Project management concept with gantt chart

CPM is One Way to Keep Your Projects on Track

By Nicole Johnson and Darren Leins | Published December 15, 2022

The ongoing pandemic has put a strain on construction project deadlines and budgets. The limited availability of building supplies, labor shortages, and increased consumer demand have contributed to a major spike in the cost of goods. With 60% of construction firms reporting future projects being canceled or delayed1, contractors and insurance carriers must work together to create a strategic path forward to complete projects on time and on budget. 

When construction projects are very complex, with many overlapping and connecting tasks, the critical path method (CPM) can help effectively plan and manage projects. CPM is a step-by-step project management technique that tracks tasks most critical to project completion, using them as the thread responsible for getting the entire project to the finish line. CPM is most often used for new commercial or industrial construction projects or large renovations and rebuilds. 

6 Benefits of Putting a CPM Schedule Together

CPM scheduling allows for clear and transparent management of a project’s critical activities. 

  1. Alleviates coverage concerns. A CPM schedule can help the insurance company and building owner/operator gauge the amount of business interruption insurance needed.
  2. Keeps project delivery on time. A CPM schedule will help keep the project on time – and on budget. If one task on the critical path shifts, updating the schedule will help you prioritize where to spend resources. Maintaining the schedule also can help you determine where costs can be mitigated.
  3. Improves communication. Incorporating CPM keeps everyone on the same page. The CPM updates the team on a project’s progress, highlights the completed tasks, and details the next project steps to accomplish so the subsequent subcontractor can meet their deadlines.
  4. Provides accountability. An effective CPM schedule helps avoid finger pointing. Problems that may arise are easier to address if everyone provides input on the schedule and understands the time frame. When one subcontractor can tell another, “I need you to finish X before I can get to Y,” cuts down on excuses and project delays.

  5. Is a binding document. The CPM schedule functions as a contract addendum. At the start of the job, the CPM will have a specific end date and will reveal all the milestones and provide different parties ways to buy-in, so it becomes a binding document.
  6. Aids project manpower. The CPM is a critical path analysis tool to help determine where and how to deploy resources, including how many crews can and should be on-site at different times, or the number of crews that can work on-site simultaneously. The CPM will specify week-by-week, the number of people projected on-site every day, allowing you to ramp up or slow down as needed.

The Do’s and Don’ts of CPM  

There are several steps you should DO to determine your project’s critical path:

  • DO list every task. Document every action required to complete the project. Then, determine which are critical and directly impact the project timeline. Float tasks which can be delayed without extending the project.

  • DO involve all parties. Determine the time that each activity will take to complete. To build a workable CPM schedule, obtain feasibility and timeline feedback from subcontractors. Determining the amount of time to complete a project without subcontractor input puts the whole project at risk.  
  • DO focus on task relationships. Determine the dependencies between activities and take the time to set up the tasks correctly. For instance, if electrical, plumbing and insulation need to be installed before the wall is framed, the CPM should reflect that. Understanding these ties when building the CPM schedule will give you an accurate critical path. 

There are several things that you DON’T want to do:

  • DON’T live in a bubble. Whether you’re a consultant or a general contractor, involve all team members in the CPM. When you do so, you’ll have a better, more accurate CPM schedule.
  • DON’T forget to update it. Critical Path Method scheduling is only as good as the person updating it. A regularly updated schedule will help keep the project on time and on budget, providing you flexibility when unforeseeable issues pop up.

  • DON’T forget to communicate. Regularly share your updated CPM schedule with the team so everyone knows where the project stands. While doing so, identify project milestones, which should be celebrated as the project continues.

By associating cost and resource allocation with each subtask, the critical path method quickly tells you what’s causing the project to go over budget or fall behind schedule.

Contact RMC Group for help in developing your CPM schedule.

Pit & QuarryAGC: 60 percent of construction projects delayed,” Sept. 3, 2020.