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Towards a better assessment of the durations in PERT Method

Towards a better assessment of the durations in PERT Method

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Published by ijcsis
During many years, two of the most popular approaches to the project management were used. It is about the critical path method (CPM) and the PERT method (Program and Evaluation Review Technique). They were based on modeling by digraphs. CPM is unaware of the stochastic nature of the activities and brings back the model to a deterministic model. PERT holds in account this case but the estimation of the activities is despoiled with several errors. In this paper, this technique is presented. It will be followed by an analysis, criticisms and new proposals to make corrections to this method.
During many years, two of the most popular approaches to the project management were used. It is about the critical path method (CPM) and the PERT method (Program and Evaluation Review Technique). They were based on modeling by digraphs. CPM is unaware of the stochastic nature of the activities and brings back the model to a deterministic model. PERT holds in account this case but the estimation of the activities is despoiled with several errors. In this paper, this technique is presented. It will be followed by an analysis, criticisms and new proposals to make corrections to this method.

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(IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security,Vol. 8, No. 9, December 2010
Towards a Better Assessment of the Durations inPERT Method
 Nasser Eddine MOUHOUB
1
Hocine
 
BELOUADAH
2 
and Abdelhak BOUBETRA
3
1
 
Computer science department Sétif University ALGERIA
Tel.: +213 771 64 98 17 Fax: +213 35 66 63 10Email:mouhoub_n@yahoo.fr  
2
 
Computer science department M'sila University ALGERIA
3
 
Computer science department Bordj Bou Arréridj University ALGERIA
 
 Abstract 
 — 
During many years, two of the mostpopular approaches to the project management were used.It is about the critical path method (CPM) and the PERTmethod (Program and Evaluation Review Technique). Theywere based on modeling by digraphs.CPM is unaware of the stochastic nature of the activities andbrings back the model to a deterministic model. PERT holdsin account this case but the estimation of the activities isdespoiled with several errors.In this paper, this technique is presented. It will be followedby an analysis, criticisms and new proposals to makecorrections to this method.
Keywords
Critical Path Method (CPM), PERT method, stochastic PERT.
I.
 
I
 NTRODUCTION
 To control the project is of paramount importance for organizations and is of utmost concern for the projectmanager confronted with a world economy where lowcosts and quality are the key words of the performance[1]. Since quality is not easily measurable, the main partof the research in control of project relate to the evolutionof the deadlines and the costs.Scheduling is located exactly in the planning phase of the project management. It carries out the operational follow-up: management of resources, follow-up of advance,launching of the activities. Technically, to schedule a project consists in programming in time the execution of the activities, while respecting the restrictions and so as tooptimize the selected criteria of performance. It is mainlyat this stage that interferes the scheduling techniques of the project presented as follows.The fundamental techniques of scheduling, largelyapplied and sustained by many scheduling commercialsystems, are well known such as the bar chart, the methodof the potentials (MPM) and the critical path method(CPM/PERT). A variety of special techniques was alsodeveloped to solve specific circumstances or issues. Withthe availability of more powerful computers and software,the use of the advanced techniques becomes of greater importance for the practice. In this paper, we shallexamine an extension of PERT, namely the probabilisticcase. We shall then, present an analysis and criticismfollowed by a whole of suggestions.II.
U
 NCERTAIN DURATIONSSCHEDULING
 
The PERT technique of three evaluations is a traditionaland a well-known approach for the evaluation experts.Evaluators suggest the optimistic, pessimistic and themost probable durations. Then, a probability distributionis established to adapt the data [2].It is however interesting to throw a critical glance onPERT method with three estimations to raise theinsufficiencies which hinder the prediction validity of thetool performance in a context of interdependence of the paths of PERT network and its effectiveness in thedecision-making in context of uncertainty upon the project.In this particular case of the projects, the performance will be measured via the virtuous triangle
«cost
– time – quality»
that 
the professionals still call
« Holy
Trinity
»
 
