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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.