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Linear Project Management: Reducing Linear Project Risks With The Linear Scheduling Method

Linear infrastructure projects such as highways, pipelines, tunnels and bridges present unique challenges for project planning and scheduling managers.

While almost every project manager faces the typical external project challenges such as weather changes, permitting and environmental restrictions, the process of continuous movement of repetitive resources along a linear path presents a uniquely complex situation.

Issues such as maintaining adequate spacing between crews, equipment move-arounds and earthworks further increase the complexity and amount of variables a project manager must optimize in order to maintain maximum productivity along the right of way of a linear project.

Given these additional linear project-specific variables, project managers can find it quite challenging to stick close to the baseline, report to stakeholders and reduce risks and costs.

To maintain and optimize project controls, project managers must rely on proven tools and systems to help them effectively manage linear projects both in the office and in the field.

The Linear Scheduling Method At A Glance

The linear scheduling method is less concerned with the progress or sequence of activities, which is a typical concern in a non-linear project, but with optimizing crew & equipment productivity rates through the continuous use of resources along the critical path or right of way (ROW).

Planning a project using the linear scheduling method’s March Chart

The preferred tool in linear project management is the of the March Chart, or Time-Distance diagram.

Historically, March charts have been prepared in MS Excel, CAD or even drawn by hand as Napoleon did in the 1800’s.

A diagram that plots a linear project along a time-distance axis has proven valuable as it directly ties the plan to the physical project, providing an easy to understand, visual overview of the linear project plan.

How to reduce project risk and cost with a March Chart​

March charts can reduce both the risk of crew clashes and the duration of the project itself.

Because work rates, the distance between crews and lag times are easily identifiable using the macro view of the March chart, equipment and crew clashes are instantly visible and can then be proactively managed and avoided.

Then, the time and distance between crews can be reduced to the optimal length and the project schedule and budget can be reduced via a continual use of resources.

How to show project progress using a March chart

Possibly of the greatest concern to project managers, the March Chart has proven to be an invaluable tool to communicate project progress to various stakeholders.

From field personnel to owner companies, each individual stakeholder has different concerns and data needs.

The visual nature of the March chart makes presentations easy and less abstract than other methodologies which can create confusing multipage GANTT charts.

Additionally, the March chart also shows what work has been done in what location, of critical importance to field personnel and vital for increasing accuracy of controls and risk reduction.

The one problem with March Charts

The challenge with using March Charts is ensuring they stay current.

Daily updates from field personnel, changes in weather and other variables make maintaining an up to date March chart in CAD, Excel or on paper almost as complex as the project itself.

The difficult reality for many project managers tasked with scheduling, optimizing and managing a linear project is to choose to manually update a March chart, or try to use a non-ideal, traditional planning scheduling tool which does not provide the clarity or accuracy of a March chart.

Automating March Charts With Software

Thankfully, the automation of the linear scheduling method and it’s accompanying March chart is now available via time-saving and error-free software.

An automated linear scheduling software solution enables project managers committed to the efficacy of the Linear Scheduling Method, but challenged by the difficulty of maintaining the project plan, to effectively plan, control and execute linear projects with limited risk.

In conclusion

The March chart is the best tool for linear project managers to mitigate and eliminate risks associated with linear projects.

Updating March charts now no longer need to be performed with the efficiency of Napoleon in the 1800’s.

A linear scheduling software solution will provide all the benefits of the March chart by effectively automating the Linear Scheduling Method.

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