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Typical Primavera P6 Settings for a Construction Schedule













1. General Comments

Very often estimates (some of these containing a very substantial number of activities) are created and maintained with the “incorrect” settings for the schedule, resulting in a schedule that’s effectively unusable. It is then little wonder that project managers when given a copy of their project’s schedule will dismiss it and either chuck it under a pile of papers to be forgotten or straight away feed it to the shredder.


The schedule is a very important project controls tool, but it has to be done right and communicated to relevant parties effectively. Otherwise it’s simply wasted time and effort.


And to be fair to the type of project managers referenced above, they being usually intimately familiar with their own project, a schedule that is not correct or has serious deficiencies will of course be disregarded.


Below are some considerations which are often encountered when reviewing third party schedules e.g. schedules received from  Contractors.



2. Calendar

An incorrect calendar assigned the schedule activities is actually (a bit surprisingly) a very common mistake. Case scenario: a schedule is put together on the construction site. Let’s assume that the site works 6 days a week. Hence the scheduler defines the default schedule calendar accordingly. However the problem arises when the scheduler forgets to change the calendar to some specific activities. For example: an activity for “curing of concrete” would need a 7 day calendar. While “review of drawings” at the head office will likely need a 5 day calendar.



3. Define the Activity


Primavera gives the user many different options in the way the schedule is defined and calculations are made. This is generally a good thing, but it can lead to mistakes.


Below we will cover typical schedule settings for an EPC project. The user is however encouraged to question the following settings and change as necessary to better suit his particular needs.



3.1 Activity Type


This will be “Task Dependent” for activities with a duration and “Start Milestone” or “Finish Milestones” for milestones (activities of no duration).



3.2 Duration Type


Most often this will be “Fixed Duration & Units”. Though of course this depends whether the type of activity and whether this is resource loaded. However for most instances (and if in doubt as to what duration type to use) this setting is recommended.



3.3 Define Activity Percent Complete Types




Go to the “% Complete Type” list box and select “Physical”. This means that the activity's percent complete will be entered manually by the user for this activity. In this case, Activity % Complete = Physical % Complete.




To specify that the activity's percent complete be calculated from the original or planned and remaining durations, select Duration. In this case, Activity % Complete = Duration % Complete = (Original or Planned Duration – Remaining Duration), Original or Planned Duration.


To specify that the activity's percent complete be calculated from the actual and remaining units, select Units. In this case, Activity % Complete = Units % Complete = (Actual Labor Units + Actual Nonlabor Units), (Actual Labor Units + Actual Nonlabor Units +Remaining Labor Units + Remaining Nonlabor Units).



Figure 01: % Complete Type, "Physical".



3.4 Expected Finish Dates


It is recommended to make use of the “Expected Finish” list box *for activities that have already started*. Otherwise when updating the activities these will shift sideways along with the new data date shift with a revised activity duration.


Also make sure the “Use Expected Finish Dates” check box is selected in the Schedule Options dialog.


Figure 02: Activity Status, Expected Finish list box.



Figure 03: Schedule Options, "Use of Expected Finish Dates" and "Progress Override".



3.5 Progress Override


Within the “Schedule Option” dialog select below the “When scheduling progressed activities use” text the “Progress Override” button. However this recommendation is made with a bit of caution: there are very valid considerations for use of either “Retained Logic” or “Actual Dates”, but generally “Progress Override” is more suitable in more cases.


For example the issue with using “Retained Logic” lies that many schedules often have very poor logic and activities progress seriously out of pace with what would be expected if following the logic and attempting to progress the schedule with this option magnifies the issues from the schedule’s poor logic.



3.6 Conclusion


There are many different options to select from within the Primavera P6 program. Above we briefly discussed some recommended options to start with especially if in doubt. But ultimately unless already familiar with the options being selected it is encouraged to follow the scheduling golden rule:


- “When in doubt, test the schedule!”


That is, put together a very small test case schedule composed of simply a couple of activities and test the impact of changing the various options.


It is a bit surprising to find so many schedules used in projects that have some of the fundamental problems as already discussed. Some thinking and testing will go a long ways to producing good, solid schedules, that will be useful, accurate, and be respected by the PM and other users as opposed to the schedule just being another piece of (very expensive) paper.


Link to related articles:


Schedule Quality Assessment)

Planning and Scheduling and QA Checklist


Comparison between MS Project and P6

MS Project vs. Primavera P6

Typical Primavera P6 Settings

P6 vs. MS Project

The two contenders. But which one is better?

An “armchair scheduler” or frontline messenger?

Progressing a Primavera P6 schedule.

Progressing a Schedule
Why Project Controls

Selected Articles


Love them or hate them. How to conduct successful productive meetings.

Funny, but true. Video on the functions of Project Controls.


Settings do matter: pick the wrong settings and your schedule’s output will be meaningless.

What the text books didn’t tell you
Primavera P6 Settings
Video - Project Controls

Selected Articles

Tips on Scheduling

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