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2007 AACE International Transactions


Converting Linear Schedules to Critical Path Method Precedence

Dr. Douglas D. Gransberg, PE CCE

T he critical path method (CPM) of scheduling is used widely in many project controls applications [1, 4]. A number of commercial scheduling software packages are in use throughout the construction industry. Most

of these software packages are based on the CPM using the precedence diagram method (PDM) as the network analysis algorithm [5]. The PDM scheduling method is an activity- based methodology. Its output can be structured to furnish powerful project control tools that are useful in executing the project plan in a manner that fits both cost and time constraints. Because this scheduling method has no inherent algorithmic mechanism to manage both space and time simultaneously, the cost engineer must assume that the durations derived from the production rates for the crews associated with each activity will not be hindered or conflicted by on-going work on parallel activities [2]. Thus, there is always a possibility that two sets of equipment and their crews will converge on the ground and need to use the same space in order to maintain their target pro- duction rates. If this occurs, one crew will inevitably delay the other until the space conflict is over. When a disruption occurs for this reason on a labor-intensive project such as a building project, the cost is usually not as high as it is on equipment- intensive heavy-civil construction project. As a result of the above issue, many heavy-civil construction project managers prefer to use linear scheduling to furnish the basis for their project planning and scheduling system. Linear schedules display time and space graphically on the same instrument [1]. This allows the cost engineer to visually decon- flict production activities on the project space representation. Additionally, instead of being activity-based, they are produc- tion-based and allow the cost engineer to synchronize the schedule with the same assumed production rates that were used in the project cost estimate. This furnishes a method for seamlessly transitioning from project planning to project execu- tion. A succinct synopsis of the advantages of linear scheduling is contained in the training course material from Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc., a large heavy-civil construction company. It is described as follows:

“Linear schedules are simple charts that show both when and where a given work activity will take place. Because they put time and space together on one chart, linear schedules allow us to see how the pieces of the proj- ect fit together. Enhanced with color, varying shades, or

patterns they also communicate types of work and crew

movement. This is something neither bar charts nor CPM

schedules can do


The issue of achieving reliable project control systems that are based on the production rates used in the bid arises when a construction contractor wins a project from an owner that requires their construction contractors to use a specific PDM- based commercial project scheduling software package to facil- itate the process of controlling the project’s schedule [2]. Thus, it is imperative to be able to take the output derived from a lin- ear schedule and convert it to PDM so that it can be used direct- ly in contract-mandated computer scheduling and project con- trol software. Combining, the two methods is an excellent way to develop a construction schedule. Using linear scheduling techniques to plan the overall sequence of work for production- driven activities is the first step in the development of the final construction schedule and can have many advantages.


The following discussion assumes that the reader understands both how to develop a linear schedule as well as how to devel- op a PDM schedule. Those readers who do not have an under- standing of both the scheduling methods are directed to the lit- erature references before reading this paper [1,2,3,5]. The process described below assumes that the linear schedule for a given project has been developed and that the key production- related decisions are made using the visual representation that the linear schedule provides. Thus, once these important deci- sions are made for the major activities that are associated with ensuring the project’s profitability, the cost engineer can then convert the linear schedule into a PDM and complete the detailed scheduling task using the following steps:

• Develop a comprehensive listing of all the activities shown in the linear schedule, including their durations (partial days rounded up to a whole day), and their precedence rela- tionships to other activities.

• For each line activity, decide whether to show it in the PDM as a single activity or to break it down into several, related activities. It if is broken down, make sure the sum of the durations of the series of new activities do not exceed


2007 AACE International Transactions

the duration of the line they represent in the linear sched- ule.

• For each bar activity, increase the level of activity detail by breaking it down into the series of activities that the bar rep- resented and distribute the total bar duration in the linear schedule to each of the new activities. The total duration of the new activities that make-up the hammock represent- ed by the bar cannot exceed the duration assigned to the bar in the linear schedule.

