction project. This type of scheduling program is not new and have been around for about 60 years since its inception in the 1960s when researchers began to use algorithms to improve and simplify the scheduling process.

Nowadays, most scheduling programs are cloud-based (internet based) SaaS ( Software as a Subscription)  come in all permutations – from simple and free programs to paid and sophisticated ones. Some scheduling programs are stand-alone while others are part of a bigger construction management program.

Benefits of a Scheduling Software

At this point, you might be wondering what are the benefits that you and your company will get if you use scheduling software. Is it worth the money, manpower, not to mention the time and the effort that you’ll invest in learning it?

For starters, a schedule allows you to plan more how you use your resources, both material, and manpower more efficiently which can make the pace of work faster. A scheduling software also allows you to make any contingencies just in case anything crops up in the future that can delay the construction work.

There are many more benefits to using scheduling software, but, all of them contribute to the endgame – to finish the construction project on time and within budget. A win-win situation for you and your client.

Scheduling Techniques

To be able to fully understand how a scheduling software works and how it can work for you and your company, it is necessary to have an understanding of the basic scheduling techniques that programs use. Let’s very briefly touch on the two core principles of scheduling:

  • Critical Path Method
  • Gantt Chart

Critical Path Method

The critical path method is a staple in the construction industry when it comes to scheduling and is often used in big construction projects. It is also a legal standard for measuring project delays. Very simply, this means that the CPM method can be used in court if your construction firm gets sued.

So what is it? Think that every project has essential tasks that are necessary for its completion.

To further illustrate it, let’s take something as simple as making scrambled eggs. If you had to make a short recipe in making scrambled eggs, it would look like this:

  1. Beat 2-3 eggs
  2. Heat the pan and add butter when hot
  3. Pour the beaten eggs and scramble it

In addition to these three steps, there are other steps that you need to do so that you can have a good scrambled egg. Maybe you can season it with salt and pepper or maybe you can add some cheese or whatever it is that you fancy.

But these things are just in addition to the three basic steps that are needed to make scrambled eggs. And even if you don’t do the additional steps, you’ll still get scrambled eggs. Maybe not very tasty scrambled eggs, but scrambled eggs nevertheless.

However, if you forget to do any of the three methods, you’ll just end up with eggs and a cold pan, and no scrambled eggs.

With this, the three steps: beating the eggs, heating the pan and adding oil, and pouring the beaten eggs are the critical steps needed to complete the job.

Of course, the CPM method is a bit more complicated than scrambling an egg, but, this is what it is in a nutshell.

Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart is the most popular method that’s used in scheduling. It is named after its inventor Henry Gantt, and, at its core is a bar chart that shows the activities and then when it’s supposed to be accomplished. Just by looking at the chart, you should be able to :

  • See how long each activity last
  • The beginning and end of each job
  • The length of each job
  • Any overlaps with other activities and the length of time
  • The start and date of the entire project

Do You Need a Scheduling Program?

The short answer to this question is yes. In an industry where time is gold, and competition is cutthroat, it’s an essential necessity so that your company can stay competitive. Getting started in using a scheduling software doesn’t mean that you should spend a fortune to find the best construction project scheduling software for your company because there are free options out there to get your feet wet. All you need is to invest some time and effort to learn the software so you can see for yourself if it improves the way your construction projects are done.


James Lang

James is the Editor of Small Business Sense. His background includes freelance ghostwriting about things that impact SMEs, startups, freelancers and entrepreneurs. He hasn't had a boss in more than six years, and hopes his content will help you fire yours.