Project Management: Staying on Schedule

Staying on Schedule

We talk to many companies that have been highly focused on their budget while leaving their schedule in the background. Inevitably, when the schedule starts to slip, it ends up taking the budget with it.

When I’m planning a project, I’m working toward a milestone or deadline. To ensure the projects stays on track for both budget and schedule, it’s critical to look ahead and plan how to achieve the results, but I’ll also work backward from the deadline with the completed result and block the lead-times needed to achieve that result.

It may seem obvious, but I’ll admit, it’s easy to forget about long-term planning when you’re head-down and hard at work, which is why it’s a good reminder.

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On a typical day, big-ticket items like “injection molding” probably eat up 2-3 months to build the tool and get parts while PCB fabrication might only need 2-3 weeks. I leave these as conservative estimates because they’re outside our control. We also want to leave room for unexpected design iterations or supply chain delays.

Expedite the Schedule Gently

Going through this process, I’ve identified how tasks fit together and how to ‘Expedite Gently’ so we’re not trying to Save the Day (and burn the budget) near the end. “Expediting” could mean paying an “expedite” fee for faster delivery, but more often it means:

  • Making different choices
  • Pushing off non-essential features
  • Or adding more people to the project.

We have an extensive prototyping workshop so we do have more control over some lead-times, but that’s really more about being able to jump the “queue” and iterate quickly, rather then actually making the parts faster.

Recognizing the need to expedite as early as possible reduces uncertainty and gives an opportunity to make thoughtful choices rather than working late nights.

Author: Chad Schneider, P.E.