Resource-constrained scheduling in the engineering-planning phase of Civil Engineering Projects

Potgieter, Izak Johann (2015-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Project planning and project scheduling have been the subject of scientific research for many years. Yet it is still common to hear of projects that wildly exceeded their budget and time estimations. Research indicates that large discrepancies still exist between project management theory and project management practice. It seems that the theories and techniques developed by academia have struggled to find their way into project management practice. There is a desperate need for industry specific research that can help bridge the gap between project scheduling theory and project scheduling in practice. In very few industries are project escalations as commonplace and severe as in the civil engineering sector. Civil engineering projects that exceed their deadline and/or budget estimations seem to be the norm rather than the exception. This dissertation therefore focussed on project scheduling in the civil engineering context. One specific phase of the engineering process received focus, namely the engineering-planning phase. The scheduling requirements of the engineering-planning phase were investigated, and the attributes of high quality baseline schedules defined. The dissertation took a critical look at whether the scheduling techniques used in practice, or the scheduling techniques proposed by academia can fulfil the rigorous demands of the engineering-phase. It became evident that both of these spheres fall short in this regard. Scheduling techniques used in practice are not optimised, and they ignore some of the most important project constraints. Academic scheduling techniques are not geared for projects of practical size, and the resulting schedules often lack resource-constrained critical paths. Neither of the two spheres pay much attention to the uncertainties that is inherent to the engineering-planning phase. A scheduling framework is introduced that aims to address these shortcomings. Two specific aspects required original work. Meta-heuristic scheduling techniques had to be adapted for projects of practical size, and slack centric resource allocation algorithms had to be developed. The relationship between the input parameters of meta-heuristics and project complexity is investigated, and a new slack maximisation resource allocation algorithm is presented. This dissertation therefore not only provides new insights into the scheduling requirements of the engineering-planning phase, but it also offers project managers with new tools and techniques to generate high quality baseline schedules.

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