Fast Tracking and Crashing – Schedule Compression Techniques in Time Management

Fast-Tracking-Crashing-Schedule-Compression-Techniques

There are many reasons you may want to compress the schedule.

The first reason is that your project is late, and you are running corner to corner to bring your project back on track.

Another reason may be that you intentionally want to shorten the duration of the project, although your project is on track. To bring the project on schedule you will use schedule compression techniques such as fast tracking and crashing.

A delay in the project may happen due to many reasons, such as:

  • Schedule was unrealistic
  • You did not get the promised resources
  • Any unforeseen incidents occurred
  • Due to force majeure

Other times it might happen that, although you are on track, you want to compress the schedule because:

  • The client wants to complete the project early.
  • You see an opportunity to get another project if you are able complete the project early.
  • Your competitor is about to launch a new product; therefore you have to hasten to launch your product sooner.

So you see there are many cases in which you will want to compress your schedule.

In project management you can use two techniques, i.e. fast tracking, and crashing, to shorten the schedule when no change in scope is required.

These are important techniques in project management, and you must be aware of them. Also they are very important from a PMP exam point of view. You may see a few questions from this topic on the exam; therefore, understand these techniques well.

Okay let’s get started.

Fast-Tracking

In fast tracking, you review the critical path to find out which sequential activities can be performed parallel or partially parallel to each other.

It is important to understand that you will review the activities on the critical path only, because on other paths, activities have floats. There is no need to shorten the duration of those activities; if you do so, you are only giving those activities more float.

Moreover, you also need to check other paths whose durations are near the critical path duration, because if the duration of your current critical path becomes shorter than any other path, it will no longer be a critical path. If any other path has a duration equal to the critical path, it will be very risky for the project because you now have to manage two critical paths.

Once you find out which activities can be fast tracked, you will start working on them to reduce the schedule.

The benefit of fast tracking is that it does not cost you any extra money; however, it comes with some increase in risks, because you are performing many activities in parallel which were originally planned in sequence.

Usually sequential activities can sometime be fast tracked by 33%. This mean if the previous activity is 66% completed, you can start next activity. Here, both activities will be partially overlapped. Although it will increase the risk, the level of risk impact will be within acceptable limits.

Fast tracking helps you reduce the duration of the schedule up to some limits; if you continue to fast track after this limit, it may increase the risk and cause possible rework.

Schedule Fast Tracking

Example

Let’s say that you are constructing a school building. Construction work is almost completed, and the next step is to start carpentry work, then electrical work, and so on.

When you review your schedule you see that you are behind schedule, and therefore you have to move faster so you can complete the project on time.

As the construction work has been completed, you will review the carpentry and electrical work and see if these activities can be performed in parallel.

Once you have identified activities, you will apply the fast tracking. In the given example, you will start the electrical work, and you will also call the carpenter to start the carpentry work at the same time.

Crashing

Crashing is another schedule compression technique where you add extra resources to the project to compress the schedule.

In crashing, you will review the critical path and see which activities can be completed by adding extra resources. You try to find the activities that can be reduced the most by adding the least amount of cost. Once you find those activities, you will apply the crashing technique to them.

While doing crashing, you will keep tab of the other paths as well, because it is also possible that the duration of other paths could become equal to the duration of your critical path.

When you start this schedule compression process, initially you will get more reduction in duration with less cost input; however, as you continue with this process, the cost increases at a very fast rate with a smaller reduction in time.

A few examples of crashing techniques are:

  • Giving overtime
  • Bringing more resources
  • Motivating team members with monetary rewards

In schedule crashing, you do whatever it takes to shorten the duration. However, note that you cannot apply this technique to all activities. For example, in concrete work you have to wait until the concrete dries before you can start your next activity.

Schedule Crashing

Example

Let’s say you are constructing room walls for the school building. As per your duration estimate, it will take four days for two masons to complete this task.

Now, you have to reduce the duration of this activity through crashing. Hence, to complete this activity ahead of the planned date, you will add two more masons so that this task can be completed within two days.

Difference Between Fast Tracking and Crashing

The following are a few differences between fast tracking and crashing:

  • In fast tracking, activities are re-planned to perform in parallel or partially parallel, while in crashing you add additional resources to the activities to finish them early.
  • Fast tracking does not cost you extra money; on the other hand crashing costs you extra money.
  • Fast tracking increases risks; however, in crashing there is no significant increase in risks.

When Should You Use Fast Tracking or Crashing?

This depends on the situation and requirements. For example, if the client wants you to complete the project earlier and is ready to pay for the additional cost, you will go for crashing.

However if the project is delayed due to some unforeseen conditions and you have to bring the project back on schedule, you will go for fast tracking because it does not require extra money.

There is another case: when you may have to pay a penalty to the client for any delay. Here you will compare the cost of the penalty with the cost of crashing, and if this analysis shows you that it is better to go with crashing, you will go for it.