• Similarly, for increase the level of detail each block, if required by determining if it should be shown in the PDM as a single activity or a series of activities. If broken out, the sum of the durations of the series of new activities cannot exceed the duration of the block they represent in the lin- ear schedule. Also, as some blocks represent a constraint rather than a production activity, determine if it is more appropriate to show the block in the PDM as an activity that has duration but no resources or as a lag on the finish of a related activity.

• Assemble the final list of linear schedule activities to be developed into a PDM network. Add to it those minor activ- ities that were not shown on the linear schedule with their associated durations and precedence relationships and develop the final network in the scheduling designated soft- ware package.

• Check the initial project completion date computed by the software against the contractual completion date. If the ini- tial schedule is longer than the time allowed adjust the net- work’s logic, if possible, to reduce the overall duration. If this isn’t possible, begin to crash activities by adding resources to reduce their durations the required amount.

• The final PDM schedule must conform to the contract specifications and fall within the stipulated contract period.


The following is an example to demonstrate how this conver- sion methodology works. A minor highway rehabilitation proj- ect is let, and the construction contractor’s project manager decides to use linear scheduling to plan the construction sequence to ensure that none of the crew/equipment packages conflict with each other or the other constraints imposed on the project. The construction contract mandates that an official schedule be submitted using a PDM-based commercial sched- uling software package. The project description is as follows:

• Mobilization will occur between STA 2+00 and STA 3+00. It will take two days.

• The first task is to demolish 1000 LF of existing pavement, which has a sustained production rate of 100 LF/day.

• After the pavement is demolished, the next activity is to install cement treated subbase (CTSB). This crew will have a sustained production rate of 250 LF/day.

• On top of the CTSB, asphalt stabilized base (ASB) must be installed and that crew has a sustained production rate of 200 LF/day.

• Finally, Type A hot-mix asphalt paving will be laid on the completed ASB at a sustained production rate of 400 LF/day.

• A series of small concrete box culverts must be built between STA 2+00 and 4+00. The group will take seven working days. The specifications restrict putting equip- ment loads on the new culverts until two days after last cul- vert is poured. This work by accomplished by a concrete subcontractor and includes excavation, backfill and final grading for the culverts.

• The last activity in the project is clean-up/demobilization, and it will take two days.

The linear schedule shown in figure 1 is developed from the above information and will be converted to a PDM. It shows that the project can be completed in a total of 19 working days. Table 1 is a list of the activities and their respective durations taken directly from the linear schedule in figure 1. This completes both Step 1, listing the activities off the linear schedule and Step 2, the deciding how the lines on the linear schedule will be broken down. One can see that the cost engi- neer has chosen to break each of the production-driven activi- ties represented by lines into separate activities as they break up on the linear schedule. One should also not that activity 070 computed duration of 2.5 days was rounded up to three days to allow it to be input into PDM. Having completed the above allows the linear schedule line activities to be related to the “build culverts” bar activity and the “no loads” block activity. Additionally, all the important work sequencing decisions made on the linear schedule are now rep- resented as precedence relationships and as required with lag to ensure that the PDM preserves the logic that went into making those production-driven decisions. The next step will be to convert the “Build Culverts” bar activity into individual activities and replace the single activity shown in Table 1. To do this, one can associate it as a hammock activity and develop a list of activities and durations based on the tasks and duration for a single culvert. This list is generated as follows:

for a single culvert. This list is generated as follows: Figure 1—Linear Schedule for Example Highway

Figure 1—Linear Schedule for Example Highway Rehabilitation Project


2007 AACE International Transactions

2007 AACE International Transactions Table 1—PDM Activities and Durations From Figure 1 • excavate and prepare

Table 1—PDM Activities and Durations From Figure 1

• excavate and prepare bed four hours;

• form box culvert, eight hours;

• pour and finish concrete, four hours;

• backfill, three hours; and

• final grading, one hours.

