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CRITICAL PATH METHOD

The Critical Path Method, abbreviated CPM, or critical path analysis, is a mathematically based algorithm for scheduling a set of project activities. It is a very important tool for effective project management. It was developed in the 1950s in a joint venture between u!ont "orporation and #emington #and "orporation for managing plant maintenance projects. Today, it is commonly used with all forms of projects, including construction, software development, research projects, product development, engineering, and plant maintenance, among others. $ny project with interdependent activities can apply this method of scheduling. The essential techni%ue for using "!& is to construct a model of the project that includes the following' 1. $ list of all activities re%uired to complete the project (also )nown as *or) brea)down structure+, ,.The time (duration+ that each activity will ta)e to completion, and -.The dependencies between the activities. .sing these values, "!& calculates the longest path of planned activities to the end of the project, and the earliest and latest that each activity can start and finish without ma)ing the project longer. This process determines which activities are /critical/ (i.e., on the longest path+ and which have /total float/ (i.e., can be delayed without ma)ing the project longer+. In project management, a critical path is the se%uence of project networ) activities which add up to the longest overall duration. This determines the shortest time possible to complete the project. $ny delay of an activity on the critical path directly impacts the planned project completion date (i.e. there is no float on the critical path+. $ project can have several, parallel, near

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allows the project manager to trac) the critical activities. 3riginally. using the !rogram 6valuation and #eview Techni%ue (!6#T+ and event chain methodology. as estimations are used to calculate times' if one mista)e is made.e.critical paths.e. This could 2 . $ schedule generated using critical path techni%ues often is not reali1ed precisely. In addition. through processes called /activity0based resource assignments/ and /resource leveling/. by / fast tracking/ (i. it has been e5panded to allow for the inclusion of resources related to each activity. and to shorten the planned critical path of a project by pruning critical path activities. shortening the durations of critical path activities by adding resources+. the method can easily incorporate the concepts of stochastic predictions. "!& allows continuous monitoring of the schedule. see list of project management software. there are several software solutions available in industry that use the "!& method of scheduling. thus creating a new critical path and delaying project completion. These results allow managers to prioriti1e activities for the effective management of project completion.e. "urrently. performing more activities in parallel+. unavailability of a resource at the re%uired time+. $n additional parallel path through the networ) with the total durations shorter than the critical path is called a sub0critical or non0critical path. and may cause a previously shorter path to become the longest or /resource critical/ path. 4ince then. the critical path method considered only logical dependencies between terminal elements. and alerts the project manager to the possibility that non0critical activities may be delayed beyond their total float. the method was developed and used without the aid of computers. the results of the analysis may change. which attempts to protect activity and project durations from unforeseen delays due to resource constraints. 4ince project schedules change on a regular basis. and2or by /crashing the critical path/ (i... $ resource0leveled schedule may include delays due to resource bottlenec)s (i. 7owever.. $ related concept is called the critical chain.

4oftware is now available which re%uires the user only to enter the tas)s. an important element of project postmortem analysis is the $s 8uilt "ritical !ath ($8"!+.g. etc. then the project becomes a comple5 web of activities. and if changes are not addressed promptly. a degree of tolerance is possible (e. the structure of critical path analysis is such that the variance from the original schedule caused by any change can be measured. Indeed.. "!& is for projects that are made up of a number of individual /activities. duration of each tas) and dependencies upon other tas)s< a networ) chart and "!& is then automatically created./ meaning that they have to be done on time or else the whole project will ta)e longer 3 .+. *hy "!&9 The CPM formally identifies tas)s which must be completed on time for the whole project to be completed on time Identifies which tas)s can be delayed for a while if resource needs to be reallocated to catch up on missed tas)s It helps you to identify the minimum length of time needed to complete a project The "!& determines both the early start and the late start date for each activity in the schedule. "!& can help you figure out' • • how long your comple5 project will ta)e to complete which activities are /critical. and its impact either ameliorated or adjusted for.cause an upset in the implementation of a project if the estimates are blindly believed. unless action is ta)en. late completion. 6arly start. 7owever. The "ritical !ath &ethod ("!&+ is one of several related techni%ues for doing project planning. which analy1es the specific causes and impacts of changes between the planned schedule and eventual schedule as actually implemented *hat is the CPM CPM9 Critical Path Method (CPM ! is a procedure for using networ) analysis to identify those tas)s which are on the critical path' ie where any delay in the "ompletion of these tas)s will lengthen the project Timescale.etwor) charts and "!& analysis used to be carried out by hand. late start./ If some of the activities re%uire other activities to finish before they can start. :or all tas)s off the critical path.

