Definitive Guide to the Linear Scheduling Method

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 9, 2023

Published November 30, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The linear scheduling method is a project planning process that construction managers may use to coordinate, track and optimize linear building projects. This planning method helps increase productivity and efficiency during the construction process by predicting and tracking potential conflicts or improvements. Understanding the linear scheduling method and its purpose may help you plan and manage construction teams and projects. In this article, we define the linear scheduling method, compare it to the critical path method and explain the advantages of linear scheduling.

Related: The Importance of Project Management

What is the linear scheduling method?

The linear scheduling method (LSM) is a graphical scheduling method professionals use often to plan and track linear construction projects. It's a way of developing a project schedule to maximize the use of resources for repetitive actions that occur during the building process. LSM focuses on planning the order, location and movement of the construction crews to ensure that they work in the most efficient manner possible and maximize the use of resources without conflict or delay.

Related: A Guide to Resource Scheduling in Project Management

Linear scheduling method vs. critical path method

While you can use both the linear scheduling method and critical path method (CPM) for planning construction projects, they have varying purposes, strengths and processes. Some differences between linear scheduling and critical path methods include:

Purpose of use

Although both LSM and CPM apply for linear projects, LSM only applies to linear construction projects, as it requires the presence of repetitive actions and the continuous use of resources along a linear path. LSM graphs represent the time, repetition and location of activities involved in a project. The specific nature of LSM can make it a more suitable method for planning linear projects that require repetitive activity. For example, a team might use LSM for highway construction, road resurfacing and railroad projects.

CPM applies to both linear and nonlinear projects, as it doesn't focus on repetitive activities or work location. Instead, it measures the time and order of project tasks. Managers use CPM to estimate the longest and shortest duration of each activity within a project.

Relationship of activity

LSM emphasizes the relationship between the activities and crews involved in a project. In contrast, CPM focuses specifically on the duration of activities and doesn't account for the relationship between the steps of the process. Using LSM when planning a project ensures accuracy of when and where each activity occurs and doesn't allow for the randomness of location and completion that can occur under CPM planning. LSM planning ensures that crews and activities don't interfere with each other, which can help maintain a continuous workflow.

Type of graphing

Both LSM and CPM are graphical scheduling methods, but each method utilizes a different type of graph. LSM planning uses a velocity graph that shows each activity and its trajectory. On an LSM graph, the x-axis represents the time and the y-axis is a measurement of the repeated activity's distance. An LSM graph also includes the location of each activity. The graph shows and charts all the linear activities along their path of completion as they progress. This is useful for ensuring crews can work without interference and that they complete the tasks in every area.

CPM scheduling uses a graph of forward and backward pass network calculations to estimate the longest timeline for the overall project and the earliest and latest timelines for each activity. This graph doesn't account for the location or path of completion of the projects, as it focuses primarily on the duration of the activities. A CPM graph doesn't show location or progress, which may result in an overlap of activities and resources.

Related: Critical Path Project Management: Definition and Examples

Adaptability of timeline

Using LSM planning allows for a change in the projected timelines and completion rates of each activity. If more resources become available during the project, the manager can easily calculate and alter the velocity rate on the graph. The new velocity then also displays an opportunity for subsequent activities to be expedited accordingly.

In comparison, CPM planning uses a projection of the minimum time allotted for each activity. The graph shows projections of completion rather than tracking current progress. CPM also excludes the interaction between each activity and its completion. These two factors make it challenging to chart a change in the rate of completion when using CPM.

Related: Planning and Scheduling: Definitions and Tips

Benefits of the linear scheduling method

Here are some benefits of LSM planning for construction managers:

Maximization

Using the linear scheduling method when completing linear construction projects can maximize the use of resources by ensuring an efficient and continuous flow of materials and energy. Having a constant flow of materials and a clear record of progress conserves resources by preventing repetitive work and time spent waiting for the completion of previous steps. LSM planning also offers construction managers the ability to see obstacles before they occur so they can save time and resources when addressing them.

Clarity

LSM graphs are clear, definitive graphs that track time and progress. The simplicity of these graphs allows crews to understand the tasks, locations and timelines that are necessary for the projects on which they're working. As the graph charts the completion of each task, managers can also clearly identify potential delays or overlaps before they become an issue. LSM planning accounts for the completion and accuracy of each activity within a definitive location and time frame.

Documentation

At the end of a project that uses LSM planning, the manager has a completed documentation of the timeline, order and rate of completion of each action. This graph also displays any opportunity for improvement. Project managers can analyze this completed graph to predict, plan and improve plans for similar projects. Over time, the LSM graphs reveal which processes and orders of activities yield the best results and optimize resources.

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