Tricks, Traps, and Ploys in Scheduling Claims

Project schedules often go awry. What begins with a realistic plan can quickly snowball into a major dispute. Below are a number of tips to minimize delays and scheduling claims.

Critical Path Schedule
Most project Owners require a CPM (critical path) schedule on large, complex or risky projects. The CPM schedule assures the Owner that the Contractor has a viable plan to complete the project on time. It enables you to track progress to quickly identify delays, provides a blueprint for recovery of lost time, and protects against unwarranted delay and impact claims.

Specifications
Your first step is a well-written specification, which should require the following:

  • Submittal of electronic schedule files
  • Joint schedule review by the Owner’s representative, and the Contractor’s scheduler and superintendent
  • Monthly schedule updates with narrative reports
  • Daily field reports from the Contractor’s superintendent and all subcontractors
  • Recovery schedules if work falls behind
  • Time impact analyses to justify time extension requests
  • Partial withholding of progress payments for failure to comply

Software Tricks and Traps
By utilizing little-known features of Primavera P3 or Microsoft Project, Contractors can distort the schedule to hide delays or fabricate a claim. More often, CPM concepts or software features are not fully understood, inadvertently creating an inaccurate schedule. You need to know how to recognize these electronic ploys, or bring in professional assistance to find hidden traps.

Action if Delayed
Despite everyone’s best efforts, projects can still experience unforeseen delays. If the delay is the responsibility of the Contractor, Owners should require a recovery schedule. If the Owner causes the delay, insist on a prompt, detailed, joint review of the problem. First, try to re-sequence operations to avoid a delay. If necessary, compare the acceleration cost to the delay cost and choose the optimum solution. Also, take special care when preparing global settlements.

Defense of Scheduling Claims
When a scheduling dispute arises, insist on a detailed time impact analysis, including a comparison of as-planned with as-built. For weather delays, require a comparison to NOAA records. Require submission of all supporting documents (daily reports, timecards, etc.), and a narrative that explains entitlement and how the events or actions by the Owner caused the delays and subsequent costs. To discourage fraud, require certification of all claims.

Through a proactive approach, you can maintain control of your project schedule and adapt to changes without excessive costs. Please contact our office for assistance in reviewing a Contractor’s schedule or improving your own schedule tracking process.

Tips to Avoid Traps
Below are a few tips from our Schedule Review Checklist for project Owners:

  • Out-Of-Sequence Logic: Use the ‘Retained Logic’ option instead of ‘Progress Override’ to avoid invalid progress and delays.
  • Excessive Lag: Lags greater than one week need to be verified and possibly changed to a separate activity.
  • Incorrect Actual Dates: Verify the actual dates. Wrong dates can be used to hide delays or set up for a claim.
  • Multiple Calendars: When analyzing the critical path, unexplained variations in float may be due to multiple calendars.
  • Erroneous Constraints: Check if constraints are invalid or used incorrectly. Constraints can unnecessarily delay the start of critical activities, falsely create another critical path, or cause negative float. Do not use Mandatory Start and Finish constraints, or the ‘Zero Total Float’ constraint.
  • Auto-Cost Rules: Select the ‘Link Remaining Duration and Schedule Percent Complete’ option. If you don’t, separate updating is required that could result in error if one is overlooked.
  • Scheduling Report: Run P3’s Scheduling Report to review constraints, open-ended activities, out-of- sequence logic, and statistics.
  • Check The Data Date: Verify that the report Data Date is correct for the current status.