you need to )now which other 4 . E%a&ple '( Acti"ities! precedence! and ti&es This first e5ample involves activities. The steps will be illustrated by two e5amples. and how much it costs to speed up each activity. It gets something done.If you put in information about the cost of each activity. :or each activity. their precedence (which activities come before other activities+. E%a&ple ' #tep '( List the acti"ities "!& analysis starts when you have a table showing each activity in your project. you also have to )now these things about each activity' • a cost to complete • a shorter time to complete on a crash basis • the higher cost of completing it on a crash basis "!& analysis starts after you have figured out all the individual activities in your project. Acti"ities $n activity is a specific tas). and. CPM Analysis #teps! $y E%a&ple This document describes the steps for doing "!& analysis for this course. "!& can help you figure out' • whether you should try to speed up the project. if so. $n activity can have these properties' • names of any other activities that have to be completed before this one can start • a projected normal time duration If you want to do a speedup cost analysis. so that you can follow the steps yourself when you do the homewor). and the times the activities ta)e. The objective is to identify the critical path and figure out how much time the whole project will ta)e. • what is the least costly way to speed up the project. I recommend that you wor) through the e5amples.

>. Aou connect the nodes with arrows or /arcs/ that represent the activities that are listed in the above table. and how long the activity ta)es. : "ost analysis " > !roduct testing ? 7 4ales training 8. !roduct model $ 6 4ales brochure $ . The analysis method we=ll be using re%uires an /activity0on0arc/ ($3$+ diagram. I !ricing 7 1 @ !roject report :. 7ere=s the e5ample' Activity Description Required Predecessor Duration $ !roduct design (. This can be tric)y. 6 .activities must be done before it starts. 5 .one+ 5 months 8 &ar)et research (. Aou ma)e up the nodes= numbers as you construct the diagram.one+ 1 " !roduction analysis $ . $n $3$ diagram has numbered /nodes/ that represent stages of project completion. I 1 E%a&ple ' #tep )( Dra* the diagra& raw by hand a networ) diagram of the project that shows which activities follow which other ones.

Don't do this. *hen designing these diagrams. wor) in pencil.that 8 did.4ome conventions about how to draw these diagrams' • • $ll activities with no predecessor come off of node 1. 7 then comes off of node . If there were more than one activity with successor. which has to have highest node number. In this e5ample. $ and 8 are the two activities that have no precedessor. I had to erase my first 6 arrow and redraw it so it pointed to the same node . I had later drawn an arrow for activity 6 coming off node . I had drawn an arrow for activity 8 coming off node 1 and going to mode -. The tric)iest part for me of building the above diagram was figuring what to do with activity 7. and going to node C. @ is the one activity that has no successor. 6 . 4tudents sometimes ma)e the mista)e of creating a diagram with several starting or ending nodes. all of those activities= arrows point to the highest number node. in this e5ample. $ll activities with no successor point to the last node. They are represented as arrows leading away from node 1. It therefore points to the last node. 4ince 7 re%uires both 8 and 6. which is node B.and goes to node C.

type each activity=s end node 00 where the head of its arrow is. Then. type the names of the activities. That way you can switch from one to the other by pressing $ltDTab. type the time each activity ta)es. To the right. #ather than purchase and learn one of those.+ In row -.E%a&ple ' #tep +( #et . &ista)es here mess up everything that follows.. type the word /$ctivities/ in cell $1. In cell $C. If you are viewing this document on the web. In row ?. type in each activity=s start node 00 where the tail of its arrow is. In row F. in E. in row 5. type /Times/. o this carefully. select the range of cells containing the node numbers 7 . or their letters. 4tart up a new blan) spreadsheet. In a blan) spreadsheet. minimi1e your browser window and then start Excel.p the CPM spreadsheet There are speciali1ed commercial programs for doing "!& analysis. In row . type the words /4tart/ and /6nd/ to label those rows. and E-. Aou do not have to do this. I set the column widths to ?.odes/. type /. *e will use one freeware program written for this course and made available to you through the Internet. (To ma)e my spreadsheet screen shots fit better on these pages. 8elow that. we=ll leverage the spreadsheet )nowledge we already have.

$ 6 7 I @. ("lic) in the te5t area and press "trlDH or 4hiftDInsert. E%a&ple ' #tep -( .+ 8 . *hen !athfind is loaded' 1. $ " : @. which is a @ava applet that runs inside your browser. #ather than do this all by hand. .. "lic) in !athfind=s upper te5t area.and copy it to the clipboard. start up your Internet connection and your browser Goading this html file into your browser starts !athfind. we=ll get !athfind help do it. This diagram shows the four possible paths in this e5ample. !aste the range you just copied from your spreadsheet into that upper te5t area. Aou could do this by hand. The four paths are $ > @. To use !athfind. *e=ll code them in the spreadsheet with a matri5 of 0=s and 1=s. and 8 7 I @. of course.se Pathfind to get the paths !athfind is a computer program that helps you find and enter into the spreadsheet all of the possible paths through your diagram along the arrows from the first node to the last.