[3]. The performance of a project is thus measured interms of project realization time, of the project cost and itsquality.
A.
 Evaluation of activity durations in an uncertainenvironment 
The activity duration is the past time required for theachievement of this activity. According to [4], to assessthe duration is probably one of the most critical devices of CPM. Several reasons urge the project manager to departfrom the achievement of a rigid calendar.For this reason, PERT suggests an assessment techniqueof activities based on three evaluations of a given activityduration.[5] Explains that each of the three time evaluations presumes a static level of the resource use. Theseevaluations should be as good as possible because PERToutcomes depend directly on them. It is not easy to obtainaccurate evaluations. It will require research,collaboration with members of planning and realizationteam. These three evaluations should respond to thefollowing criteria:1)
The
 
optimistic time:
the period of minimum time sothat the activity is achieved, i.e. time that it would take for 
275http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ISSN 1947-5500
 
(IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security,Vol. 8, No. 9, December 2010
its achievement if all were better than anticipated (thisestimation is noted a).2) T
he
 
most sensitive time:
the best evaluation of the period of time when the activity can be achieved, the most probable i.e. (this estimation is noted
m
)3)
The
 
 pessimistic time:
the maximum period of time thatwould take the activity would take to be achieved, themost pessimistic i.e. (this estimation is noted
b
).These numbers (
a, b
and
m
 )
can be obtained, for example, by questioning the heads of workshops, building sites,laboratories, etc who carry out the activities.It is acceptable to state these evaluations in days, weeks,or month as a long as measurement is evenly used. Whenmade, the evaluations of the activity time are related andshould not be changed. The following reports/ratios of time must be respected:
a
 
m
 
b
Figure 1. Time distribution of the activities drawn from [ 6].
The relative values (positions) of 
a,
 
m
and
 
b
 
on eachdistribution, naturally, depends on the decision andcalculations of the appreciator. When established, their relative positions on the distribution affect the value or the position of the average time of the activity noted
e
 
whichis calculated as follows:If one knows the distributions of the activities durations,one can calculate the average duration and the variance for each activity. However, when one has no forwardstatistics, one can then call upon a frequency distribution
 f(x).
64)(
mba x E 
++=
 
;
22
6)(
 ⎠ ⎞⎝ ⎛ =
ab x
σ  
 
For each activity A, one determines the estimations of thequantities a, b, then m and one deduces from the previousformulas, the estimations of its average duration
 E(x)
andits variance
)(
2
 x
σ  
.
 
;
22
6)(
 ⎠ ⎞⎝ ⎛ =
ab x
σ  
 
 B. Example
Let us consider the following example
a, b, m
 
 beingknown for each activity, and that the following results areobtained:
 ACTIVITY 
a b m
 DURATION 
 P 
 REDECESSORS 
 
α
 ABCDEFGHIJ
ω
 073464132477001915402428727202825370013916127049571040013091813100411071012100
 ــ
 
α
 
α
 
α
 BBA,EC,ECDHFI,J,K 044369161169169250
E(x) V(x)
Table 1. List of the prior and the durations calculated from a, b and m.Figure 2. Activity on Nodes directed acyclic graph corresponding totable 1 with the critical path in boldface.
By using these average durations, the critical activities are
α 
,
C, G, J and
ω
 
The average duration of the project achievement is equalto the amount of the average durations of 
α 
, C, G, J and
 
ω
 
therefore:E (x) = 0+18+11+12 = 41.The variance is equal to the amount of the variancesof 
α 
,
C
,
G
,
J
 
and
 
ω 
thus:
σ
 2= 0 + 36 + 16 + 9 + 0 = 61The standard deviation
81,7)(
2
==
 x
σ  σ  
.The reduced centered value is calculated
a + 4m +b E(x)
=
 
