Category Archives: project management

Task Linking for Engineering

Project managers have to juggle jobs – what a concept! Many of the jobs have to be linked together. One job can’t start until another is finished. Sorry, that’s just the nature of engineering.

Wanna watch a video? See below.

Finish-to-start is the most common link dependency. It means, when one task finishes another can start. Or, another way of saying it is, one task cannot start until the previous one is complete. This kind of link dependency models real life. A roof cannot be put on a house until the foundation is laid and the framing is complete. That’s only natural. This kind of link dependency occurs in engineering all the time.

Standard Time® is a time tracking app for engineering. Not only does it have tasks and links, but it also has a timesheet with lots of ways to enter time. One of those ways is with barcode and RFID’s. Time gets entered automatically using devices like that. That’s usually done on the shop floor, for manufacturing applications. But you can enter time manually against your own tasks. Managers define those tasks, and they magically show up on engineer’s timesheets for manual time entry. It’s a pretty good system.

Now back to dependency links. When you set up a “finish-to-start” link, you are using task dates. This kind of link means that the starting date of the second task is linked to the ending date of the first. If you move the first task, it’s ending date changes. And, that automatically moves the second task because it’s start date is dependent upon the first task. Again, this models reality in no may ways.

This is perfect for scheduling tasks. You simply set the dates for the first task, and successors follow along like cars on a train. They get pushed and pulled automatically anytime a predecessor date changes. Let’s say you are building an electronic circuit board. The circuit schematic precedes the board layout. And both those tasks precede fabrication and assembly. You could represent this natural link dependency with several tasks, each having finish-to-start links.

Now that you have some tasks, and the dates are linked, you could begin entering actual hours for employees. Or better yet, have them enter their own hours, and in some cases, create their own tasks. The whole plan takes on a life of it’s own. Now you’ve got a real engineering scheduler and timesheet!



Project Management for Manufacturing and Engineering

Engineering and manufacturing go together, as shown in the video below. You can’t do the milling and molding without the up-front planning. So what tools do you have for that?

If you want a project management tool for both engineering and manufacturing, consider Standard Time®.

Not only do you get task lists, task planning, project management for the engineering side, you also get the manufacturing execution software for the actual product production and assembly. Design engineers plan their projects, track their time, and complete the product development phases. Manufacturing engineers plan the execution. And finally, operators on the shop floor track the actual hours consumed in each task. Now compare what you’re actually getting on the floor with expectations.

Barcodes and RFID’s collect actual manufacturing hours, which show up on your project planning dashboards. You get instant feedback from the floor.

Call us and ask how it works!


Excel Add-in for Timesheets

Have you ever wanted to pull your time and expense data into Excel for analysis? Now you can, with the XLST Excel Add-in. (scroll down for a video)

XLST is a new Excel add-in that pulls timesheet and project management data from your Standard Time® timesheet, and puts the results into Excel spreadsheets. It uses Excel formulas to extract timesheet data, and places the results into a single cell. In fact, the XLST functions act exactly like any other Excel function. They take “parameters” from other cells and use that data to get results.

What kinds of results can you get?

You can query the Standard Time database for all the actual work entered by employees. Or, you could query for all the expenses. Or all time off taken by employees. Or the hours available for time off.

Here is a partial list, which might spark your imagination:

  1. XLSTActualWork
  2. XLSTActualSalaryCost
  3. XLSTActualClientCost
  4. XLSTExpenseTotal
  5. XLSTTimeOffHours
  6. XLSTTimeOffAvailable
  7. XLSTScheduledHours
  8. XLSTExceedDailySchedule
  9. XLSTExceedWeeklySchedule
  10. XLSTProjectTaskScheduledHours
  11. XLSTProjectTaskDuration
  12. XLSTProjectTaskActualWork
  13. XLSTProjectTaskPercentComplete
  14. XLSTProjectTaskModified
  15. XLSTPayPeriodStart
  16. XLSTPayPeriodEnd
  17. XLSTEmployeeTimesheetApproved
  18. XLSTEmployeeTimesheetSubmitted
  19. XLSTEmployeeExpensesApproved
  20. XLSTProjectClientRate
  21. XLSTProjectSalaryRate
  22. XLSTEmployeeClientRate
  23. XLSTEmployeeSalaryRate
  24. XLSTCategoryClientRate
  25. XLSTCategorySalaryRate
  26. XLSTProjectManager

Just click in an empty cell and then click the function icon near the formula line. Then choose XLST as the category. You’ll see all the functions listed above. Each one takes different parameters. Many parameters are optional, so you can quickly get results right away.

You must start by downloading Standard Time from the website, and then connecting it to SQL Server. XLST requires SQL Server or SQL Express. Once ST is connected to SQL, then you can download and install XLST.

Watch the video to get started.


Sync Microsoft Project Tasks with Timesheet

Here’s a persistent problem project managers face: Their project schedules are obsolete within a week of completion. So what is your solution to that?

(scroll down for a video solution)

One solution is to get input from the boots on the ground. Get the actual employees doing the work to enter the tasks they are working on, and updating estimates. If you combine that with getting time and material “actuals” from employee timesheets, you have just about everything you need to fix this issue.

Getting input from the boots on the ground

Here’s why:

Employees may not know the full strategic direction your project is going in, but they do know the tactical maneuvers to get things done. So let them have that input into your schedule. Let employees input their project tasks and update estimates based on their understanding of the conditions on the ground. That may be entirely different than your 30,000 foot birds-eye view.

Both perspectives help.

