Working on construction projects brings about various challenges for civil engineers as well as for those with whom they work such as project managers. One of the key challenges faced is that of scheduling tasks. Construction projects are complex and varied in design as well as in location. This, coupled with the need to adhere to timelines makes scheduling a challenge. Civil engineers need to work in collaboration with project managers to ensure that all the personnel involved in the work are included in project scheduling. In order to address the challenges of project scheduling in construction projects, civil engineers should encourage collaboration, ensure that resources available are optimized, and use scheduling software that enables mirroring and simulation of project conditions in order to determine the results of changes in project timelines. Programs such as Gantt charts and network scheduling are no longer effective for predicting the potential outcomes of construction projects hence civil engineers should not limit their dependence to such programs.
The construction industry is faced with several challenges due to the nature of the work involved. In most cases, civil engineers working in construction projects have to interact with several other professionals such as architects, project managers and other engineers among others. Each of these professionals have their own work schedules and the ability to integrate the different schedules into one that fits the timeline of all the team members determines whether a project will be completed successfully or not. This makes work scheduling one of the major challenges in construction projects as the work has to be accomplished according to the desires of the client as well as within the timelines set by the project owners. The construction industry is characterized by several key factors which make the challenges unique to the sector. For instance, great volumes have to be accomplished in sites that are spread out across the country. At the same time, the nature of the work to be done is always widely varied. This makes coordination an imperative part of construction projects, making the challenge of job scheduling even more serious in construction.
The implications of scheduling challenges in construction projects are that there have to be various tools for project planning in construction projects. Planning has to be effective for the work to be accomplished satisfactorily and in a timely manner. In order to do this perfectly, there has to be an outline of the key challenges that are associated with the scheduling issue in construction projects. The challenge of scheduling is not limited to the engineer and the project manager alone but also to tools and materials required for the completion of the construction work. The essay thus describes some of the areas in which civil engineers experience scheduling challenges when working in construction projects and how those challenges can be addressed.
Scheduling Challenges in Civil construction
Project planning does not imply that the entire project can be clearly outlined from the beginning to the end. Scheduling faces different challenges due to variation of work, stations, stakeholders and design uncertainties. In a research carried out by Bokor et al (2011), these issues make construction scheduling all the more challenging for various reasons. Variation of work means that the civil engineer has to collaborate with different people in the construction project. Electrical engineers, the project manager, architects and various technicians have to be involved in the construction projects. Such people have other projects that they may be working on or intending to work on at the time when the project of concern is to be carried out. In particular, the civil engineer has to collaborate with the project manager to ensure that the timelines set through the planning tools available are effective for the completion of the project and at the same time acceptable to all the parties involved. Considering the client’s desires while ignoring the activity of the other players in the project may lead to setting unrealistic timelines and project milestones for the project. As such, the progress in the construction project may not go in line with the expectations of the project client.
Apart from this, construction projects also involve a lot of materials, tools and funds. This means that for an my plans laid down to be achieved effectively, the civil engineer must plan his roles such that the construction progress is not hindered by the absence of any of the requisite materials and finances at the times when they are needed. Uncertainty in resource availability is one of the key challenges that face construction project planning (He et al., 2004). This comes with constraints in the availability of human resources especially material suppliers and quality controllers. When scheduling any construction projects, the project manager has to ensure that rat the times scheduled for the completion of certain phases of the project; all the resources required for that specific phase are available. The lack of resources can put unnecessary strain on the project personnel through stalling of the work. As such, it should be ensured that all the requisite resources are available at all times to bring the work to completion with wasting the civil engineers and the other workers’ times. This makes it necessary for the project managers and the civil engineer to work in collaboration with the material suppliers from the beginning of the project to ensure that each of the materials will be available at the time required for the project phase to be completed.
Project scheduling is also connected to the challenge of variation in project designs (Rao & Chaitanya, 2013). Construction projects come in different designs and different levels of difficulty. Because of this, scheduling is an intensive task that requires great input from all the specialists in construction since projects that seem simple may be more difficult to hack due to the fine details in the project design. Such details may result in the revision of project timelines during the work process and subsequently lead to the failure of the engineers to accomplish the project targets laid down for the benefit of the client. It is thus mandatory for the project engineer and project manager to ensure that the work schedules are such that all the details of project design have been considered and can be satisfactorily addressed within the available times.
