Schedule Reduction

RT-041 Topic Summary
RT 041


The focus of this study was to:

  1. Document practical applications of Schedule Reduction Techniques
  2. Verify their potential for schedule reduction
  3. Describe successful implementation steps
  4. Highlight success factors and barriers
  5. Make recommendations for current and new users 

This study recognizes the distinction between Schedule Compression (techniques that shorten project schedule for a premium) and Schedule Reduction (techniques that shorten project schedule without increasing total project cost), and results in five techniques with the highest potential for Schedule Reduction: 

  1. Early scope definition and key design parameters (scope freeze) 
  2. Use of constructability concepts
  3. Use of concurrent engineering
  4. Application of cycle time analysis
  5. Use of electronic media
RT-41 concluded that significant schedule reduction is achievable. From the various case studies, reductions in time of up to 40 percent, compared to historical data, were realized by implementing the investigated schedule reduction techniques.

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Scope Freeze

Changes to the scope of a project beyond the final authorization inevitably result in longer duration and higher costs. Freezing of scope allows detailed design and material procurement to progress rapidly without rework and inefficiencies; and results in better budget accuracy with lower overall costs. Conceptual design and project definition should have progressed to the point that the authorization (definitive) cost estimate can be developed. 

Evaluation of alternatives, value engineering, constructability input, and safety reviews should be completed before the scope is frozen. An effective change control process must also be in place. Team factors include a high level of trust among the owner, contractor, and other team personnel; inclusion of a user representative; and commitment to avoid scope growth, even if funds are available. Subdivision of the project into smaller components produces quicker and more concise definitions, resulting in shorter durations. Resistance to changes after a scope freeze must be driven by the owner Management. Costs for implementation of process changes that support early freeze should be weighed, but are usually relatively small. (RS41-1, p. 4)

Reference: (RS41-1)

2 : Constructability

CII defines constructability as the optimum use of construction knowledge and experience in planning, design, procurement, and field operations to achieve overall project objectives. Maximum benefits occur when people with construction knowledge and experience become involved at the very beginning of the project. These benefits include early release of personnel for other tasks; early demobilization from the site; development of strong relationships between the owner, constructor, and designer; and development of experience for future projects. Management must make the commitment to utilize the constructability process and visibly support the project team. A project team must be assembled early in the design phase and consist of experienced personnel drawn from all shareholders. Strong communications, planned meetings, mandatory milestones, and distribution of information must be maintained continuously. Team members must have skills in group problem solving and enhancing team dynamics. Training should be provided for long-term development. (RS41-1, p. 9)
Reference: (RS41-1)

3 : Concurrent Engineering

Concurrent Engineering is defined as a methodology for developing new products efficiently by designing the product while simultaneously considering all aspects such as manufacture, maintenance, and support. The greatest potential for schedule reduction is in large complex projects, where input from many sources is required. Input begins early in the conceptual phase, and comes from suppliers, constructors, operations and maintenance, and end-users. Opportunities can also be found in the procurement and construction phases of projects. 

Concurrent engineering changes the traditional engineering approach in two basic ways:

  1. End users and other project team members are actively involved in engineering activities as they are conducted, eliminating the need for formal end-of-activity reviews.
  2. Subsequent tasks are started earlier as bits of information become available, due to ongoing reviews and decision-making.

The following factors that can reduce project durations have been identified:

  • Team members are responsible for the total project life cycle.
  • Cross functional teams represent all major stakeholders.
  • Early involvement of end-users in the design process.
  • Aggressive schedules with monthly objectives and clear communication.
  • Electronic software allows design groups to access common data.
Reference: (RS41-1)

4 : Cycle Time Analysis

Cycle time analysis is a formal review to ensure delivery of exactly what is needed, when it is needed, and the amount needed, while eliminating unnecessary activities from all functions of an organization. It can be used successfully in any phase of a project, and most effective when used with other schedule reduction techniques. The following practices are included:

  • Form a cross-functional steering team of key stakeholders under the leadership of the project manager.
  • Select a target process or focus area.  Examples: inventory reduction, paperwork routing/approval, just-in-time manufacturing, or innovative construction sequences.
  • Form teams for selected work areas and provide training in team dynamics and techniques.  
  • Map the overall work processes and identify problem areas (unnecessary steps, inconsistent handling, duplicated work, shared information, etc.).
  • Select performance indicators, then measure, chart and post in each work area.
  • Communicate the goals and progress of the analysis to employees involved with the process and provide them with necessary retraining.
  • Use technology to provide common databases and automate information transfer and transactional type activity. (RS41-1, p. 18)
Reference: (RS41-1)

5 : Electronic Media

Use of more sophisticated EDM (electronic data management) technologies such as 3-D CADD and document imaging is likely to be commonplace in the near future. Maintaining a competitive edge, market expansion, increased productivity, and profit, will dictate that EDM tools become imperative. But they won’t produce successful projects unless good processes are in place for the project as a whole. EDM tools work well when used in conjunction with other SRTs (schedule reduction techniques): concurrent engineering, freeze of project scope, and cycle time analysis. Benefits include:

  • Multi-locational access to process information
  • Elimination of departmental ownership of information
  • Improved process efficiency as demonstrated by reduced process cycle times
  • Improved customer-supplier relations
  • Access to real-time process information
Use of CADD, bar coding, and database management systems have become widely accepted. Voice recognition technology may further improve schedule reduction. (RS41-1, p. 22)
Reference: (RS41-1)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

RS41-1, Impact of Schedule Reduction Techniques over Project Life Cycle, (Appendix A)

  • Based on the research team’s experience, a c)hart was developed showing the relative impact of a particular schedule reduction techniques (SRT during typical project life-cycle phases.

RS41-1, Deliverables Required Prior to Freezing Project Scope, (Appendix B)

  • Early freezing of scope is valid for all projects, regardless of type or size.A structured process is needed for freezing of project scope to ensure all required deliverables are completed.
Reference: (RS41-1)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved schedule

Research Publications

An Investigation of Schedule Reduction Techniques for the Engineering and Construction Industry - RR41-11

Publication Date: 09/1996 Type: Research Report Pages: 148 Status: Reference

Schedule Reduction - RS41-1

Publication Date: 04/1995 Type: Research Summary Pages: 34 Status: Tool