Keeping projects on schedule is one of the core responsibilities of a project manager, or “project lead,” in a building and remodeling company. At the company where I work, we have 15 to 20 jobs running at any given time, each with its own project manager tasked with arranging the work. Knowing how to create and work a schedule is an essential skill for those individuals.

Finishing a job on time is one of our core promises to our clients. If we fail, they have a right to be mad. But when the schedule slips, it’s not just about feelings: The company loses money. The way we build our project budgets is based on how long we think it’s going to take to complete a project. Losing a day here and a day there because of schedule slippage can add up. If you add seven days of lost time to a 65-day schedule, for example, you’ve gone 10% over budget on supervisor and site labor.

We try to prevent all that by skillfully managing the schedule. In this story, I’ll look at some of the scheduling tools we use to create and visualize the job schedule. I’ll discuss some of the factors that can interfere with the schedule and hinder the timely accomplishment of projects. And I’ll look at some of the practices we’ve instituted to help overcome those obstacles and complete our jobs in a timely fashion, as promised.

In our company, our project managers work with “production managers” who manage a team of PMs, carpenters, and laborers. Production managers also help with the design and budgeting process.

It’s the production manager’s role to create a master schedule for each job. We use Gantt charts, which we usually create using Microsoft Project (though for simpler projects, other methods are fine).

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