To be effective as a Project Manager, a Construction Manager, or a Planning Engineer, you must be an expert at construction project planning. But what is planning in construction management, and what entails a successful planning process?
Construction management requires proper planning and scheduling. Engineers can complete projects on time and within budget by planning and scheduling construction activities. The term “construction” refers not only to physical activities involving laborers, materials, machinery, and the entire variety of activities involved in a construction project, from conception to completion. As a result, effective planning and scheduling of each activity are required when managing resources such as laborers, materials, and machinery.
What is planning in Construction Management?
Construction planning is the first stage of construction management, which is the discipline of taking a construction project from conception to completion.
However, construction planning and management includes several other components that succeed in planning:
Scheduling is the process of determining when to start, execute, and complete each task.
Organizing is the process of placing all of the moving parts in place so that each task can be completed on time.
Staffing is the process of assigning people to tasks related to a project.
Monitoring ensures that you meet the requirements and performance benchmarks set during the planning stage.
Directing ensures that you complete tasks as planned.
If you do not meet these requirements, you will have to devote a significant amount of time to the controlling stage. This involves managing the budget and meeting contract requirements.
The act of creating a development plan for a construction project is known as construction project planning.
The following are the general goals of a construction project plan:
- Define the work activity of each entity involved in the project.
- Illustrate the relationship between different work activities and the individual entities that are performing those activities.
- Make decisions regarding which technologies will be used to ensure that the project is completed successfully.
- Provide a comprehensive assessment of the resources needed to finish the project.
- Use the plan to arrive on schedule and budget for the project.
The majority of people who are not in the construction industry underestimate the difficulty of construction project planning. Construction project planning is the process of determining the most efficient and cost-effective way to complete a satisfactory final project.
Because the construction project plan is also used as a baseline to create a project cost estimate and project completion schedule, it must be as detailed as possible. As a result, a project planner must not only assess all of the materials and labor required to complete a construction project, but must also schedule those activities in a way that optimizes the overall efficiency of the project.
Types of planning in construction management
Strategic planning entails a high-level selection of project objectives. It is often then carried out by the project owner’s corporate planners. The project teams then decide what project to build and the completion deadline to fulfill the owner’s project goals. This is done to establish the master construction execution plan that adheres to the guidelines established in the strategic and contracting plans.
Operational planning entails extensive planning by the construction teams in order to satisfy the project’s strategic objectives. Before the project teams can specify the construction schedule, they must first answer the following questions to prepare the construction master plan:
- Will the operational plan meet the strategic planning target finish date be met by the operational plan?
- Are there enough construction resources and services available within the organization to meet the project’s objectives?
- What is the impact of the new project on the existing workload?
- Where will we get the resources to handle any overload?
- What company policies may prevent the plan from meeting the target date?
- Are usually long delivery equipment or materials involved?
- Are the project concepts and design firmly established and ready to start the construction?
- Is the original contracting plan still valid?
- Will it be more economical to use a fast-track scheduling approach?
Scheduling entails a detailed operational plan with a time frame based on the strategic objectives.
What is the purpose of project planning in construction management?
A strategic plan developed at the beginning of a project will allow project stakeholders to verify that the project is adhering to the stated goals during its progression by serving as a guidepost and reference point.
It is important to realize that construction projects are naturally fluid; thus, it’s not uncommon for the strategic plan to change as the project’s circumstances change. However, having a high-level overview to look back on allows the construction manager and other stakeholders to refer to their original plan to ensure that the project progresses as planned.
Construction project planning is required on a functional level to determine an accurate assessment of a project’s costs, as well as a completion schedule. No one likes to know that a project they thought would cost a certain amount of money will end up costing a lot more.
While project costs can increase over time, it is best for all parties involved to have the most accurate picture of a project budget at the beginning.
Many projects have timeline constraints in addition to budgetary constraints. Developing a strategic plan enables the project manager to create a more accurate project completion date based on a realistic picture that includes all of the work required to complete the project.
Finally, a proper strategic plan can describe exactly what work has to be done and in what order, on an operational level.
This can be referred to at any point during the project to determine which component should be completed next. In other words, a construction project plan can be used as a guide for planned work tasks and can be used to delegate operation and maintenance tasks.
How is a Construction Project Plan created?
Creating a plan for a construction project can be a challenging task, especially if it is a large project.
For smaller projects, it is possible that the contractor working on the project will not write down the plan. They may be able to properly define the steps required to complete that project and proceed with it. However, as projects grow in size, more people, more resources, and more steps are required to complete them.
Once a project reaches a certain size, it is almost inevitable to develop the project plan to avoid negative outcomes that are frequently associated with construction projects, such as delays or cost overruns.
To create a comprehensive plan for a construction project, project managers look at the project’s stated goal and then determine what it will take to get there.
Construction project planning requires the involvement of design and engineering teams, general contractors, subcontractors, and vendor and equipment supplier coordination. Planning must focus on all trades of construction works like Structural Construction works, Finishes Construction Works and MEP construction works, etc.
