And he would know.
In October 2008, Mr. Schipper
completed a four-year phase of a
massive infrastructure project to build
a rapid transit bus system from
downtown Cleveland to the east side
of the city. The work also included
upgrading utilities, installing drainage
systems, and building roadways
and curbs along several miles of the
Mr. Schipper and his team faced a
gamut of daily obstacles. That list
included managing costs in a wildly
fluctuating economy and ensuring
contractors were scheduled to accomplish their work without interfering
with other projects.
Even before construction started,
the team faced its biggest challenge in
the form of Hurricane Katrina.
Despite the fact that his project was a
thousand miles northeast of the damage, the storm and its aftermath
wreaked havoc on the entire U.S. construction industry.
“After the hurricane you couldn’t
bid anything because material and
commodity prices were way over our
estimates, and no one knew how to
price a long-duration project,” he says.
So he waited.
Four months after his team put out
the original request for bids, it had to
put out a new request. “The bids we
got in December  were 40 percent lower than the original bid that
was opened one week after the hurricane,” he says.
The savings were significant, but
so was the lost time. Mr. Schipper
had a deadline of December 2008,
and he had to make up those four
months right in the middle of active
Fortunately, the construction
phases had been planned with ample
spacing between packages. This was
originally done to avoid overloading
industry demand for workers and
commodities—which could have driven
costs up—and to avoid construction
crew overlaps. But Mr. Schipper’s
team tapped into some of the float
between projects to absorb the delay
“We ended up with some overlap
to make up for the lost time,” he says.
“But we did additional evaluations of
critical project elements and schedule
risk analysis to make sure we stayed on
time and under budget.”
To avoid conflict as a result of the
lost float, he focused schedule management efforts on the interfaces
between packages where sections of
road connected. He also made sure
any advance work, such as laying cable
under streets, was done ahead of time.