Solutions to scheduling challenges in construction
In the past and even at the present times, project planning often involved the use of Gantt Charts and network modeling methods of project scheduling. However, the growing complexity in engineering construction projects has led to the need for more advanced planning techniques which take into consideration all the varying characteristics of the construction projects in progress. Such methods have been proposed by different authors as the solutions to the scheduling problem in construction projects. Some of the challenges faced when using these methods of planning include the fact that neither of them shows areas where technological challenges may be expected as well as spatial distribution challenges. To address this issue, it is at times necessary to use cyclograms which present the project timelines as functions of time in a lateral axis. This makes it easier to detect areas where technological or other hitches have been experienced. Project planning requires other techniques that can be able to incorporate challenges into the general project timelines.
Apart from cyclograms, attaining effective project scheduling also requires the use of strategies such as collaboration between different personalities involved in the project. This can help to solve the issue of lack of coordination among personnel in the construction project. For instance, in extensive and complex projects where the work force is large enough, it may be necessary to create the work schedule through collaboration between the heads of different work functions. For instance, through collaboration between the chief electrical engineer and the civil engineer, it can be possible to predict the extent of the work involved and the most reasonable time to be allocated for that specific task. The civil engineer and the project manager cannot create schedules for the entire work independently since they may not be well versed with all the mandatory work for the project. Carpenters and other professionals have to be contacted to report on their availability for their project roles at specific times. At the same time, each of the professionals has to study the project designs to understand the extent of the work to be done so as to be capable of determining the potential time for the completion of the project task (He et al., 2004).
Another way through which civil engineers can solve the issue of scheduling is through resource optimization. This is based on the challenge previously outlined where resource allocation can be problematic to scheduling in construction projects (Rao & Chaitanya, 2013). Moreover, the activity of people involved in construction means that they are more likely to be available for limited durations of times. Scheduling should thus be conducted in construction projects with the objective of optimizing the available resources such as personnel and machinery for the completion of maximum number of tasks in a relatively short duration. For this to be achieved the civil engineer has to determine, in collaboration with the project manager, the particular machineries that can be used to perform several tasks and then to ensure that the machines are available and the tasks shared can be performed concurrently. In this way, machine operations do not have to cost extra or to take in higher costs.
The technicalities of construction project notwithstanding, it is still necessary for civil engineers and construction project managers to consider using the most updated scheduling software for their tasks especially in significantly complex projects (Kar, 2009). It is only in this way that effective modeling and simulation of project conditions can be done to test the viability of the prepared schedules. The construction industry, as previously said, is characterized with many uncertainties in project outcomes as well as in resource utilization. As such, there are potential hitches and modifications that may face the projects leading to interference with the project timelines. When quality and accurate scheduling software are used, simulation can help to determine the reaction of the project to various changes in its lifecycle and thus plan for such.
The construction industry faces many challenges and dealing with each of the challenges can be a problem when in an actual construction project. As a civil engineer, one of the potential problems that may be faced in a construction project is that of scheduling. Despite the efforts of the engineer and the project manager to ensure that the project is scheduled within viable timelines, challenges such as variation of tasks, project complexity and resource constraints make scheduling quite challenging. Dealing with this can only be effective if the civil engineer and the project manager can take into consideration the factors that result in scheduling challenges. The available recommendations for civil engineers and project managers thus include considering the most updated scheduling software that can simulate the project conditions, collaborate on scheduling and resource optimization.
Bokor, O., Kocsis, T. and Szenik, G. (2011). New Tools in Project Scheduling: Challenges of the Construction Project Planning. Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2: 215- 221.
He, J., Wan, Z. and Tang, G. (2004). Construction Project Scheduling Problem with Uncertain Resource Constraints. Supported by National Key Basic Research Special Fund. Retrieved from
Kar, D. (2009). Implementing Construction Projects on Schedule: Challenge in a Developing Economy. Journal of Economics and International Finance, 1(4): 82- 99.
Rao, P. and Chaitanya, K.M. (2013). Resource Constrained Project Scheduling Problems: A Review Article. International Journal of Science and Research, 6(14): 1509- 1512.