How to Use a Fragnet Schedule for Optimized Planning
December 21, 2021
When aligning information to the actual work, project planners must consider many different trades, user groups, and project management teams represented in the schedule. Here we discuss the use of schedule fragnets to substantiate the master plan of the project without having to view the entire schedule.
Focussing on critical schedule areas can make the planning process more efficient and effective. Since there are so many different moving parts in our schedules and some areas may be more critical than others, being able to view at the forefront, for example, a troubled floor of a skyscraper can focus the planning effort on the task at hand. The upcoming work can then be planned at a more detailed level. Using a fragnet of near-future activities, the work is planned to ensure all activities are optimized and coordinated.
The following example accomplished just this objective. The contractor was required to elaborate on a particular portion of the schedule for a $120 million new walk-in healthcare center, roughly a two-year project. The schedule elaboration resulted in adding about 1,300 activities.
The contractor wanted to do this as efficiently as possible and reached out for assistance from PMA. They were able to provide work sequences in Excel. PMA imported the Excel files into NetPoint to review with the client, and then once the plans were finalized, the NetPoint file was imported into the master schedule in P6.
Here’s how the contractor-provided Excel file looked:
The contractor provided activity descriptions, durations, and even predecessors in the Excel file. This information was sufficient to import directly into NetPoint. On review, however, it was not easy to validate that the work laid out in the Excel file matched the contractor’s intended execution of the work.
This Excel file is just one of seven Excel files that we received. This file is applied to four different areas and sometimes applied to three different floors in each area, arriving at 1,300 activities very quickly.
It was important to ascertain this fragment of the work before adding all of this to the P6 schedule. The sharp contrast between both files was evident.
We needed to verify that the logic, the dates, durations, etc., were going to pencil out at the end and meet the contractor’s goal. We began with basic data cleanup and validation. For example, predecessor IDs and relationship type were in two separate columns. So, we did a simple calculation to merge those into one column, get them into the format that NetPoint could recognize, and then we were ready to go ahead and do the import.
NetPoint made an initial attempt at mapping the columns in the Excel file to the appropriate attributes within NetPoint, resulting in valid identification in most cases.
It is good practice to review this output and copy to the clipboard to save for later. The Excel file provided no dates but was based on logic. Warnings appear to the effect that activities were reported without the appropriate assigned dates. All these will be set to the early date. By flipping to CPM scheduling mode and then back to GPM mode from the toolbar, NetPoint takes the entire logic diagram and snaps everything out according to the logic.
While scanning the file, we see it appears to end around October of 2015. The calendar will be changed, and the page layout modified to tabloid to provide more space. NetPoint’s schedule optimizing feature, Autograph, is endlessly configurable, and with the click of a button, it takes an educated guess at optimizing the layout for the sake of visual display. In this case, it is relatively close to the ultimate deliverable that we put together.
Autograph will not always provide the final end state, but in most cases, will give a good starting point to fine-tune. In this case, colors and colored headings were used to delineate some of the significant sequences of work. All this work could fit onto one page, whereas it might have taken up quite a bit more space with swim lanes.
The data is now in NetPoint. It’s relatively cleaned up and presentable, but there are basic steps for additional network validation that can be performed. Activities without successors or predecessors can be identified one by one by going into the edit menu and searching and filtering objects. Double-clicking on the activity highlights on the bottom, and that activity can be reviewed to ascertain where the most appropriate place to tie it off might be.
The following process is to filter for redundant lengths. Redundant lengths per se are not necessarily logic violations. But if there are an abundance of them in a NetPoint network, they can substantially impair visual comprehension. A P6 network can add a significant schedule burden in terms of overall maintenance management because of superfluous logic ties to review and maintain periodically when trying to track sequences.
We recommend reviewing and understanding them very clearly in NetPoint before bringing them into P6 because this sequence will be replicated over multiple areas, and redundant lengths and open ends would start to compound.
We were able to break down the schedule into a smaller section and demonstrate a couple of those NetPoint functions that help with reviewing schedules. We were able to do this efficiently because we could communicate with Microsoft Excel. We could also communicate with Microsoft Project and P6, and we took the Excel file, imported it into NetPoint, took the finished product in NetPoint, and then we were able to import it into P6. And once in P6, it was just a matter of copying the WBS fifteen times and putting it into the areas needed.
We were able to get real-time feedback to facilitate this interactive planning process. Overall, we felt we could better understand the sections of work planned and communicate them to the project team.