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Push Your Critical Path Schedule – Or Don’t. It’s Your Choice

RHC Push Your Ciritical Path Hero

Home builders typically understand the concept of critical path scheduling. It’s easy to understand that certain items must be done before the next activity can start (e.g. mechanical rough-ins must be complete before the inspection can happen).

There’s another scheduling concept that is often lesser-understood and often confused with critical path scheduling, and that’s a concept known as push type scheduling.

Push type scheduling works hand-in-hand with critical path scheduling, but they are not the same thing. I hope to clear up any confusion with this post.

Specifically, there are two different push type schedule designations:

· Push

· No-Push

What’s the difference?

When a software system is set to push scheduling, any schedule activity that is scheduled to complete today - but NOT marked as complete today – will automatically push the completion date until the next scheduled business day. The start date for any activity that is scheduled to occur after this activity is complete (assuming this activity is a predecessor in that critical path) will also push to the appropriate next start date – essentially continuing to push the schedule until the original schedule activity is marked complete.

Compare that to no-push scheduling. With that schedule designation, any schedule activity that is scheduled to complete today – but NOT marked as complete today – will keep its completion date today and NOT push the completion date. The start date for any activity that is scheduled to occur after this activity is complete (assuming this activity is a predecessor in that critical path) will also remain as scheduled.

Both push designations have their own advantages and disadvantages, and you can make an argument for why you might want to use one over the other.

Advantages/disadvantages of push scheduling

The big advantage to the push schedule designation is that it minimizes “dry runs” (and the associated backcharges from the trade contractors) – since the next trade contractor’s start date keeps pushing UNTIL the previous critical path schedule item is marked complete.

So, superintendents who don’t actively manage their schedules every day may find that their build times are longer than they want them to be. If they don’t mark an item complete today (that really is complete), the next trade contractor in line will think their scheduled activity is not ready (since the schedule pushed their start date to the next scheduled business day).

This means that superintendents are then spending a lot more time manually managing the trades’ schedules, instead of using the software efficiently to handle those schedules.

The owners of home building companies who like this designation believe it ensures their superintendents are managing their job schedules more efficiently every day. And – for those who structure compensation plans based on schedule length – there is an extra incentive for those superintendents to ensure their schedule pushes as little as possible.

Advantages/disadvantages of no-push scheduling

The big advantage to the no-push schedule designation is that many superintendents find it easier to manage their schedules based on their time schedules, and they feel they have more control over when their trades will show up.

After all, they know that no two house schedules are exactly the same. Delays due to weather, inspections, labor shortages, material shortages, etc. will affect the schedule, and schedule overlap can (and will) happen. This allows the critical path to be managed manually when some scheduled activities can not be marked complete but other activities still need to start.

Be warned, though. If an activity scheduled to complete today truly is NOT complete today, and that activity does need to be complete before the next critical-path scheduled activity can start, superintendents must ensure that they notify the next trade contractor that the job is not ready. If they don’t, the trade contractor will likely show up and not be able to work, and that costs them (and, ultimately, the home builder) money.

The owners of home building companies who like this designation believe their superintendents take more ownership of the schedule and have less reason to “fudge” the system. And those owners who structure compensation plans based on schedule length believe they can still hold the superintendents accountable to their targeted completion dates.

Which is best to use?

The short answer: whichever works best for you and your team. Both approaches still lend themselves best to those superintendents who manage their schedules every day.

Rather than relying on the schedule to push or not, the most effective superintendents are taught to use schedule exceptions to manage their schedules. By doing so, the superintendents are providing key data to management on what is really happening on the job.

That data helps management make decisions on trade contractors, material sourcing, plan reviews, and/or superintendent effectiveness.

Not sure what your MarkSystems’ scheduling designation is or how efficient your schedules are? The professional services team would be happy to take a look at it with you and make recommendations for how you and your schedules can be more efficient.

About the Author

Brad Haubert joined the family home building business right out of college in 1993 and spent 25 years actively working in all parts of managing the business. During that time, he managed the construction of over 1,000 new homes. Working in a small to medium-sized home building company, he was able to work in all the departments: sales, purchasing, construction management, warranty, accounting, and land development. Brad joined ECI as a Senior Consultant in 2017 and consults with home builders all across North America. In addition, he teaches the weekly WebClass to train MarkSystems’ users on different aspects of the software – proudly using his unique sense of humor to make training both informative and fun (well….it’s fun to him….). Recently, Brad launched his own podcast, The Sticks and Bricks Podcast (https://anchor.fm/brad-haubert), to focus on the situations that home builders face every single day. He draws on his own personal homebuilding experiences to discuss topics with other professionals in the industry who have (or are still) facing the same things. You can connect with Brad on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bradhaubert.