Investigating the Applications of GPM and NetPoint for Level 3 Schedules

Students from the Construction Professional Practice course offered by the University of Michigan’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering conducted a research project using the Graphical Path Method (GPM®) via PMA’s scheduleing application, NetPoint®, on Level 3 execution schedules. The students, Vaibhav Jain, Vishal Shreyans Shah, and Naga Veena Tarlana, under the guidance of Dr. Vineet Kamat and Dr. Carol Menassa, worked with PMA to develop the project and learn from its results.

PROJECT SUMMARY

PMA’s NetPoint® application has introduced groundbreaking innovation to the planning process through real-time graphically calculated scheduling capabilities made possible by GPM. The project was designed to examine how this tool and process would work with a level 3 construction schedule where the detail and number of activities to manage are significant. The students conducted an extensive study using NetPoint to build a Level 3 schedule which had been formerly executed by PMA using Primavera P3, and converted to P6. To explore this question, the authors were given access to the software and hands-on training. For a broader base of experience, interviews were conducted with NetPoint clients and PMA employees, some of whom have used NetPoint on construction projects since its launch in 2008.

RESEARCH PROJECT VIDEO

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

It’s clear that NetPoint and GPM provide great value for Level 1 and 2 schedules. A level 3 schedule is a detailed breakdown of the Level 2 schedule by and for schedulers rather than for executive and management team members who participated at Levels 1 and 2. Therefore, there is less reliance on the interactive and collaborative nature of NetPoint and GPM. However, to manage the volume of detail required for Level 3 schedules, the authors proposed an alternative tabular interface optimized to allow changes in a dashboard to instantly update the schedule. The tabular dashboard would integrate with NetPoint’s graphical interface to maintain the benefits of real-time planning while also streamlining the entry and editing of bulk data. A tabular dashboard would also provide improved data processing capabilities to maintain the instant connection between the NetPoint canvas and the data in the dashboard. It is the authors’ belief that if NetPoint were to provide the level 3 tabular dashboard, it would easily become the industry standard for construction scheduling software.

QUESTION/ANSWERS

What was the primary benefit to using NetPoint over other scheduling software?
The simple and intuitive nature of NetPoint is an attractive feature for most users. We also found the Excel resource allocation feature to be one the most useful features of NetPoint.

What was the most useful GPM and NetPoint functionality used to work the level 3 schedule?

  • Direct Drawing on Canvas
  • Real Time Scheduling
  • Planned Dates
  • Pull Planning
  • No negative lags
  • Very quick resource assignments and allocations

How would you characterize the learning curve to use NetPoint as compared to learning other CPM scheduling software?
NetPoint is very intuitive and easy to learn for beginners. Specifically, directly drawing on canvas and because scheduling takes place in real time are key. However, transitioning from CPM to GPM may be a challenge for some schedulers. CPM schedulers are accustomed to software with extensive detail, tabular interfaces, and a data management system to provide calculations. GPM and NetPoint focuses on seeing the plan in real time with live calculations on planned dates and requires summarizing the amount of detail typically added to a CPM schedule.