Looking at the above list, the cost engineer decides to simpli- fy matters a bit by combining the “backfill” and “final grading” for all four culverts into the single activity “backfill and final grading culverts A-D” and assigns it a duration of three days. Next, the excavation and bed preparation activity is broken into two activities, “excavate and prepare bed culverts A&B” and “excavate and prepare bed culverts C&D” of one-day duration each. Similarly, the decision is made to pour the concrete for two culverts per day creating the activities: “pour concrete cul-

per day creating the activities: “pour concrete cul- Table 2—Detailed List of “Build Culverts” Activities

Table 2—Detailed List of “Build Culverts” Activities

verts A&B” and “pour concrete culverts C&D” of one-day dura- tion each. Finally, each culvert is assigned a separate “form cul- vert” activity with a one-day duration. The resulting output is shown in table 2 and the fragmentary network (fragnet) for this series of activities is shown in figure 2. This project has some miscellaneous activities that were not included in the linear schedule. The activities, their durations and precedence relationships are as follows:

• Guardrail must be built between STA 2+00 and 4+00. It will take two days and can begin as soon as the paving is completed in that area.

• Striping of the road will take two days and can begin when the pavement is ready.

• Signs at stations 4+00, 7+50, 9+85, and 10+00 can be emplaced after the paving is finished at that location. All the signs can be installed in one working day.

Adding these activities to the activities in tables 1 and 2 com- pletes the final activity listing (table 3) for the PDM shown in figure 3.

activity listing (table 3) for the PDM shown in figure 3. Figure 2—PDM Fragmentary Network for

Figure 2—PDM Fragmentary Network for “Build Culvert” Work Sequence


2007 AACE International Transactions

2007 AACE International Transactions Table 3—Final List of Activities for Converting Figure 7-12 to PDM T

Table 3—Final List of Activities for Converting Figure 7-12 to PDM

T he above example demonstrates that the two scheduling

methods, PDM and linear scheduling can be used in

conjunction with one another to permit the cost engi-

neer to develop the construction project’s work sequence in a rational manner that creates bid based project controls for the project throughout its construction period. The following con- clusions can be made:

• Linear scheduling provides a method to ensure the sched- uling process is focused on those production-driven activi- ties whose successful completion drives an equipment- intensive project’s profitability. It does this by reducing the schedule to its most essential portions and manages both time and space on the project site in a graphical display, thus allowing a visual deconflicting of critical production- driven activities.

• PDM furnishes a method to organize the large amount of detail that comes with most construction projects. It is both understood and accepted by both owners and construction contractors, and is often required to be used as a part of the construction contract.

• The cost engineer can accrue the benefits of both method- ologies by using linear scheduling as a tool for planning the sequence and timing of work for the major production activities and then converting the linear scheduling output to PDM. Next, all the remaining items of work can be added to the PDM to produce the final construction sched- ule for an equipment-intensive heavy-civil construction project.


1. Callahan, M.T., D.G. Quackenbush, , and J.E. Rowings.

Construction Project Scheduling, New York : McGraw-Hill, (1992): pp. 86-112, 200-210. 2. Gransberg, D.D., C. M. Popescu and R.C. Ryan. Construction Equipment Management for Engineers, Estimators, and Construction Managers, Taylor and Francis Books, Inc., (2006): pp.174-182. 3. Jones, C., “Linear Scheduling. Presentation Slides” Unpublished Lecture given at Norman, Oklahoma, (April 4, 2005), Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc., Dallas, Texas.

(April 4, 2005), Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc., Dallas, Texas. Figure 3—Example Llinear Schedule Converted to

Figure 3—Example Llinear Schedule Converted to PDM Network


2007 AACE International Transactions

4. Oberlender, G.D. Project Management for Engineering and Construction. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. (2000): pp.


5. Marchman, D.A. Construction Scheduling with Primavera Project Planner®. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers, (1997):

pp. 97-118.

Dr. Douglas D. Gransberg, PE CCE Associate Professor University of Oklahoma Construction Science Division 830 Van Vleet Oval Rm 162 Norman, OK 73019-6141, US Phone: +1.405.325.6092 Email: dgransberg@ou.edu