Construction schedulers are the real heroes behind every construction project. They make sure everything lines up right, from people to materials. It’s a tough job, ensuring everything runs smoothly from start to finish.
But here’s the hitch: Too often, you often pull your best field employees and managers into scheduling because they know the work. While that’s valuable, scheduling is a different beast. It’s not just about knowing construction; it’s about planning, tracking and most importantly, communication.
The Career Path of a Construction Scheduler
Often, it’s a high-performing field leader who gets promoted to the role of scheduler-dispatcher. It makes sense:
A scheduler needs to understand the field inside and out. They need to know who’s skilled at what, how long tasks take and what equipment is necessary for each project. Usually, this person has been a foreman or a superintendent, skilled in overseeing field operations.
Experience in the field is a powerful asset. Workers who have spent years on jobsites know the ins and outs of construction. They have seen challenges firsthand and found ways to overcome them. It’s natural to think that this hands-on knowledge would be a perfect fit for scheduling.
But here’s where you might miss the mark: A construction scheduler’s day is not like that of a foreman. Instead of hands-on communication at a single site, schedulers juggle many projects over vast areas. They often find themselves in a whirlwind of calls, communications and ad hoc decision-making.
The most important aspect of scheduling is seeing the bigger picture. You must juggle timelines, available resources and unexpected changes.
The Glorified Babysitter
The way the industry manages information now creates multiple pitfalls for the scheduler.
The situation on a construction project can change multiple times a day. Yesterday’s clear path might be today’s obstacle, whether due to unexpected weather conditions, material shortages or other unforeseen conditions.
Information might be passed through daily paperwork, phone calls and unorganized text messages. This can lead to important updates getting lost, misunderstood or not reaching the right people in time. A delay in relaying a simple message can set back a project by days.
In the rush of a busy day, many schedulers rely on their memory or quickly jotted notes. It’s even worn as a badge of honor; they can remember the locations of all 100-plus pieces of equipment in their fleet and/or employees. The thing is, it’s easy to forget something or to lose track of critical information. Vital details can be overlooked, leading to miscommunications, missed deadlines and potential cost overruns. In a sense, they become glorified babysitters, constantly fielding calls for basic information, such as: Where is a piece of equipment? What is the address? Who should I call? When is it arriving? Who am I working with?
As one construction scheduler shared, his life became an endless series of phone calls. From 4 a.m. until 10 p.m., he was the living conduit for information across the whole company. While the job was exciting and challenging, he found himself missing family dinners, kids’ games and life changes. There was always one more fire to put out, one more piece of information that needed to be relayed to the right person.
In essence, your schedulers, despite their expertise, are often set up for failure by outdated methods. It’s not a lack of skill, but a lack of updated tools and processes that is the real hurdle. This is how an experienced scheduler can turn into a “glorified babysitter,” chasing down people and equipment all day.
The Need for Proper Training & Tools
With the right tools and training, a construction scheduler’s job can transform from chaotic to streamlined. While field experience is valuable, specialized training focused on scheduling is vital. Workshops, seminars or courses can provide schedulers with the skills to anticipate issues, optimize resources and develop efficient timelines.
Beyond training, what your schedulers need are the proper tools for the job. Technology is revolutionizing every industry, including construction. Digital scheduling tools can help track tasks, allocate resources and communicate changes in real time. These tools replace scribbled notes, scattered group text messages and memory with concrete, accessible data. A centralized platform where all teams can update their progress, make requests or ask questions can make a world of difference. It ensures everyone is on the same page, reducing misunderstandings and improving overall efficiency.
The Strategic Scheduler
Armed with the proper tools and training, the role of the construction scheduler evolves drastically. Instead of scrambling to solve problems as they arise, schedulers can anticipate them, devising strategies to either avoid or mitigate the issues. With real-time data and analytics at their fingertips, schedulers can make informed decisions based on actual data, not their memory. This not only ensures a smooth process, but also optimal resource usage.
A more organized and transparent scheduler facilitates better communication across all teams. Everyone knows their tasks, deadlines and any changes that might arise. More than just managing timelines, a well-supported scheduler becomes a strategic asset to the company. Their insights, derived from data and experience, can guide project strategies, leading to consistent success.
For the overextended scheduler mentioned earlier, this meant more than just making his job easier. With all the key information accessible across the company, he was able to shift his focus to improving efficiency in the field. He could bring his years of experience to make the company more productive, safe and profitable. And best of all, he was able to spend quality time with his family without constant phone calls and texts.
Construction schedulers play a pivotal role in the success of every company. Their expertise, honed from years in the field, combined with their ability to plan and coordinate, is unmatched. Yet, traditional methods and outdated tools have often restricted their full potential.
It’s time you recognize the importance of this role and provide your schedulers with the resources they truly need and deserve. By moving away from reactive practices and embracing a proactive approach, you can ensure smoother project timelines, reduced costs and an overall more efficient construction process.
By freeing up your schedulers from the babysitter role, you can make a difference for the individual and the entire company. Let’s free up these team members to put their experience and wisdom to work, and set them, and your company, up for success.