The critical path is the longest work sequence through the schedule, and the shortest time in which the project can be completed. Activities on the critical path are priority items, and if they fall behind schedule, the completion of the project will likely be affected. Therefore, the contractor should identify the critical path(s) from the outset of the work. Identification of the critical path is simple with CPM software programs such as Primavera Project Planner and Microsoft Project that produce basic reports showing pertinent information, such as activity float. Negative float notwithstanding, activities that have zero float will be on the critical path. However, the contractor should not be drawn into thinking that only critical path activities require priority. Activities with lower float values (i.e., less than 30 days) usually require close monitoring.

If the contractor is using a Bar Chart, or Gantt chart, as the primary or sole tool to schedule the work, identifying the critical path becomes more difficult, if not impossible, depending on the size of the project. As the number of activities increases, this task becomes correspondingly more difficult. Manual calculation of the critical path is a major disadvantage of a bar chart schedule. Without critical path identification, it is difficult to identify and manage priority work items, and gauge the potential impact of changes.


The contractor is encouraged to use short-term bar chart schedules in concert with and derived from the overall CPM schedule. Experience has shown that two or three-week look-ahead schedules, developed by the project manager or superintendent, can effectively supplement the scheduling process by breaking general activities into greater detail and placing emphasis on activities that must receive immediate attention.

However, we often see a lack of coordination between long and short-term schedules. For example, if the CPM schedule shows a 30-day foundation activity starting on December 1 and finishing on December 30, the short-term bar chart should show the detailed excavation, formwork, reinforcing, and placement work being completed over the same time period. We have seen many cases where, using this example, the short-term and long-term schedules for the foundation would use different time frames, thus defeating one of the purposes and benefits of the scheduling process.



Hakkında Cumhur Şamiloğlu
Civil Eng., MRICS Management of International Business (MSc-2002)

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