Guidance To An Owner For Evaluating Monthly Schedule Updates Part 1: The Contractor’s Monthly Progress Reports

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Technical Insights by Erick Espinosa and Kent Winger, PE

The owner’s construction project scheduling specifications typically require the contractor to submit a baseline Critical Path Method (CPM) schedule and monthly progress updates to the CPM schedule. These specifications, in additional to many other items, set forth a list of required information, tabular reports, and Gantt charts that owners need to review and understand before approving these schedules.

An important item to include in the scheduling specifications is the requirement for the contractor to include a progress narrative report with each monthly CPM update. Monthly reports, if properly written, address the status of the job, the progress that occurred on the project over the last month, and any problems that might be delaying the critical path of the project. If the information is not accurate and/or not objectively presented, the owner should require a resubmittal. Monthly reports should include written descriptions of the following items:

  1. Work performed during the update period: Provide accurate dates for when activities started and completed during the month and describe what items of work in progress will extend into the next month’s reporting period.
  2. Milestone changes: Provide an explanation as to why contract milestone start and/or finish dates changed.
  3. Description of the current critical path: Provide a written description of the work activities comprising the critical path of the entire project as of the end of the monthly period.
  4. Changes to the critical path: If changes to durations, activities, or the critical path occur during the monthly period, provide an explanation as to the reasons for the changes.
  5. Changes in logic or sequences of work activities: Provide a list of added/deleted activities and duration changes and reasons for the changes. Describe changes to the schedule logic and predecessors and successors, and state the reasons why the contractor made the changes. This section may require the contractor to explain the basis for decisions to move crews to different work areas and/or resequence the work.
  6. Concerns and upcoming issues: Describe problem areas on the job, critical RFIs, change orders, submittals, new or ongoing delaying events, weather impacts, permit problems, and access issues. Address the implementation of mitigation and/or acceleration efforts. Describe all delaying events, whether they affect the critical path or not. The contractor should also address its own delays.
  7. Responses to previous schedule comments: The contractor should have reviewed the owner’s comments from the prior month and corrected this month’s CPM schedule or provide a response to the comments. The owner carefully reviews the update to verify that the prior month’s comments are addressed and that the schedule accurately reflects the status of the work.

Monthly progress reports are a critical part of the owner’s review of the contractor’s monthly CPM schedule updates and may be the only documents that provide a regular overview of the status and progress of the job. Owners should review the reports for accuracy and use the information to provide timely assistance with managing the scheduling concerns of the project.

For example, these narrative reports should identify tasks that occurred during the past month as these monthly schedules will eventually form the basis for an as-built schedule, which is usually a submittal requirement. Monthly updates may also be used to assist with the analysis of impacts from job problems if change order requests for time extensions are submitted. It is important to verify the accuracy of the as-built information in the monthly updates, including start and finish dates, and increased performance times with the reasons for the extended durations. This information can be verified using the as-built data from three-week look ahead schedules1 and an understanding of the events and issues being discussed at meetings and recorded in contemporaneous project documents, such as meeting minutes, correspondence, and emails.

Part 2 of this technical insight series will examine certain reports that can be generated by an owner using Primavera P6 that can assist with further evaluation of the monthly CPM schedule updates.

1A three-week look ahead schedule may be an Excel spreadsheet prepared by the on-site supervisor to assist with planning the work. It projects out for three weeks detailed work activities and usually includes a one week look back with actualized activity completion dates.