A good schedule saves time and money The site for a new, multibuilding high school project was on a hillside requiring massive grading and rock removal. The buildings were of wood and steel construction and housed six classrooms each. Because of the grading problems, the expected progress of construction would be that the upper units would be graded and constructed first and then the lower buildings.

That’s the way the project was estimated and this was the general contractor’s schedule also. From the outset, there were problems such as the grading contractor declaring bankruptcy, followed by a bankrupt steel contractor.

After the smoke settled, a new steel contractor failed to coordinate the steel production and delivery. There were many other problems, but the bottom line was that the electrical contractor’s workers had to jump from one level to another as the steel was delivered. The general contractor’s schedule was worthless.

Fortunately, the electrical contractor did produce a schedule for the estimate and this ended up supporting a large claim, and the electrical contractor prevailed.

The best of schedules, however, will not account for the way various contractors handle the work. If the general has proper and qualified project supervision, the subcontractor can expect reasonable notifications and the maintenance of the overall project schedule. Consider the opposite situation and it becomes quite evident that the costs of the sub will increase. It pays to consider these points when coming up with the final selling price.

The complexity of a schedule for a project is related to the project size and intricacy of the job. Schedules can vary from simple bar graphs to critical path versions. Many estimating programs have features that will assist in building the schedule. The schedule must reflect the company’s assets available for the project. This will generally require experienced project supervisors who can build a viable schedule as well as considering several unknowns.

Preparing a schedule should not be looked at solely to protect the contractor, but should be recognized as viable project management tool. Consider the timeline envisioned by the customer before liquidated damages are assessed. If the length of the project is indicated as 180 days, it is most likely intended to be calendar days rather than workdays, unless spelled out differently. The 180 days would equal half a year, meaning that 26 weekends would be lost.

This would limit the actual construction time to 128 days; a consideration that obviously will affect the number of workers needed to comply with the timeline.

A realistic schedule will assist with the purchase and delivery of material as well as considering the number of electricians needed on the project. These projections will then aid in considering the work force and financial assets required to handle the project. Depending on the company’s cash flow, the heavy part of the job may require a loan that would add to the interest costs of doing the work.

Based on the required schedule of the project, event points must be included in the schedule by which certain materials are to be on hand for installation at the job site. It is too common that there may be some long lead-time materials that will not fit the project schedule. It is best to discover these circumstances early in the estimating and subsequent purchasing process.

Long lead-times may also require an adjustment of the completion time to avoid liquidated damages, although owners and their design teams seldom want to hear about the problems associated with long lead times.

A realistic schedule must take into account the availability of labor as well as wage increases that may occur in the construction period.

Although decreasing in effect, weather conditions in some areas of the country can cause problems with a schedule. It’s wise to consider prior weather data for the area of the project and adjusting the schedule accordingly.

No doubt that time lost due to security concerns has increased over the last few years. While these matters may not be covered in the specifications, it is a valid question to be taken up at the time of the pre- estimate job walk. Access to the work site is a further consideration that, if out of the ordinary, will increase the labor hours for the project.

Finally, “beneficial use” clauses of a contract must be reckoned with as the spaces being used while the work force is completing the installation can and will reduce the labor efficiency.

A rational schedule is one of the best project management tools as well as a preventative of unforeseen costs. The small amount of time spent to build a schedule is well worth the investment. EC

DAVID is a professor of electrical technology at Long Beach City College, Calif., a consultant and an expert witness. He can be reached at 562.597.1877 or by e-mail at edavid@lbcc.cc.ca.us.