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PROCEEDINGS OF THE FIFTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENGINEERING COMPUTATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping, G. Montero and R. Montenegro
Integration of Cost and Scheduling Data: A Framework for an Automated Project Control Procedure
N. Eldin1 and L. Schilling2
1Department of Construction Technology, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), United States of America
N. Eldin, L. Schilling, "Integration of Cost and Scheduling Data: A Framework for an Automated Project Control Procedure", in B.H.V. Topping, G. Montero, R. Montenegro, (Editors), "Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Engineering Computational Technology", Civil-Comp Press, Stirlingshire, UK, Paper 144, 2006. doi:10.4203/ccp.84.144
Keywords: project controls, project management, cost-schedule integration, computer applications in CM, database applications, cost analysis systems.
A successful project is completed on time, within budget, and satisfies the proper technical and safety requirements. Although several systems and techniques are available to aid project management teams, the task of integrating project cost and project schedule is still challenging. The difficulty in such integration is perhaps due to the fact that the three basic project data categories (i.e., scheduling, cost, and progress) are closely interrelated, and time dependent. This makes independent tracking of any one category of little value unless it is integrated with the other two. To succeed in accomplishing such integration one needs to: 1) relate project costs to scheduling activities; 2) quantify progress; and 3) devise a systematic procedure to accomplish such integration.
The objective of this paper is to present a computer-aided procedure that assists project management teams in quantifying work progress (percent complete); linking cost data to construction activities; automating the steps necessary to update a schedule; and preparing a set of cost analysis reports.
To measure progress quantitatively, a project management team should: 1) define the level of detail at which progress will be measured and 2) select the basis for progress measurement. There are three common yardsticks to asses work progress: 1) project expenditure, 2) quantity-in-place, and 3) earned value . However, these three methods yield varying results and each has its own limitations. The advantages of using the earned value method over other methods could be found in the literature [2,3,4,5,6,7].
One of the challenges facing project managers is that cost and scheduling data are collected and reported at different levels of detail. For example, while placing a slab on grade constitutes a single scheduling activity it usually involves several cost codes in tracking its cost components (e.g., labor, equipment, materials, subs, specialties, etc). However when cost is reported, it is usually stated at a higher level of detail. For instance with reference to the slab on grade activity, the concrete cost is usually reported for the entire project instead of just for this individual activity. Although reporting cost at this summary level satisfies the company's accounting functions, it does not aid project management teams in controlling the performance of their project activities. Consequently, this discrepancy results in maintaining two independent tracking systems that are not readily reconciled. In an attempt to resolve this problem, many researchers and practitioners utilize the work breakdown structure (WBS) to relate costs to scheduling activities. Upon preparation of the WBS, a unique cost code could be assigned to every level of control on the WBS. In this manner cost data could still be collected at a lower level than the scheduling activities and yet be reported at the scheduling activity level. This will give the project management team the opportunity to determine the status of the project fairly accurately and to be able to take corrective actions at real-time execution.
As one of the leading scheduling software, Primavera Project PlannerR(P3) was selected as the scheduling tool. However, in order to update the schedule in P3, one must manually input a percent complete value or remaining duration for each activity. Therefore, in order to save the time repeatedly spent on routine schedule updates, a user interface was developed to automate the steps of the proposed procedure. Such a procedure should help contractors and owners to better manage projects based on accurate measurements of work progress. It should increase the transparency of project progress and the objectivity in measuring project performance. It should decrease subjective bias in calculating progress and projected costs. It should help project mangers to diagnose problems in project progress and cost deviations early in the process to permit more timely effective corrective actions. The procedure should also save significant efforts spent in routine tasks such as assessing progress, updating schedule, and preparing cost analysis reports. It should also relieve senior project staff from routine tasks such as assessing work progress, and thus allows them to devote their time to more significant tasks. With this 1) determination of work progress, 2) assessment of project status, and 3) preparation of cost analysis reports could be delegated to junior staff.
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