What is a Master Schedule and Why You Need One



In a properly managed construction project, a master schedule is where all of smaller projects come together. Reality is, even when they seem unrelated, every single project in a construction job needs to work in unison to deliver a quality project on time and on budget. Especially if you’ve been in the industry for a while or you think it’s a small, simple project, developing a master schedule might seem like an unnecessary bore, but trust me that at the end, you’ll be glad you did.

The Benefits

We’ll cut right to the chase: if you don’t have a decent master schedule, you run a huge risk of ruining your project. You should know from the very beginning that things are going to get delayed, broken, expensive… The master schedule helps you break down the bigger picture into smaller phases and identify things that you might not have noticed until you ran into them mid-project.

Another benefit is that it helps you manage everyone’s expectations. When every single detail of the project is delineated, everyone on the team will know what to expect and can be held accountable if they’re not pulling their own weight. Every task will be done with a purpose and with a deadline in mind.

What to Include?

Here’s a list of all the things you should include:

  • A pre-construction meeting – Get all the stakeholders together and share the project overview. This includes scope, goals, timeline, suppliers, materials, equipment and contracts. Cover all your bases to avoid surprises later.
  • Coordinating staffing – Who’s going to manage the relationship with the contractor and suppliers? Who reports to whom?
  • Site safety – Discuss all the safety measures that you will set in place. Do not forget about signs, roping, and fences.
  • Pre-construction investigations – Investigate all you need to know about building permits and construction laws in your jurisdiction and how to select the professionals and workers who will be involved in the project.
  • A list of all the tools, materials, equipment, and labor that will be necessary to complete the project.
  • Landscaping – Review the design, phases, and people taking care of it.
  • Cost estimates of every phase.
  • Priorities – Which projects are more important? When are they going to be completed?
  • Emergency procedures – How are you going to keep your workers safe? What happens if there’s a fire, a gas leak, an explosion, a site accident, a scuffle? Who’s the designated person to deal with these issues?
  • Closeout process – Who’s inspecting the premises? Who’s checking the punch list? Finishing a project takes a lot more than just saying: “We’re done here!”

Are You Missing Anything?

While having a well-drafted master schedule should help the project run as smoothly as possible, you have to be realistic and be prepared: In construction, always expect the unexpected. So roll up your sleeves and let’s get down to business.