E%a&ple ' #tep /( Paste the path infor&ation into yo. "opy the highlighted numbers to the clipboard for pasting later into your spreadsheet. :.+ Aou can now close the !athfind web page.-. 6ach row represents a path. row 9 (cells $9'@9+ has 1=s under activities $. This corresponds to 9 . This says that this path includes activities $. ?.r spreadsheet *hen you=re done with !athfind. "lic) on !athfind=s button. ("trlD" or "trlDInsert copies what is highlighted. :or e5ample. !athfind=s lower te5t area will give you a bloc) of numbers. The 1=s indicate which activities are in that particular path. Type /!aths/ in that cell. Then move the cell selector to $9. ". and @. &ove your cell selector to cell $B. to see this' The pasted cells are all 0=s and 1=s. and @. all highlighted so you can copy them. as shown here' !aste to that cell. go bac) to your spreadsheet. ". if you wish. :.

Luattro !ro' M4. the number 11 should appear in E9. this has the effect of selecting the times from row F that go with the activities represented in row F. That=s the time it would ta)e to complete activities $. 10 . then paste it to E9'E1.. 0"0I ? 0:0I F 0@0I B.the path through the middle of the diagram that goes' 1 0$0I . one row for each path. *hen you enter the formula. This formula multiplies each entry in row 9 by the corresponding entry in row F. !athfind gives you four rows of 0=s and 1=s. The K signs in the formula see to it that each path=s 1=s are multiplied by the corresponding numbers in row F."T($9'@9. :. Aou can verify that $ ta)es 5 months.K$KF'K@KF+ in that cell. ".late the paths1 ti&es &ove the cell selector to E9. " ta)es .&!#3 . for a total of 11. 8ecause the entries in row 9 are all 0=s and 1=s..K$KF'K@KF+. !ut J4. and adding all those times. The diagram above shows four paths from node 1 to node B. (If you are doing a CPM proble of your o!n" odify t#e for ula so t#at t#e ranges cover t#e colu ns you actually #ave$ %#is advice applies to all t#e for ulas !#ic# follo!$& To fill in the other paths= times. and @.&!#3 . and @ ta)es 1. : ta)es -. E%a&ple ' #tep 0( Calc. 4ure enough. copy cell E9."T($9'@9.

E%a&ple ' #tep 2( Identify the critical path The critical path is the path that ta)es the longest. which ta)es 1. 11 .$K.+ is shown in the cell.$K. >. In this e5ample. This Jif($9J1. $s managers. go to cell $1?.//+. Luattro !ro' Mif($9J1. The first e5pression ($9J1+ is something that can be either true or false. in row 9=s path.$K. The letter $ should appear in cell $1?. .. If the e5pression is true. Type Jif($9J1. the project will be late. if everything is done on schedule with no delays. To ma)e it easier to see what activities are in each path. activity ". :or e5ample..//+ there. and @ are done on time. can ta)e up to two e5tra wee)s and not hold up the project. the critical path is the one in row 10. the second e5pression ($K. 0 0I ? 0>0I F 0@0I B. 3therwise.wee)s. The time a project ta)es is e%ual to the time of its critical path. If any of those activities is late.wee)s. the third e5pression (//+ is shown in the cell. The 1=s in row 10 tell us that the critical path is 1 0$0I . we must be sure that activities $..//+ function wor)s this way' Inside the parentheses are three e5pressions separated by commas. The project will therefore ta)e 1. 3ther paths are not critical because they can waste some time without slowing the project.

Then. =MAX(K9:K12) 12 . the e5pression $9J1 is true. If $9 had not contained a 1. ma)e sure that there is one K in your formula.ow you can see which activities are in each path. so the cell shows what is in $. Then go to cell E1-.In $1?. !aste. and that it=s in front of the . Type to display the longest path time. the $1? would have shown a blan). >o to cell @1. If your results do not loo) li)e the above. select a range of cells that goes over to column @ and down four rows. which is what // means. and not in front of the $. The selected range should be the same si1e as the space that the paths= 1=s and 0=s ta)e up. "opy $1? to the clipboard. which is the letter /$/.and type /&a5/.. Aou should get this' . starting in $1?.

This will put the word /"ritical/ ne5t to a path whose time e%uals the ma5imum of all the path times./"ritical/. "opy E1? to the clipboard. and 13 .in E1-.+ 4elect cells E1? to E1F. because the 11 in E9 does not e%ual the 1.//+ there. 3therwise. it will put in a blan). as it does here. but do it anyway. (It will seem strange to copy what appears to be an empty cell.&ove to cell E1? and type JI:(E9JEK1-.

Aou=re doneN Aou=ve found the time the project will ta)e.paste. 14 . and you have identified the critical path. which tells you which activities must be done on time to ma)e the project finish in the least time.