As the ubiquitous metal hoardings, traffic diversions and “men at work” signs sprout unabated across Hong Kong, good construction Planning Engineers are increasingly in demand not only in Hong Kong but in all the hot spots in the international construction industry. What is construction planning & how can a career in planning engineering be embarked upon?
Construction Planning V Scheduling
Now, there’s often confusion, particularly among non planners between the terms “planning” and “scheduling”. Planning is the process of identifying all activities necessary to complete the project whilst scheduling is the process of determining the sequential order of activities, assigning planned duration and determining the start and finish dates of each activity. Planning is a prerequisite to scheduling because there is no way to determine the sequence of activities until they are defined. They are often used interchangeably because they are performed interactively. Hence it is generally accepted that those who cannot plan cannot create a good project schedule. The construction schedule will be a plan which organizes the tasks that must be accomplished in a logical sequence to successfully complete the objective in an efficient manner with available resources and conform to the framework prescribed by a contract, specifications, drawings, and other documents.
Why is the Construction Planning Function so Important and Well Paid?
Construction planning plays a critical role within the Hong Kong built environment due to the current construction boom in the industry leading to shortages of time and massive skills shortage of qualified and experienced people – including planners. Schedules developed with the most advanced and up to date scheduling software can be indispensable in the performance of the planning function and the successful outcome of the project. Such critical input inevitably carries premium salaries right through the planning career ladder.
Primavera Planning Software
The Hong Kong construction industry uses “Primavera P6” extensively. This is described as complex project management software for construction companies which allows users to set goals, measure progress, control costs and evaluate performances by individual contractors and suppliers.
Creating a good construction plan is an exceptionally challenging problem. Having experience is a good guide to avoiding major mistakes in the successful planning and scheduling of a construction project, however each project typically has its unique set of problems and opportunities to overcome or exploit.
The Three Stages of the Construction Plan
Broadly speaking, there are 3 stages to the construction plan:
1. The Estimate Stage:
This is where a cost and duration “estimate” is developed for the construction of a facility as part of the proposal from a contractor to an owner. Assumptions of resource commitment to build the facility are made by the planner. The planner must look for the best time-cost combination to allow the contractor to be successful in his commitment. Too high an estimate and the contractor will not be awarded the job, too low an estimate and the contractor will win the job and lose money in its execution. The planner must deal with the “uncertainty” here.
2. The Monitoring Stage:
This is where management must keep a close eye on duration of construction activities as well as ongoing costs. Because the work is on schedule it doesn’t mean the cost is on estimate. Constant evaluation is necessary until the construction process is complete and the 3rd stage can begin
3. The Evaluation Stage:
This is where the results are compared with the estimate and its validity is evaluated. This is where the planner determines whether the “assumptions” made at estimate were correct. If new constraints emerge then corresponding adjustments should be introduced in future plans.
The increasing availability of 3D models has facilitated their use in a process known as “4D planning”. 4D construction planning is a process which enables clear visualisation of a construction programme as an animated sequence. 4D models are created by linking 3D CAD data with one or more programmes. This visualisation is then automatically updated any time the programme is updated. The benefits of this include:
• Better communication with stakeholders
• Improved visibility and clarity of planning
• More dynamic and integrated programme meetings
• More efficient and immediate review of different programme options
• Increased flexibility in detail of output
How to Join the Planning Community
Planners are perceived as a “close knit” community of specialist engineers with an often eclectic mix of qualifications. Getting into planning can be an excellent career move if a little daunting at first. Engineers that enjoy problem solving and have an aspiration to manage others should seriously consider it. Although foundation degrees in “Project Controls” are becoming available, (we’ll deal with the world of Project Controls in a future blog), there are few formally recognized qualifications for the professional planner. This can be seen as an opportunity for an engineer or other construction professionals to seek out a greater focus on the duties and responsibilities of a planner as part of their existing role & progressively move across to becoming a dedicated planning engineer over time if things work out for all concerned.
Get in Touch Regarding Planning Careers and Planning Engineer Job Vacancies
For anyone who would like more information on a possible career path in planning I would be happy to review a CV and arrange a conversation.
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BEng Civil Engineering
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