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Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Was curious to hear what scheduling tools others use to track schedule of large design only engineering projects

In previous roes my engineering function was part of and overall design build team so we had overall L2/L3 project schedule (engineering, procurement, construction)that engineering was a part of, with schedule maintained by a dedicated scheduler.

I've transitioned to a role now where I'm managing projects related to design engineering only and was evaluating best tool to use for scheduling and design resource allocation. I'm looking for something that will be effective but not be overkill for just the engineering function.

Obviously MS Project and similar software is powerful for tracking all things schedule related but also requires someone familiar with the software to maintain and in many instances may require a dedicated scheduling resources to maintain/update.

I'd appreciate any feedback on tools others use to track engineering schedules to manage both internal & external stakeholders. Any examples of how you break engineering tasks into a WBS structure would also be helpful.

RE: Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Tools depend on the process. I'm assuming since you mentioned MS Project that you're doing traditional/lean/waterfall projects or some hybrid rather than agile scheduling, so MS Project will probably be your best choice. If you were going kanban then I'd recommend Jira or Trello.

Regarding WBS and detailing the schedule, IME its best to breakdown the work into phases based upon both deliverable milestones and payment terms of the contract, then subdivide that into engineering disciplines, and each's individual tasks a layer below that. If you don't have the manpower to manage individual tasks as a PM, then I'd have the working engineers responsible for adding/managing their individual tasks in the Gantt. That's another advantage of MS Project - there's really no excuse for anybody not to know the fundamentals today.

RE: Scheduling Tools for large design projects


Thanks for the feedback. In your experience do you typically have the WBS and schedule reside in the same scheduling tool (IE MS Project etc..)?

My experience in the past has always been with a Gant style schedule driving the project milestones, tasks, etc... but never really broken down into a formal WBS outside of a Level 1 WBS with main engineering deliverables. I'm now trying to break engineering tasks down to a level 2 detail and balancing the best way to detail a WBS for items in addition to scheduling (cost tracking etc..) and if it makes sense to keep that separate from a schedule tool or to integrate it.

RE: Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Your scheduling application should have granularity on the WBS what allows you to know within a week that you're behind schedule on any work package; the finer the granularity, the less someone is able to fudge, allowing you to potentially reallocate resources and recover. Obviously, too fine a granularity would be overkill and result in extra work.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Thanks for the feedback above. I'm in agreement that the the scheduling application should also be able to display WBS which I believe MS Project and other scheduling tools do.

I'm curious how much granularity is typically identified on engineering design projects. I realize that answer will vary between engineering disciplines and application type's but trying to just get general fell for best fit.

I am typically accustomed to the following milestones:

1) Level 1 - 30/60/90 Design Milestones
2) Level 2 - Major deliverables within each design milestone (drawing deliverables, etc..)

What I'm now looking to get a better feel for is how much granularity to enter and track as a Level 3 milestone to track individual tasks that make up a Level 2 item. For instance if the Level 2 task is "Develop Drawing X" how many sub-tasks does it make sense to enter below that? Engineer markups, drafting, etc... are all sub-tasks that can go into that level 2 task so just exploring what makes sense and apprecative of any opinions or experiences others have to share.


RE: Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Yes, typically the WBS is set up in the same tool as the schedule IME. Granularity depends on the work at hand. When contracted to external customers for larger projects you're dealing with invoicing payments every month or two over long periods and using the WBS to help manage phases vs payments, so you want both the customer and your management to understand where even minor milestones fall within the WBS. In a later automotive phase I'd include "powertrain prints released," "chassis prints released," etc but would save individual tasks comprising those milestones for the project plan/Gantt itself. OTOH, for internal projects you often dont need to manage details of what milestones are in each phase (bc nobody cares), you can just manage the overall schedule and get away with a very basic WBS showing one level of 5-6 phases.

RE: Scheduling Tools for large design projects

Granularity depends on what gets you into trouble if you are behind schedule or overrun or both. If you had a $5 million project, would you want to manage it in $1 million chunks? Once you answer that question and determine the level of granularity you need to properly manage the program, that's what you put in your schedule and manage.

Since management reserve is often no more than 10%, your granularity will often need to be no more than that. We typically like to see granularity on the order of 2 calendar weeks of effort, since that forces knowledge of overruns to show up within a week.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

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