You may also do crashing if your project is delayed and the company’s image is at stake.

Generally speaking, when you start compressing the schedule you start with fast tracking, because this process does not require additional costs. Once you’re done with fast tracking, you try crashing if necessary.

Summary

Fast tracking and crashing are two schedule compression techniques that help you shorten the duration of your project. Fast tracking does not involve any cost but it increases risks. On the other hand, crashing does not introduce much risk but it is a costly affair. With crashing it is also possible that you will not yield an effective work output because you may not get skilled resources, and even if you get them, it takes some time for them to settle down. You cannot bring a bunch of people together and expect them to perform immediately. Therefore, perform due diligence before going for crashing, because sometimes it may increase the cost significantly with a poor reduction in schedule compression.

Here is where this blog post on fast tracking and crashing in project scheduling compression techniques ends, and I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have something to share, you can do so through the comments section.

image credit => FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. Bada says

    Awesome i got the explanation. Great to have people like you on the face of earth.God will continue to increase your Knowledge and Understanding.

    Bada.

  2. Taofeeq says

    Am really understand the explaination. Thanks so much, may alimighy God continue to bless you.

  3. venkat says

    Hi,

    I have one question regarding crashing will increase the cost of the activity.

    I have an activity in which two guys are working and it would take 4 days to complete the work. The charge for these guys is say $100 per day. So for 4 days it will take $800. Now if I add two more resource and now four guys can complete the same work in 2 days. Still the cost is same $800.

    I have used crashing technique to do schedule compression but the cost has remained same. Where is the cost increase..

    Venkat

    • Fahad Usmani says

      It is not always possible that if a job can be finished by 2 guys in 4 days, you add 2 more guys and job is finished in 2 days.

      Why?

      Because there is always a decay in efficiency in performance if you bring more guys to the activity to complete task sooner.

      I mean, if 2 guys finish a job in 10 days, then 4 guy may finish this job in either 5 days or 6 days. It is not always true that they will finish the job in 5 days.

      It may also be possible that the new guys may have the less skill than the guys you have because your old guys have a experience in handling the task and are selected just because of that.

      Moreover, since you are bringing new guys in hurry, you may have to pay them higher than they guys already working on your project.

      Also, assume that you have 2 heavy equipment with you. Since you want to finish this job early, you are renting two more equipment from open market, which will cost you a lot.

      Same is true for consumables, you may end up purchasing them at higher price.

      There is also a chance of rework…

      Point is, there are many possibilities that can increase the cost. It is just not only the human resource, there are others factors impacting it as well…

      • Muhammad Irfan says

        on the question/proposal of venkat , i want to comment an example ……….
        One Woman can give a child birth / produce one baby in nine months, now 9 women jointly can’t produce one baby in one month.
        So, depends on nature of work and way of work.

    • Fahad Usmani says

      It depends on many factors, such as duration of the activity, duration of successor and predecessor activity, its relationship with other activities, resource available with you and finally whether the activity can be crashed or not.

      There is no universal answer to this question as the project manager has to take decision based on many things…

  4. Daniel Koshy says

    Hello All
    Can someone please share their thoughts for this one?
    I don’t want to type in the entire question, but basically you are under budget and 3 weeks behind schedule. After an EAC assessment, your values are ($450,000) and it will require 4 more weeks to complete the project. What should you do?
    a)crash b) fast track (the other 2 options are goldplate and outsource..ridiculous I know)

    I picked a) crash, because I thought since you are under budget, its not a constraint for you, you can add in more resources, more experts..whatever the money can afford you to complete the project sooner, with the advantage of lesser risk as compared to the correct answer of b) fast track. But doesn’t fast track introduce more risk?

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Even if you are under budget, you will first look for fast tracking because it saves money. If it is not possible, you will go crashing.

  5. Lax says

    Hi Fahad,

    All of your blog post are very nice and clear.

    Compare to other blog posts, I think you forgot to elaborate Risk while Fastrack and Rework while Crashing with examples. Any way its nice.

    Thanks,
    Lax

  6. Lax says

    Hi Venkat,

    You need to consider the LAW of Diminishing Returns ” The marginal productivity of the workforce decreases as output increases, diminishing returns do not mean negative returns until (in this example) the number of workers exceeds the available work space.”.

    What Mr. Fahad was explained same thing in his reply.

  7. gulmadulma says

    How crashing affects the overall project goal and strategy ?
    Effectiveness of crashing technique in project management for industry ?

  8. Dorji says

    Hi,
    Everything is perfectly explained and thanks for that but same time why didnt you add its merit and demerits for better understand.
    Looking forward with answer.

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Good suggestion Dorji.

      I have noted your advise, and soon I will update this blog post with merits and demerits of fast tracking and crashing.

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