The video below shows how to sync project tasks with your timesheet, which lets employees on the ground have their input. Give it a watch, and let us know what you think!


MS Project Materials and Costs

Do you want the actual end-users of your MS Project plans to have input?

After all, what’s a project plan without input and adjustments from the boots on the ground? It’s static and lifeless. The project manager creates the plan, and minutes later it’s out of date. Why? Because the project manager doesn’t know the actual conditions on the ground. Only the actual employees know that. So you need their input.

This video describes getting input in the form of materials and costs that are synchronized with MS Project. Get a look below!

What is a material resource in MS Project?

There are actually three types of resources in MS Project

  1. Work resource — human resource, or equipment rented by the hour
  2. Material resource — consumable materials used on the job
  3. Cost resource — misc. expenses used on the job

Building a Microsoft Project with resources is much more than just human resources. It’s more than just Jim and Bob assigned to tasks. There are other types of resources that all have costs impacting the project.

The video below shows all three resource types. Scroll down and watch.

Work resources

Work resources are usually human beings. They have a standard rate for each hour of work. But Work resources could also be machines that cost you a certain amount to use for each hour. A trackhoe that costs you $10,000 per hour is a work resource. You assign it to a task for a specified number of hours. When the task is finished, you own $10,000 times the number of hours. Ouch!

Material resources

Material resources are normally consumables. You use up these materials on the job. The video describes buckets of nails as an example. You use a certain number of buckets for each task. When the task is done, you have cost the project the number of buckets times the cost for each bucket.

Cost resources

Cost resources are miscellaneous expenses your project incurs. Add these to your project so you know the total cost, including all the items used.

It turns out that all these MS Project costs come down to Standard Time during synchronization. Not only do your tasks come down, but so do all the resources and their costs. Of course you can send actual work back up to MSP from your employee timesheet, which lets you compare estimates with actuals. But this video describes resource costs.

Have a look at the video below.

Define Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart shows you task bars, task links, milestones and summaries. Pretty good for an invention from 1910! Quickie video below.

Define Gantt Chart: A chart where the X axis is time, and the Y axis contains task start and finish dates plotted horizontally on the time axis.

Actually, there is no Y axis. As stated above, there are just bars representing start and finish dates from scheduled tasks. Each task in the Gantt chart has a beginning and an ending dates. Those dates can be made into horizontal bars. The task start date is the left edge of the bar. The task finish date is the right edge of the bar. Each task potentially has different start and finish dates.

The Gantt chart itself has start and finish dates. It is small “window” into the full project schedule that has dates stretching from the beginning of the project until the end. So, you begin with the dates of a full project schedule, then look at a small part of that schedule using the Gantt chart, and inside it are individual tasks with even small increments of time, during which you’ll perform small jobs.

The Gantt chart scrolls inside the full project schedule dates. Tasks are visible in the Gantt chart “window” in the larger schedule.

It turns out that the timesheet app named Standard Time® also has a Gantt chart. You are able to view and manage tasks in ST. Those tasks show up on the timesheet where employee enter hours. The hours they enter into the timesheet go into the “Actual work” column in ST. You can compare actual work to estimations. Plus, you see percent complete.

You can download the ST timesheet and Gantt chart here.

Define PMO Office, Project Management Office

PMO = Project Management Office. That’s all we know.

Well… not exactly. 🙂

We also know which project management tool is best for the PMO. That’s Standard Time®. And we know how to manage projects and tasks. In fact, here’s a video that shows

Ten tools for the PMO office

And in case you were wondering… we also know that it’s not pronounced “PMO Office.” The extra “Office” at the end is redundant because the acronym “PMO” has the word Office in it. So if you said “PMO Office” you would really be saying “Project Management Office Office.” That’s dumb.

Watch the video, and then watch the “ten tools” video above. Comment on each one to let us know what you think.  Talk to you soon!

Define Project Management

Project management is such a broad term that it can include a lot of activities. And everyone has a unique perspective or opinion of its meaning. But it’s basically everything related to doing a project. Please comment on the video below.

Define Project Management: The activities and methods used to successfully complete a project or job, usually constrained by time, cost, or scope.

The constraints listed above are the biggies! We all have an idea what the activities are. But often the constraints are not given the priorities they should. Consequently, projects go over their budgets, both from a time and cost perspective. This usually happens when the scope becomes a moving target you can never catch up to. The customer wants more and more, but forgets that it costs more and more, and that it takes time to reach that elusive goal.

Consider these two videos to learn more about project management and the constraints you’ll face:


Define Finish To Start Link

Sometimes you cannot start one task until another is complete. Try to build a bridge without the abutments. You’ll have Galloping Gertie on your hands.

Define Finish to Start Link: A project task link relationship where one task cannot start until the previous task finishes.

Actually, Galloping Gertie was not caused by missing abutments. It was caused by resonating flutter from high winds. Sort of like swinging higher and higher in a playground swing set. Eventually bad things happen.

(see video below)

But abutments is a good example for link relationships, even if it doesn’t apply to Gertie. Sometimes you just have to finish up one thing before you can start another. That’s a “finish to start” task relationship. It turns out there are four type of task relationships.

  1. Finish to Start (FS)
  2. Start to Start (SS)
  3. Finish to Finish (FF)
  4. Start to Finish (SF)

In each of these cases, you’re linking either the finish or start of one task to the finish or start of another. If you think about it, you can imagine crazy cases where each one of these link relationships naturally occurs. Projects have all sorts of relationships you have to model in software so your project works.