First appearing in the 1980s, Primavera has evolved to be the preferred critical path method (CPM) computer program for scheduling complex construction projects. It is often specified in both private and public construction contracts, and includes extensive features to help track resources, costs and earned value. Because of its capabilities, the latest iteration, Oracle Primavera P6, can sometimes overwhelm new users, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, P6 has a number of features that can both speed up and improve the quality of schedule development.
In the old days, schedulers used to devise a numbering system for the activities (tasks) that made up the project. The numbering system was an organizational tool to describe activity characteristics such as phase, area (section, building, floor, etc.), type of work (excavation, structural steel, rough-in, etc.) and subcontractor responsible for the work. While some schedulers still use this to some degree to help develop the schedule, P6 has a built-in work breakdown structure (WBS) as well as numerous fields that can be used to identify, search, filter and organize activities as needed. Recent additions to this feature set include Summary activities and Level of Effort activities that can be used specifically for reporting purposes or to control certain aspects of the schedule.
Another feature of Primavera P6 is called "steps." Steps allows you to partition a single task into two or more individual steps or smaller units of work. Additionally, P6 can tie the activity's percent complete to the completion of each step, providing a clear cut way of determining percent complete. Steps can be an excellent method of reducing schedule complexity by eliminating excess activities from the schedule. For example, a 10-story residential tower with 30 rooms per floor would need 3,000 activities to show for each room studs, frame doors, rough-in, subfloor, hang drywall, tape/spackle, floor coverings, fixtures, paint and trim. Using steps to show each of these 10 items per room reduces the 3,000 activities to 300.
Starting a new project starts with being familiar with the capabilities of P6 in order to optimize schedule development, saving data entry time and at the same time, ending up with a schedule that is more efficient and easier to use. This includes planning your activity codes, calendars, resources and work breakdown structures. Having input from key subcontractors is important, particularly for developing schedule logic and activity durations. Since P6 is a multi-project portfolio schedule, it is also important to optimize use of codes and resources that are project-specific "global."
At the upcoming Construction CPM Conference
in Orlando, January 10-13, 2017, will be numerous beginner and advanced sessions on P6 presented by vendors, consultants and certified trainers. This three-day multi-track conference features more than 60 sessions to explore all aspects of construction scheduling. Tracks include best practices in schedule development and management, schedule analysis, claims support, earned value, schedule risk, case studies, training sessions, and clinics. More than one dozen providers of scheduling applications and utilities will be on-hand to answer questions and provide demos.
WPL Publishing Co. is proud to be the Media Sponsor of the conference -- look for our table in the Exhibit Hall and say hello. Click here for more information or to register.