By Andrew Foy, O3 Solutions VP of AWP & Construction
For many people, the terms ‘Scheduler’ and ‘Planner’ have often been used interchangeably, seen as a distinction without a difference. Perhaps they used to be, back in the ‘good old days’. I have had the pleasure of working with a few individuals over the years who could wear both hats; people who had enough experience with construction to be handed a stack of drawings and a scope of work, and then crank out a viable project schedule in a logical sequence with all the right technical attributes like relationships, lag and resources. Sadly, those people are very rare. Most people I’ve worked with on capital projects fall into one of two roles, which can help us distinguish these terms:
Planner – This is typically someone tasked with reviewing the overall scope of the project (or a subset of it, either by area or discipline), and creating a plan for its overall execution. This involves assessing the options for the best way to execute it and using field experience to guide the installation sequence to maximize efficiency.
Scheduler – These days, this is usually the operator of the software, who transfers the plan and any other relevant information into the scheduling tool. This involves a lot of expertise in being able to map the complexity of modern projects into a workable model.
(If anyone is reading this and feeling insulted by the distinction, please consider yourself one of the few exceptions that I mentioned above).
The problem with this now is that Advanced Work Packaging (AWP) wants to lay claim to the term “Planner”. In AWP circles, a Planner is the Workface Planner who creates and manages the Installation Work Packages (IWPs) for the field installation scope.
Here we need another clear distinction, because these are not usually the same people who create the overall project sequence and drive the path of construction. The Workface Planners are usually a small team of discipline-specific people with field execution experience who know what it takes to get the work done, and can harness that experience to create ready-to-execute packages for installation crews.
For all this to work, one of the first things any project team will need is a clear distinction between these roles, and a written breakdown of responsibilities so that each person knows what they have to do. If you have an AWP RASCI matrix where one of the roles is “Planner/Scheduler”, you will immediately create unnecessary confusion.
The other key element here is communication. None of these people (the “front end planner”, the “scheduler” or the “workface planner”) should operate in isolation. The early project planning and sequencing, typically formalized in a Path of Construction (POC), should be the basis for the project schedule. There is no use having a schedule that contradicts the POC. That will just cause confusion among the project team and any contractors.
Likewise, the scheduler and the workface planner should be in very close contact during field execution, exchanging information about planned dates, actual dates, execution progress and changes. This information flow needs to be two-way, as each role will be the source of information that the other person needs.
And if you are really looking to take your AWP execution to the next level, you can augment this communication with a sophisticated work packaging software which can digitally exchange information with your scheduling software so that the data flow in both directions is far more timely and efficient.
To learn more about how to improve the interface between these critical positions and ensure that your schedule always stays up to date with your planning and execution, give us a call.