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On Time, On Budget: Why Construction Managers Trust Location-Based Scheduling

Construction experts know a comprehensive and accurate schedule is essential to keeping projects on time and on budget. Thanks to linear and location-based scheduling features in software platforms such as Tilos, construction schedulers are creating optimized master plans. These plans aim to improve communication, enhance cost risk assessment and assure stakeholders that projects are completed exactly as agreed.


New Techniques in Construction Scheduling

Keeping track of every detail in any project, but particularly in large, multi-phase construction projects can be challenging. That’s exactly what makes professional construction schedulers so important. 
Schedulers have traditionally used Gantt-based charts and network-based methods to track actions over time. But these approaches can introduce fundamental problems to the construction planning process:
1. By only tracking time, you overlook productivity and lose project control.

2. By limiting resolution to full workdays, you can’t provide a truly accurate plan to win owner trust.

3. Gantt charts for large projects are difficult to understand by most stakeholders. Linear scheduling, where appropriate, is effective in improving project clarity and communication with the project team.
For linear, repetitive projects, planners don’t need to focus as much on the duration of individual units. In scenarios where crews move continuously along the length of a project — as is the case in building highways, tunnels or other civic works — it’s critical for planners to track productivity over time and space. 
Linear scheduling is making waves as a comprehensive approach to planning large infrastructure projects. It factors both time and location into helping teams hit key performance metrics. This method helps professionals create schedules founded on continuous-time and location axes, with unique graphics for stationary activities, environmental restrictions and key milestones. Schedulers can track vital productivity metrics to optimize resources, and clearly note interruptions and conflicts so that problems can be mitigated before they occur.

Benefits of Location-Based Scheduling 

Linear scheduling is particularly useful in civil infrastructure projects such as roadworks, highway construction and tunnel building. This is due primarily to the repetitive and continuous nature of these projects, which often span great physical distances.
In these cases, tracking time alone is not enough. The sheer amount of material, and human and time-based resources involved, means that planners must pay exacting attention to detail to make sure construction flows continuously and seamlessly. The goal is to reduce time in the field to drive down project costs. Gantt chart methods that only track time no longer give planners enough control over project outcomes — and this is where linear or location-based scheduling can make a significant difference.
A report from the Washington State Department of Transportation found the biggest benefits of location-based scheduling include:

Improved schedule overview. Location-based scheduling allows planners to cram a huge amount of information into a limited space. The way information is presented minimizes clutter, increases clarity, and improves communication across stakeholders.
Improved work continuity. This lets the scheduler clearly see potential conflicts before they happen. They can solve problems ahead of time to ensure a smooth flow of resources.
Improved project control. The scheduler can track project progress accurately, at any given time. Crew sizes, paces and workflows can all be tracked to ensure projects are delivered on time.

Real-World Project Examples

The North Dakota Department of Transportation recently used location-based scheduling to address traffic regulation issues, identifying and avoiding problems with traffic closure and work progress. It reduced unwanted idle time for plants and equipment, and created an overview of its complete traffic closing plan that stakeholders could easily understand.
The Texas Department of Transportation found the method made plans very easy to communicate, and made it possible to explore alternative schedules. They quickly identified activities that expanded project timelines and were able to compress them, shortening project durations.

Advancements in Location Diagrams

Doing all this work by hand would be a massive undertaking for any scheduler, not to mention the increased risk of data errors — so in this day and age, manual methods are out of the question. Thankfully, developments in location-based scheduling software make the job a lot easier.

The Washington State Department of Transportation study noted that the only major drawback to linear scheduling, historically, was finding software that included all of the functionality schedulers needed.

With recent developments in linear software, however, this issue is disappearing. Linear software now exists in three levels of depth: purely visual tools, expanded functionality, and comprehensive scheduling systems.

On the visual end, solutions like GraphicSchedule and Tubo-Chart allow planners to create static images based on a Gantt Chart-based scheduling tool. These tools offer functionality for deeper analysis professional schedulers need. For richer functionality, comprehensive software platforms such as Tilos allow schedulers to do critical path detection, schedule optimization, and resource leveling to ensure cash flows remain healthy and costs remain low.