α 
 ABCDEFGHIJ
ω
 000119914111111171
a + 4m +b
e
=
 
276http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ISSN 1947-5500
 
(IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security,Vol. 8, No. 9, December 2010
( )
 x x E  x
σ  
)(
=
 and one can find in a table of Laplace-Gauss the probability so that the project is carried out in a giventime, for example:
 Project duration
Centered reducedvalueProbability35t = (35-41)/7,81 =-0,76P(+t)=1-P(-t)P(-t)=1-P(+t)= 22,36 %37t = (37-41)/7,81 =-0,51P (-0,51) = 30,50%39t = (39-41)/7,81= -0,25P (-0,25) = 40,13%41 t= (41-41)/7,81= 0P (0) = 50 %43t= (43-41)/7,81=0,25P (0,25) = 59,87 %45t= (45-41)/7,81=0,51P (0,51) = 69,50 %47t= (47-41)/7,81=0,76P (0,76) = 77,64 %
Table 2. The probability recapitulation corresponding to each selectedtotal duration for the project.
III
 
D
RAWBAKS OF PERT APPROACH
One understands easily that if mistakes sully the sourcedata of PERT to knowing
a, b, m
 
they accuse the righter  probability to complement the project in time, taking intoaccount the systematic skew which they make in thecalculation of the expected total duration of the projectand its variance [7].In what follows is a general set of notes that seem to usfundamental and which blame the probabilistic approachof PERT.
 
 Potential errors related to the inaccuracy of theestimations (a), (b), and (m)
The estimation of the source data
(a), (
m)
 
and(
b)
of PERT is in general a challenge of size for the project manager. It is frequent to note that
(a), (
m)
 
and(
b)
are presented systematically in a symmetrical and aregular form, the kind of 20, 30, 40. For solving this problem, certain authors suggested to replace the absolutevalues
(a)
and
(b)
in percent of orders 5% and 95%respectively or 10% and 90%. From where a source of error [2]By considering the possibility of having incorrectestimations, it seems less certain to obtain the accurate parameters of the supposed beta distribution of theactivities duration.Obviously, the estimation depends on the experiment of the responsible person. The estimations can beimprobably optimistic or pessimists taking into accountthe human factor or of the subjectivity which surroundsthem. Besides, the relationship between the experiencegained in similar projects management on the one handand the quality of the estimations of the activities durationof an innovative project on the other hand, is perhaps notstrong. For all this, it is necessary to add the risk of thedurations’ inflation by the manager who wants to givehimself a rather broad safety margin.
 
 Determinism in the determination of thecritical path
The determination of the critical path in PERT relates tothe expected durations of the activities so that thestochastic element, as to the variance of the activitiesdurations, is taken into account only at the end of theanalysis in the probability calculus in order to finish the project in time [8]. As a result, the analysis of the critical path is reduced to a deterministic form such as in CPM: adeterminism which hinders the probability of PERT [4].As a consequence, the total duration of PERT project is ingeneral smaller and never larger than the real duration of the project at time
. Indeed, «the delays caused by theunforeseen and unfavorable winds, are often longer thanthe advances due to the good luck or a zephyr collaborator» [9]. The hoped total duration of the projectin PERT in general undergoes a skew towards the left of the distribution thus towards the optimistic time. It iswhat makes to say to Soroush [10] that the traditionalapproach in conventional PERT is unaware of the fact thatthe probability of the activities durations gives goodchances to a range of paths to become potentially criticaland so led to an estimation rather excessively optimisticof the probability of achieving the project in time. It isthus another source of error.Archibald et al. [11] show that the critical path determinedin PERT being not necessarily the longest, therefore notnecessarily critical. In other words, the critical pathdetermined in PERT does not include necessarily thecritical activities, the latter which are supposed to be theonly ones which attract the attention of the projectmanager if he wants to avoid any delay in the achievementof the project. It is also another source of error.
 
The interdependence of the paths or therelationship of the paths
Two or several ways can share shared activities.They are interdependent or are thus correlated. The waysof the network are thus not always independent from the point of view of their duration, such as presupposed byPERT in the determination of the critical path.Consequently, if a path has a very great duration, the other  paths with which it shares activities could also have a longduration [5]
 
 Potential errors related to the assumption of  Beta distribution
One of the fundamental assumptions of PERT is Betadistribution of the activities duration (fig. 3.).
277http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ISSN 1947-5500

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