Despite many construction disputes centering around schedule delays, maintenance and updating construction schedules remains one of the consistently overlooked or mismanaged aspects of contract administration in complex construction projects. Wherever you fall in the construction hierarchy, when you get into a dispute involving delay, recreating the project schedule and being able to isolate the impacts of specific events on the schedule can be essential to recovering on or defending against delay-based claims. Below are some common schedule issues that arise with construction firms.
Be Wary of New Tech
The advent of scheduling software such as Primavera or MS Profit has made it much easier to sequence activities and update project schedules. Unfortunately, the software has also created an influx of project scheduling “experts.” It is not enough to know how to run the software, you also need your scheduler to understand the underlying sequencing of activities and how particular events may or may not delay portions of the work. It is not enough to simply plug in a certain number of days of delay into a particular activity and then allow the software to re-sequence the remaining activities to determine the critical path delay. You need to account for mitigation of the impact and concurrent delays. You also need to make sure your updated schedule analysis is working from the correct baseline schedule.
Hiring Qualified Schedulers
Becoming proficient at scheduling is a skill that takes several years, and finding experienced schedulers who can handle complex construction work is important to any construction company’s success. Finding talent also requires some knowledge on the part of your hiring and management teams as well. If your management team doesn’t understand how to read and update schedules, they will not be effective in supervising a scheduler. A project manager should be providing feedback and reviewing the schedule with the scheduler routinely. They need to work together to ensure the schedule accurately captures work progress.
If you don’t have the in-house resources to manage scheduling, you should consider hiring an outside consultant, especially for particularly complex scheduling projects. The same rules apply for hiring externally. You want to find a scheduler who has substantial experience and who understands the particular type of construction project at issue. For example, a scheduling consultant with substantial government contracts experience may not be a good fit for a privately developed power and energy project.
Update Your Schedule
Delay disputes often hinge on using as-built project schedules to reflect impacts and changes to the work that caused delays to completion dates. Schedulers or consultants creating as-built schedules often rely on project records, which can be incomplete, sparse or, in some cases, non-existent. Regular updates to the project schedule to reflect delays, re-sequencing, suspensions, or other schedule impacts are invaluable to the exercise of rebuilding the schedule to support or defend against a delay claim.
Many commercial projects require monthly reporting from contractors that includes a schedule update component. Project management should not ignore these update requirements because they may miss out on an opportunity to document delays. This is especially true if delay impacts are involved in contentious change negotiations that carry on for several months during the course of the project. The delay may be dynamic and continuing, so you want to document the impacts as you go and not just upon submission of an initial change proposal. Additionally, if the change-order negotiation eventually breaks down, the monthly schedule updates give you an opportunity to document and potentially reserve claims against the owner.
Scheduling is one of the more complex aspects of commercial construction, and there are a number of books addressing project scheduling in more detail. This article touches on only a few of the issues that arise when managing project schedules. As with most construction issues, the key to effective scheduling is having trained staff that can effectively coordinate with one another. Having qualified schedulers and engaged management will help resolve disputes in your favor, regardless of whether you become involved in a lawsuit or other formal proceeding.
The original article, "Project Schedules: Being Able to Recreate to Isolate Specific Events," first appeared in the September 2019 issue of Modern Contractor Solutions.