Why 4D Scheduling isn't a game changer

That's right. 4D is not the paradigm shift we were hoping for. Instead, 4D scheduling is an incremental improvement.

First, let's build some credibility: In 2018, a project I worked on (for Robins & Morton, a regional contractor) won Project of the Year for a global award for "Digital Construction" because of the 4D schedule. I've managed countless projects, big and small, since 2009 with 4D: airports, stadiums, museums, hospitals, schools, bridges, condos, power plants, etc. totaling tens of billions of dollars. For years I was a paid consultant for Synchro to do 4D modeling and scheduling, and I've taught 4D to hundreds of professionals in construction across the USA.

Why would someone like me, who has invested so many years and most of my career into 4D say 4D isn't great?

Combining a schedule that too few stakeholders look at with a 3D model that nobody looks at isn't "better".

Anyone with "BIM" or "VDC" in their title will argue that having a progressive 4D with BIM for planning and schedule validation on a continuous and inclusive basis will save time and money.  This premise here is flawed because it assumes there is no cost with creating the 4D BIM, when in fact just the learning curve alone is enough to make 4D non-existent for a Superintendent on Assistant Superintendent on active job site.

Some will argue that you need a specialist (or two) to create the 4D Schedule, but I have yet to meet a superintendent in the field who has said "hold up, let me open up the 4D schedule". In fact, I rarely hear them say that about the regular gantt chart schedule!

If you scheduled and modeled to excruciating detail how much could you really save?  4D has been around long enough, if the savings were that great then we wouldn't we see more contractors adopting it?

What is 4D for?

The most important consideration to have when contemplating using 4D on your project is what is 4D good at? We can start by identifying what 4D is not good at, or marginally better (than the status quo) at.

4D is not marginally better at:

  • Managing labor
  • Managing materials
  • Communicating the whole plan
  • Communicating the near term plan
  • Last Planner
  • accessible on mobile
  • collaboration
  • approachable by field staff

There's a lot to unpack here but essentially if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Looking back at the above list, how could 4D execute on these?

When it comes to managing resources like manpower, equipment, and materials, all essential to the schedule, they seem to be missing from the discussion.

4D is really good at:

  • figuring out logistically challenging situations
  • playing movies that win jobs

Should you use 4D BIM?

For contractors who want to win work and have the budget, 4D is an excellent tool to wow prospective clients. Usually you can hire a consultant or have someone in house put together a moel

For builders who want to eliminate waste and risk, there are some considerations to have before you go all in on 4D.

Don't get me wrong, 4D solves problems. Alice Technologies is a great example of that, their tool builds your schedules for you based off of BIM, its turned scheduling from an art to a science, and I believe the savings are real. The

Where is the paradigm shift?

J. Kevin Lloyd seems to think that CPM is well beyond its expiration date. I agree, but Oracle makes tons of cash off CPM and they will likely pay tons of cash to keep the status quo.

In the Army I was taught, "There are two types of soldiers in the Army: the infantry, and those that support us". I believe the same holds true for construction: actual workers (i.e. carpenters, iron workers, electricians, etc.) and those that support them. If we think like this, that these people are our #1 priority, we need to make sure they are kept doing productive work, have the resources (materials, information, space, equipment, etc.) they need to do their job, and are in a safe

February 18, 2021
Daniel Fahmi Soliman
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