Construction Project Planning and Scheduling in Higher Education Using NetPoint and GPM
June 05, 2023
Construction planning and scheduling are essential for all engineering and construction professionals, and their training starts at our universities. Educators from Northwestern University, the University of Dayton, and Columbia University lead a panel discussion on instructing undergraduate students in the art and science of construction project planning and scheduling. Panelists will discuss the learning objectives, present key concepts, and share how they use NetPoint and GPM.
Mr. Klanac is a consultant emeritus within PMA Consultants who has been practicing quantitative risk analysis for more than two decades. He brings unique knowledge and experience to the classroom as faculty member in practice and Director of the Construction Engineering and Management program. Mr. Klanac has significant project management experience on US and international construction projects. He has expertise in analyzing and managing cost and schedule risk, providing project cost and schedule controls, developing and analyzing contractor CPM schedule submittals, and providing probabilistic analysis of cost estimates and schedules.
Dr. Ahmad Hadavi is a Clinical Professor at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and Deputy Director of the Master of Project Management program. For his project scheduling and cost engineering & control courses, Dr. Hadavi developed his own Professional Project Management Fundamentals curriculum using Oracle Primavera P6 and NetPoint. In addition to mentoring his students to succeed in these traditional areas, Dr. Hadavi has initiated new courses in lean construction, VR/AR for design and construction, and disruptive technologies in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry.
Mr. McManus is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and is the Industry Advisor for the Global Leaders in Construction Management Program at Columbia University. He is a global expert and advisor to companies and governments on the planning, development, and delivery of major infrastructure, transportation, urban development, sports facilities, and capital projects and programs. He has been a Vice President at McKinsey & Company and also lectures at Northeastern University’s Graduate School of Engineering, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business and the Graduate School of Design, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
One positive impact of the construction industry on university coursework is the experience of our younger students (sophomores and juniors) in their co-ops and internships. The demands of the jobsite have spurred universities to teach the tools needed to put together a good schedule at an earlier point in the college curriculum. On the other hand, some aspects of professional credentialing in the construction industry have not kept up with innovation. Exam preparation materials are still teaching the arrow diagram method, for example. The industry needs to elevate its expectations of student achievement.
Formerly, the percentage of engineering undergraduates pursuing a career in construction was 35 or 40 percent. Now this has risen to 60 percent. More students are seeing construction as a promising career choice. However, many are not putting in the time to learn the fundamentals and the details before aspiring to move up and be the head of project controls.
The level of productivity in the construction sector has been relatively flat since World War II. The construction industry is very fragmented; only a small percentage of engineering and construction firms have more than 100 employees. Because profit margins have been so thin, there has been a reluctance to invest in new technology. This needs to change. Public agencies need to join the call for investment in new technology by providing some incentives for contractors. Spending money on research and development has also been proven successful for companies investing shares in tech startups, for example. Generational movement will happen very quickly, and we will see the benefits in a very significant way.
Another issue is that when you look at the owner’s side, leadership on mega-projects is lacking. It’s about communication with stakeholders, but our industry is not growing a lot of leaders. The idea of unbalanced risk on owners is a major challenge. We need to develop more collaborative contracting methods.
It’s certainly a struggle when you have to use an application tool and assume that it’s working; in hindsight when receiving a new package, it will be 85 percent successful, but have 10-15 percent of bugs that could affect the work. It’s important to not get lost in the details and to instead see the big picture. You will get a better concept of what a given tool can do for you. You need to have a good grasp of the theory behind the software. You also have to understand the report the tool is generating in the context of the larger project. There needs to be cross-training among the disciplines and people need to be trained in new roles.
The reluctance of earlier generations to adopt new technology has been a major barrier. This new generation moving up through leadership and asking questions about optimal working tools has the potential to remove this barrier. Every year there are new buzzwords in our industry; the most recent is “digital transformation.” We need to match the buzzwords with the appropriate level of investment.