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Civil-Comp Proceedings
ISSN 1759-3433
CCP: 84
Edited by: B.H.V. Topping, G. Montero and R. Montenegro
Paper 146

Automation of Construction Project Schedules

N. Eldin1, E. Sener1 and C. Hubach2

1Department of Construction Technology, Purdue School of Engineering and Technology, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), United States of America
2KBR Inc, Houston TX, United States of America

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
N. Eldin, E. Sener, C. Hubach, "Automation of Construction Project Schedules", 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 146, 2006. doi:10.4203/ccp.84.146
Keywords: construction schedule, construction activity database, scheduling software, MS AccessTM, Primavera Project Planner.

Each construction project is unique. As such, each project has its own custom construction schedule that may not suit other projects. Schedule development necessitates a lot of time and effort during the already hectic phase of project initiation. Notwithstanding the above, it is a fact that same types of activities are repeated in all construction schedules no matter what the specific project and a similar logic is also duplicated according to common construction practices.

This paper describes a procedure developed for automating the preparing of construction schedules by combining database software (MS Access TM) with a scheduling software (Primavera Project Planner-P3) to save time and effort. This enables the less seasoned staff to deal with this while making the experienced staff deal with refining and modifying this initial schedule into a final one once it is created using the automated system. This procedure limits itself to the generating of initial construction schedules to be refined as needed. In order to achieve this goal the following objectives have been identified and accomplished:

  1. Development of a database that maintains all possible scheduling activities
  2. Linking the database to scheduling software
  3. Creating a user interface to facilitate the selection of the appropriate activities

A hypothetical project of a shopping mall was used to demonstrate the computer-aided procedure in the paper. A work breakdown structure (WBS) was developed to identify the required building systems and subsystems. From the project WBS all activities are associated to their building systems and subsystems. Association to systems and subsystems allows the user to choose the building blocks (systems and subsystems) unique to the project at hand.

Several researchers have been interested in linking different programs to improve management and transfer of information in scheduling. Although our study is similar to some of these as described in the paper, our approach focuses on the generation of the schedule itself and uses more powerful scheduling software. Our system links an MS Access TM database to Primavera P3 software through a user interface to facilitate the solicitation of the user selections and retrieval of scheduling activities. The steps followed in developing the computer-aided procedure for generating construction schedules were as follows:

  1. An MS Access TM database was created to maintain all possible activities for preparing the construction schedule for a shopping mall. MS Access TM maintains data in tables.
  2. A query was prepared to access P3 and export the P3 data format.
  3. A number of queries were prepared to provide drop down menus for each of the building systems in the database.
  4. Two queries were prepared to select activities from the database based on the user selection. The first query was to select the activities and the second to record their relationships using the Critical Path Method (CPM) logic.
  5. Three macros were prepared to open P3, transfer the activities and the logic to P3, and to run the (CPM) calculations.

Establishing proper logical relationships is crucial. The database should be compiled by senior staff in the company to capture the best experience and know-how. However, the logic established in the database could be changed once transferred to P3 with proper expertise input.

The conclusion is that it is possible to automate the process of developing a construction schedule. In this undertaking this was accomplished by bridging of scheduling data from an existing database to scheduling software. The scheduling data was grouped under construction systems-subsystems to speed the selection of activities. In our case Primavera (P3) was used as the scheduling software and MS Access TM was used as the database software. Once the initial schedule is created in P3 it will be perfected according to the project specifics (e.g., weather, location, resources, and experience).

With the system presented an initial schedule can be generated in a matter of minutes. As the system gets utilized repeatedly, the data base will grow to include all possible activities and to maintain the optimum logic among activities. Lessons learned could also be captured in the updated databases.

The system presented was designed for small to medium construction companies and therefore it met the important criteria of being easy, transparent, and low cost. It is anticipated that the presented system will have a tremendous potential to improve the productivity of the construction industry.

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