A construction project plan must specify the tasks that each of these entities must complete and organize them in the most efficient order.
Construction projects are temporary and linear. When you consider that each of the various entities working on a project may or may not have worked on other projects together, the temporary aspect comes into play.
Their communication styles may differ, as may their expectations and the ways in which they perform their tasks. This can complicate coordination between various entities.
When dealing with a group of contractors, subcontractors, and different teams that temporarily come together to complete a project having a strategic plan in place that defines how and when something must be completed, becomes increasingly important.
The process of developing a construction plan is far more complex than most people realize. All required tasks must be assessed in order to determine the resources needed to complete them, and those resources must be staged based on when they will be needed.
Guide to Create Construction Plan
Here’s an example of how a construction project manager might go about creating a construction project management plan.
- Work Activities – Define all work activities. Break those activities into sub-activities, continuing as needed to have a granular view of all work required to complete the project. This includes the work for all teams on the project, from design and engineering team members to the general contractor and subcontractors.
- Sequence – Determine the sequence or order of each activity that must be completed. Although this may seem mundane, it can result in project delays and wasted hours of labor if done incorrectly.
- Duration – The project manager must estimate the duration that each activity will take to complete. This is important for determining a budget after the strategic plan is in place and ensuring that all work activities’ sequencing makes sense. Keep in mind that while some activities may be allowed to overlap, other activities must be completed sequentially. An accurate duration assessment will result in more efficiency overall.
- Required Resources – For each activity required to complete the project, the project manager will want to create a comprehensive breakdown of all resources required. Accurately assessing the resources required for an activity will result in a more accurate budget and ensure that the right amount of each resource is ordered and other considerations, such as storage of that resource until it is ready to be used, have been accounted for.
Components of a Construction Project Plan
Baselines (performance measures): These are the approved starting points for the construction project (cost baselines, scope, baseline schedule) used to determine if the project is on track.
Baseline management plan: Baseline management plans include documentation on how baselines vary and how to handle them when projects deviate from course. Management will determine the team’s actions when deviations from the baseline occur with additional planning.
Documentation: Documents and drawings are helpful during the construction project planning stage because they represent what will be constructed. Blueprint drawings and specifications, submittals and approvals, scope documentation, permits, fees, and licenses are all examples of construction planning documents.
Business plan: Typically, a business plan is developed at the start of a construction project. Project descriptions in business plans define the project’s outline and execution plan, as well as outline what the project is. They also assign team members responsibilities.
The business plan, most importantly, incorporates construction bidding, also known as Bid and Contract. This process is essential in the planning process because it determines the success (or failure) of a project. Finally, business benefits are determinants of a project’s return on investment (ROI); they allow stakeholders to assess a project’s success or failure.
Resource planning: Construction companies are always looking for the next project. A construction company can run into financial problems if it does not have enough projects on the go. When you have multiple projects that overlap, sometimes firms take on work and don’t have enough resources to complete them. It is essential in this case to incorporate regular resource planning into your operations.
Thus, resource planning ensures that each project has all of the necessary resources, such as employees, materials, and equipment. The importance of construction project planning and scheduling stems from resource planning. Without it, projects will be delayed, and cost overruns will occur. Project Managers create a timeline and a list of what they require. Companies that do not use resource planning frequently cause project delays.
Scheduling in Construction Planning
Time management is essential in construction projects. Proper scheduling paves the way for optimizing resources. It also allows you to track and control the cost and duration of the project. Furthermore, accurate scheduling is critical for analyzing and defending claims of delays or overruns.
Detailed scheduling forces managers to think through projects in advance, and from that, they can identify some problems before they arise. Scheduling also allows you to ensure that fabricated items with long lead times will arrive when you need them. Scheduling allows cash flow to be forecasted by evaluating resource requirements. A schedule is also the most efficient way to communicate a work plan.
There are several types of schedules that construction planners use. Construction scheduling software can make it easier to create these schedules.
The CPM output helps in the creation of a project schedule that can be detailed on different levels.
The baseline schedule is created directly from the CPM output. The baseline schedule, also known as the initial schedule, is the original schedule that version contractors follow by default.
A schedule update satisfies one of two things: it either adds each activity’s start and end dates to a baseline schedule or modifies the baseline schedule’s job logic to reflect the actual progression of activities. (A logic change is another term for changing the work logic.) A schedule update simply documents the progression of a project.
Another project scheduling system employs five schedule levels:
A level 1 schedule, also known as a management level schedule, is typically one page long and depicts major project milestones in a Gantt chart.
A level 2 schedule, also known as a project summary schedule, depicts high-level integrated tasks that are used for management reporting.
A level 3 schedule, also known as a control level schedule, is also included, but it displays all major milestones and tasks. This level can be used for project control.
A level 4 schedule, also known as a detailed network schedule, details all project tasks in great detail.
Finally, a level 5 schedule, also known as a detailed report schedule, includes all tasks and work steps. Use this level for documentation, enumeration of deliverables, and procurement of items.