Critical Path Method: The fast track to schedule project management success
Insights on project completion with the critical path method – Analyze the benefits of CPM for construction projects and project managers in the construction industry.
Construction projects are a complex activity and requires a great deal of planning before the project before start, during the build phase and handover. Project managers take the help of the critical path method (CPM) to plan out all the tasks and their sequence to make sure the project completes on time and within budget.
Critical Path and CPM
The critical path method is a scheduling technique employed in project management. You can identify and prioritize the tasks in a project schedule and note their dependencies. These tasks must be commenced and finished on the planned dates without fail. A CPM shows the tasks that must be started and finished on the scheduled dates - it is vital to avoid schedule slips.
The Critical Path is a sequence of interdependent tasks in a project schedule. These tasks are vital for the successful completion of the project. With a critical path and AI assistance, you can identify the top priority tasks in a project schedule.
For example, a builder needs cement to prepare foundations for building construction and wood to build the pillars of a house. The concrete mixer is dependent on the electric power supply for its operation. In another case, "dry" materials or parts required for building construction depend on transportation. The critical path method identifies such interdependencies between various activities by analyzing their relationship with each other. Any work plan must record these interdependencies so they can be tracked and managed.
CPM in construction
In construction, a typical project schedule includes numerous dependent tasks and activities, across different contractors. While many activities do not affect the overall project schedule, some tasks have a tremendous influence on the course of completion. One slip in meeting the completion date can spearhead a delay of the entire project: every activity, dependent or interdependent, matters. One setback can postpone the whole series of successor tasks. It is fundamental to identify each task, the requisite time, and the interrelations for timely and successful construction delivery.
The critical path for tasks
Tasks are inherently interdependent, meaning the execution of specific tasks may depend on another task's commencement or completion. Now, all functions in a critical path are crucial and necessary. If any task in the course lags, the whole project suffers a schedule slip. At the same time, some activities in the critical path do not affect the project's end date. These can have an allowance of a float or slack. Additionally, there may be more than one critical path in a project schedule in some cases. Here, a WBS or work breakdown structure is a valuable way to comprehend the complexities.
WBS and critical path
Knowing the critical path is essential as it allows the project managers to:
- deploy suitable resources like workforce, equipment,
- modify dependencies,
- revise start dates of dependent tasks, and
- ensure the on-time completion of the critical tasks.
The critical path can be impacted as the project progresses for many reasons such as work progress, completion, or delay in the previously identified essential tasks, or more. The project manager should closely observe the critical path in the schedule for such changes.
The Linarc scheduler offers a powerful built-in critical path calculator. It dynamically computes the critical paths and shows them on the scheduler interface. Project managers can manually initiate the critical path calculation whenever they change the schedule, add new items, or mark the progress of tasks.
Critical Path Method in projects
Critical Path Analysis is useful for projects such as construction, software development, research projects, product development, or any other project that involves interdependent activities.
Tasks are interdependent, such that the execution of specific tasks must wait for the commencement or completion of another task or other tasks. Predecessors are the schedule elements that need to be either started or completed before you can start a specific task. You can specify the predecessor tasks and the dependency relationship in each dependent task's 'Dependencies' column. In such a manner, a project scope can define all the tasks that are needed to deliver the project.
How to create the CPM schedule
Project managers can create CPM schedules manually or with the help of a scheduling system like Linarc.
Steps to sketch out a CPM
List all the activities or tasks.
Estimate the duration of each activity from start to end based on prior experiences or industry standards
Identify activity sequence and dependencies.
Map out a network diagram and overlapping activities that can happen simultaneously.
Identify tasks with no slack to mark as critical tasks
Sequence of these dependent critical tasks is the critical path
Calculate the float or the flexibility of the other tasks
Benefits of using the critical path method
CPM can provide valuable insight into planning projects, allocating resources, and scheduling tasks. Here are some advantages of using this method:
CPM can compare the planned progress of the project with actual progress. The program can identify completed tasks and assess the duration of the remaining activities. With the results, you can manage and make changes to the schedule. Also, the data from one project can help plan the other projects better. You can efficiently revise schedules and reprioritize tasks by employing the critical path method.
Effective resource management
CPM gives clear visibility of the completed and pending tasks with high priority. The project managers can use this information to optimize resource allocations in response to tasks' priority on the schedule.
Helps avoid delays
The critical path method displays the activities, duration, and sequence. With a better understanding of the project's timelines, you can modify the schedule to avoid delays or reduce the time of some tasks.
The critical path is a vital component of the project schedule. It must be updated or improved to keep the on-time schedule as the project progresses. However, manually calculating critical paths is a time-consuming and complicated activity, especially for large-scale projects. It also needs to be flexible to accommodate any delays or changes in the plan. There can be multiple critical paths for a project. Choosing the best one for projects can be overwhelming when handling large projects. Linarc's powerful scheduler boasts a critical path calculator which automatically identifies the essential tasks in a schedule and shows them both on the list view and Gantt charts.
Linarc's CPM scheduling program benefits are a fitting solution for more than one reason, such as:
- Organizing all types of projects, large or small.
- Identify each activity's start and end time and their slack or lag time.
- Visibility of all activities, dependencies, and schedule changes allows proper planning and scheduling of the project.
- Enabling the project manager to make changes in the critical path quickly.
- Reducing the project duration and its cost and increasing productivity.
For a live demo of Linarc CPM Scheduler, book a session today and run your project efficiently.