Project scheduling software streamlines planning process

The management of most projects begins with planning and scheduling. Thanks to the many software tools available, plant engineers have help at their fingertips during this crucial early stage.


The management of most projects begins with planning and scheduling. Thanks to the many software tools available, plant engineers have help at their fingertips during this crucial early stage.

In one case, a Pennsylvania engineer found assistance in a simple, easy-to-use project scheduling tool. The software (QuickGantt from Ballantine & Co.) is suited for situations that do not require PERT scheduling, but would benefit from the use of a Gantt chart to communicate the schedule to everyone. Unlike more complex programs, this package can be mastered in minutes using the templates in the package. Results are presentation quality and ready to use.

Initially, the time and budget of the project (new pump station and treatment plant) needed to be communicated clearly. Later on, the schedules of several subcontractors had to be coordinated. The Gantt chart (see illustration) is one of several versions used throughout the project to communicate job requirements.

The chart shows the time required to design, specify, and coordinate construction. It is divided into two sections: booster pump station and treatment plant. As the schedule clarifies, much of the work can progress concurrently, but some activities must occur sequentially.

According to Andrew Herbert, the project's coordinator, the software was "so easy to use and modify that I can create project schedules for discussion, proposal, and construction purposes. Then, once people have had a chance to comment, I can modify the schedules with their input."

The Gantt charts helped the project coordinator communicate schedules to the engineering team. The ability to visually examine concurrent and sequential activities gave everyone a better understanding of the whole picture as well as his role in the entire project.

The software proved to be flexible and easy to use. For example, time lines on the Gantt chart could be created in four ways:

1. Input start and finish dates for each activity

2. Enter a start date and elapsed time and the finish date is calculated automatically

3. Double click on the dates from the pop-up calendar

4. Manually drag and drop a line on the chart and the date changes are reflected in the worksheet.

Basic cost analyses could also be performed. Labor units and unit costs may be entered with each activity. A special category (called expenses) lets material costs be entered for items not associated with a scheduled time. In addition, spreadsheet files can be imported, complete with date formats and cost data.

The program also offered the ability to link activities together, allowing the critical path to adjust automatically if something fell behind schedule. The critical path method (CPM) is a technique schedulers use to find a project's shortest route from start to finish. If any activity on the path takes longer than planned, the end date has to move back. This sort of schedule adjustment was crucial to this project as it is to many plant engineering projects.

Information for this section was provided by Ballantine & Co. Its web site is located at

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me