How to Use MS Project for Scheduling in the Construction Industry

How to Use MS Project for Scheduling in the Construction Industry

Posted By Posted by: Laith Adel on December 11, 2014

Quite often I hear from our construction clients that the typical Primavera is the “right” tool for scheduling construction projects and that MS Project is not “right”. When we get down to the details of why MS Project isn’t right, it boils down to two common issues:

1.  It’s not possible in Microsoft Project to unlink the Remaining Duration and %Complete.

2. MS Project calculates the Finish Date of a task from the Actual Start plus Duration and it ignores the Remaining Duration, the Current Date and the Status Date.

This blog post will show you how you can use MS Project to achieve these desired results.

Resolution One:  It’s Not possible in Microsoft Project to unlink the Remaining Duration and % Complete

There are two Fundamental Facts That Need to be Considered

1. Trying to use the %Complete column to present the work completed is WRONG. The %Complete column presents the duration completed (not the work completed).  To show the work complete we need to use the %Work Complete column.

2. Quite often schedulers (or PMs) don’t accommodate for the schedule calculation method. MS Project uses a default which is WORK = DURATION x UNITS, that means by changing the remaining duration of a task we are changing the total duration of the task, which means we have to recalculate either Work or Units. If we haven’t set the MS Project scheduling calculation method, then the default is (Fixed Units / Effort Driven) which means that in this case (i.e. changing remaining duration) work will need be recalculated, resulting in changing the %Work Complete.

Therefore, to accommodate for the requirement you can use the steps below.

1. Use %Work Complete instead of %Complete.

2. Set the task (or change the setting of your schedule calculation method so it will be default for all your tasks), to Fixed Work.

Here are the steps:

To set the task to Fixed Work, there are many ways to do it, one of them is to display the ‘Task Details’ form and change the task type to Fixed Work.

 

Or to set the calculation to be fixed work by default, go to options, then schedule and change it under “Default Task Type’.

 

Then you can change the remaining duration of a task without it having an impact on the %Work Complete, see the example below:

Example: The task ‘Obtain building permits’ is currently sitting on 50% work complete, with 2 days remaining duration.

 

If I change the remaining duration to 4 days, the 50% work complete is not changed.

MS Project Calculates Finish Date of a task from the Actual Start plus Duration and ignores the Remaining Duration, the Current Date and the Status Date when calculating the Finish Date of Resolution Two: MS Project Calculates Finish Date of a task from the Actual Start plus Duration. It ignores the Remaining Duration, the Current Date and the Status Date when calculating the Finish Date of a task.

I think there are two parts to this:

Part 1. The statement  ‘ignores the Remaining Duration’ is not right and it contradicts the first part of the statement ‘MS Project Calculates Finish Date of a task from the Actual Start plus Duration’, because Duration is a result of Actual Duration + Remaining Duration at any given time, therefore it does NOT ignore the remaining duration.

Example: The task ‘Excavate elevator pit’: Duration = 2 Days which is made of (Actual Duration [2 Days] + Remaining Duration [0 Days]).

 

When we update the %Complete to 50%, update the Actual Duration to [1 Day] and the Remaining Duration to [1 Day], which will keep the Duration to [2 Days] i.e. Duration = Actual Duration + Remaining Duration.

 

If we then update the Remaining Duration to [2 Days], that changes the Duration to [3 Days]  which is made of (Actual Duration [1 Days] + Remaining Duration [2 Days]).

 

Part 2. It ignores the Current Date and the Status Date. If Remaining Work needed to be shifted (i.e. rescheduled) automatically to after the Status Date (which is the Current Date unless you overwrite it), the following should be done:

a. Tick the option (from Options -> Advanced) ‘Edits to total task complete will be spread to the status date’.

 

This will allow the remaining work to be moved (i.e rescheduled) to the project status date, for the task with %Complete is updated (i.e. any value that is NOT 0%).

Example: The task  ‘Submit shop drawings’ was meant to start on 4th Status Date is 9th and should be 50% complete by the status date.

 

And then the %Complete is updated to 25% , this will trigger the remaining work to rescheduled to the status date.

 

b. For tasks with %Complete that are not updated (i.e. value that is 0%), the remaining work can be moved (i.e. rescheduled) by using the ‘Update Project’ button.

Example: The following a list of tasks that are behind the Project Status Date

 

To move the remaining work for these tasks to the Status Date, click on Project Update, then choose ‘Reschedule uncompleted work to start after [this will be defaulted to Status Date unless need to be overwritten] – we can set this to the entire project or only selected task(s).

 

Then click OK.

So there you have it, before you write off  MS Project for the Construction Industry remember that with MS Project there is always a work around. We would love to hear your feedback, is this something that would work in your industry?


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