In the construction world, time really is money. Every day and even every hour that you spend on site that hasn’t been included in your quote will cut into your profits. The best way to ensure you are meeting production targets is to have a detailed construction project schedule.

There are many factors that influence a construction project schedule, though, and they all need to be taken into account. Here’s a quick look at how to make a construction project schedule that is realistic and will preserve your profits.

1. Know How Much Time You Have Included

The first thing you need to do when you’re creating a construction project schedule is to calculate precisely how much time you have included in your quotation to your client. Unless your project is very simple and only has a few different tasks, you will want to break this down into the major work areas too. So you might have a certain number of hours for demolition, some time allowed for repairs, new building, finishing and so on. You can make this as detailed as you like, based on the type of construction you will be doing.

Also, ensure that you differentiate between person-hours and crew hours (and know how many people are on each crew!) If you have based your project on a two-person crew but included 100 person-hours, you only have 50 crew hours to work with.

2. Know Your Customer’s Schedule

The next important thing you need to know when you’re figuring out how to make a construction project schedule is what your customer’s schedule looks like. There’s a good chance they will need to make specific arrangements before you can start work on their project, but you also need to communicate with them about when you expect to be ready to start their job. During the planning and pre-construction phase of a project, you can expect to speak to your client reasonably regularly as you work to coordinate all the many moving parts of the job.

3. Check Supplier Lead Times

Once you know how much time you’ve allocated and what your customer’s schedule looks like, the next thing you need to establish as you work to make a construction project schedule is how long it will take to have all your material on site. In some cases, you might be able to buy materials from stock, but in other cases, there may be special order items that will be delayed. Find out what the lead time for every product on your estimate is so that you’re ready to plug those timelines into your project schedule.

4. Get the Permit Process Started

If there are any permits that need to be arranged for the project you’re going to be doing for your client, you want to start the process as soon as possible. Make sure you submit your application as soon as possible, and if there are other regulatory issues like service location or something else to take care of, be sure to get those into the system too.

5. Build a Preliminary Schedule

Once you have all the information about how much time you’ve allowed for the job, how long it will take to get permits and other red tape out of the way, when your client will be ready for your crews and how long it will take material to arrive, you’re ready to start building a preliminary schedule.

You can use a Gantt chart software package like MS Project for this if you know how to use one, but you can also use a calendar or a visual project management tool like Trello or Asana. Some people even prefer to do their planning on paper. While technology definitely makes project planning more manageable, you need to find a system that works for you too.

Now look at the information you’ve gathered, and pay particular attention to the following:

When your permits will be issued – you almost certainly can’t start work until these are issued, so you can’t start the job before this happens

When your suppliers have said materials can be on-site – just like permits, you can’t get the job done until the materials arrive

What your customer has said about their availability and schedule

Use these three things to determine the earliest possible start date for the project, which will always be on or after the last day that applies

Now determine if the required tradespeople and work crews will be available then, and if not, how soon they will be

You should now know the earliest date that your project can start, based on all the important factors related to the job, so you can start planning from there

Use the time allowed for each task or trade, according to your estimate, to fill in the rest of the information on your schedule

If possible, have work on different things done concurrently instead of consecutively so that the overall job takes less time, and you can save on overhead costs

Contact your customer to tell them what your planned start date is and how long the project should take - A construction schedule is almost always a fluid thing

Changes to any of the essential factors mentioned here (and many other kinds of delays and issues) will change the job’s timeline. However, having a preliminary schedule worked out before you start will help to keep everything on track.

6. Tracking Productivity

Figuring out how to make a construction schedule doesn’t only help you to plan and to communicate about the project with your clients. It is also a great way to make sure that you are reaching your productivity goals.

When you’ve got everything laid out by task and broken into days and hours, it’s easy to see when you’re lagging on a particular task or even when you go over time on an element of the job. This will allow you to accelerate work to get back on track, which in turn will enable you to maintain profitability or to make alternative arrangements when necessary. This is particularly important when one task is dependent on the completion of another. It makes no sense to deploy a different crew to the site to get a task done if the site is not ready for them, and you’d only be paying them to stand around waiting. Ideally, you should be reviewing the progress on a job daily and comparing that to the project schedule to ensure that you’re always on track.

7. Always Communicate!

One of the biggest challenges that many contractors and renovation companies face is managing customer expectations, but often, at least some of that is self-inflicted. Most customers are a lot more understanding about problems and delays when they know about them as soon as possible. Use your construction schedule and productivity tracking to trigger follow-ups with customers.

If you discover that the job is behind, let them know that you’re aware of the delay and are working to fix the problem. If a delay in getting materials or permits means you can’t start when you plan to, talk to your client as soon as possible. There’s nothing that will get a client riled up quicker than waiting for a crew that never arrives! It’s not possible to plan every detail of every project with 100% accuracy. But it is possible to make sure your customers always know what’s going on, that you’re on top of everything, and that keeping them in the loop matters to you.

Bolster Makes Project Planning Easier

The Bolster construction estimating platform makes it easier for contractors and renovators to plan their projects by breaking it all down into tasks and assemblies. It’s easy to determine precisely how much time is allowed for every element of your project, so you can start planning your jobs with labor information at your fingertips. The easy, real-time supplier price crawlers also ensure that you always have up-to-date product information and makes it easy to create material lists that you can use to confirm timing with suppliers. It’s impossible to separate estimating and project management. They’re two sides of the same coin. But when you improve your estimating and make it more accurate and more detailed, you also make planning a whole lot easier. If you’re ready to take your estimating and project management to the next level, our team would love to show you how Bolster can help! Click here for a free demo and to find out more.

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