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Construction Project Management: Project Timelines, Critical Path, and PERT

You are the general manager of a large construction project. The contract has both financial incentives for finishing on time or early as well as large penalties if the project is completed late. To get the project done on time or early that project planning using a formal timeline is essential. You ask the project manager to address the following questions:

1. In terms of creating a timeline, what is meant by the critical path of a PERT chart?

2. As a project manager you know that the fastest possible time a project can be completed is known as the critical path. This implies that any delay in any step of a projects critical path, will therefore delay the overall project. On a particular project, step B is part of the critical path; step C and D both are not. Assume that all of these steps, B, C, and D are at risk of being delayed due to some issue (could be lack of people, lack of materials, equipment downtime - it makes no difference).

How would the manager go about prioritizing correction of the problem existing in B, C, or D?
Should the manager address the issue in step B first, step C first, or step D first; why?

3. Once repair is completed in step #2, how would go you about prioritizing repairs at the other two steps?

Solution Preview

First, let's cover the basics on PERT and CPM, which are acronyms for "Project Evaluation and Review Technique" and "Critical Path Method", respectively. PERT and CPM are often utilized together as components in an overall project or program management approach.

PERT breaks up programs into projects, and projects into activities, tasks or events. Assume that we are concerned with project management rather than program management, just to keep things simple. Also, 'activities' throughout this post refers to things that need to be done in order to complete the project. A PERT chart then is a graphical or visual representation of the activities, tasks or events. A PERT chart can be constructed manually but most project management software tools create them automatically, based on project elements, tasks and timelines.

CPM identifies all the tasks or activities which are absolutely required to complete a project, the time it will take to complete each activity, and itemizes all the dependencies for each activity. The activities on the critical path are those activities that must be completed, in the order they must be completed, each with its time duration. Each activity on the critical path cannot begin until the previous activity has ...