Limited resource scheduling, often referred to as resource-constrained scheduling, doesn’t sound like something you want your business to be dealing with. Immediately, your ears prick up at the mention of words like ‘limited’ or ‘constrained’. These words have negative connotations, but “limited resource scheduling” is actually a positive thing.

As the name suggests, limited resource scheduling is required when you have limited resources available. This can include a lack of money, materials, technology – you name it! What typically happens in these situations? The lack of resources ends up determining how you go about your work, which typically leads to something called resource overloading. Essentially, this means you spend too much time working on these projects and stretch out your workdays to compensate for the resource constraints. 

This is neither productive nor efficient. Limited resource scheduling helps you understand how to manage projects in a way that accommodates these resource constraints. Today, we’re going to look at some of the key topics of discussion relating to the impacts of limited resource scheduling, and how limited resources make scheduling and planning even more important to your project’s success. 

1. Reduces delay but also lowers your flexibility

Limited resource scheduling can reduce delays and ensure that your projects finish on time. The goal of this scheduling method is that it helps you develop the shortest schedule with your resource constraints. As such, you can implement practices that allow you to work more efficiently and avoid sitting around doing nothing. As a result, delays are reduced, and you can stick to a schedule that doesn’t extend your completion date.

Unfortunately, the flip side of this is that you reduce your flexibility. Limited resource scheduling works around the idea that you perform tasks based on the resources available at any given time. With the right schedule, you can be productive and efficient. However, you are boxed into working on parts of the project determined by your resources. As a result, there’s a narrower focus that creates a far more linear and rigid schedule structure. While this will help you reduce delays, it won’t allow the full flexibility that you’re perhaps used to when managing projects.

As an example, let’s say you have three activities to complete: A, B, and C. By running an analysis of your project and the available resources, you know when you have the resources for each activity. To make this slightly easier to imagine, we’ll look at one working day from 9-5. From 9 onwards, you have the resources to complete Activity A, but not those of B or C. Then, from 12 onwards, you have the resources for Activity B, and 3 onwards gives you the resources for Activity C.

Here, you have to revise your schedule based on these constraints. So, it would probably look something like this:

  • 9-12 focus on Activity A
  • 12-3 focus on Activity B
  • 3-5 focus on Activity C

Of course, there can be a slight overlap here and there depending on your resources, but you can see how limited resource scheduling allows you to get multiple resource-limited tasks done within the day, but your flexibility is limited.

2. Increases criticality of events

If you look into “event chain methodology”, you’ll learn that critical event chains are a huge part of managing your schedule. As a brief recap, critical events are any events or chains of events that could damage your project the most. Essentially, these events could slow down your progress or cause other negative effects.

While limited resource scheduling is highly useful, it will increase the criticality of events. This means two things:

  1. It increases the number of potentially critical events during the project cycle
  2. It increases the severity by which critical events affect your project

Basically, when you’re working with resource constraints, each event becomes more critical. There’s a higher chance that something can go wrong and cause issues with completion. A very straightforward way of visualizing this is to imagine you’re building a brick wall. The wall is going to be 20 bricks high and 50 bricks across. So, you need 1000 bricks in total. If you have 2000 bricks in supply, you have little to worry about. But imagine you only have 1000 bricks. All of a sudden, things get a little dicey. Every time you pick up or lay a brick, there’s a higher risk of a critical event. You could drop the brick and damage it, meaning your entire project has been ruined. 

It’s a strange example, but it paints the picture well. When you are scheduling a project with limited resources, more critical events can present themselves. Naturally, this leads to further considerations, one of which we will talk about in the next point.

3. Increases scheduling complexity

Combine this increase in event criticality with a severe lack of flexibility in your scheduling and it’s only natural that your scheduling becomes increasingly more complex.

Consider the opposite of resource-constrained scheduling, which would be scheduling where you have an abundance of resources. Your job is a lot easier as you don’t have limitations that are forcing you to work in a specific way. As a result, scheduling is nowhere near as complex and can be more flexible.

With limitations, you really have to be creative and conduct lots of analysis to settle upon the best schedule to get the best results. It’s not going to be straightforward, but it’s something you’ll have to deal with if you want to complete your project on time.

4. Can severely alter the traditional critical path

In project management, you pay a lot of attention to the traditional critical path. As you should be aware, the critical path is the longest sequence of key tasks that help you figure out the timeline for project completion. You must complete activities on this path in sequential order – one cannot be started until the previous one is completed. Any delays on the critical path lead to overall project delays.

Usually, finding your critical path lets you determine the most valuable tasks in a project. These are the tasks where all of your efforts are required if you want the project to be completed on time and to a high standard. Unfortunately, limited resource scheduling can impact your traditional critical path and cause alterations. Or, more specifically, it can make your critical path lose meaning.

What do we mean by this?

Think about identifying your critical path for any given project. You analyze everything and determine that you have to do this activity, then that one, and so on. The problem is that limited resource scheduling is dictated by your available resources. Therefore, your traditional critical path is basically meaningless as you can only complete tasks when the resources you need are available. Let’s imagine your critical path shows you have to complete tasks A, B, C, and D in that order. Realistically, due to the resource constraints, you might have to follow a completely different order.

May is the keyword, however. In some cases, your traditional critical path may still be valuable and applicable to the project. It totally depends on your critical path and how serious your resource constraints are. Already, you can see how our third point is true: your scheduling is instantly more complex.

5. Can cause alterations in activity types – parallel, sequential, critical, non-critical

Lastly, limited resource scheduling can cause changes in the different types of activities you perform. For example, consider the parallel activities in a project schedule – these are activities that can be completed at the same time. When your resources are limited, it’s common for some parallel activities to become sequential. Clearly, if a lack of resources dictates that certain tasks cannot be done alongside one another, the only logical option is to do them in a sequence. Hence, parallel activities become sequential and must be completed in a certain order.

Similarly, some of your non-critical activities can turn into critical ones. By reviewing your schedule, you may find that minor tasks have become critical when resource-constraints are considered. 

The importance of Limited Resource Scheduling

As you can see, limited resources make scheduling and planning more important than ever before. It’s clear that a limited number of resources changes a lot about the project timeline and the specific schedule you need to follow to keep things within the required timeframe.

Any business can struggle with limited resources for a project. As such, it’s vital to understand how you use resource-constrained scheduling to avoid major disruptions and delays.

The bottom line is that you can stick to a deadline if you follow limited resource scheduling/planning. Yes, things will be far more complex for you. It will be hard to figure out the right project path, and you will see an increase in event criticality. The way you work will be less flexible, but it will all be worth it if you get the desired outcome. Delayed projects can lead to a loss of money, unhappy customers, and so on. With limited resource scheduling, you can avoid these problems and learn how to optimize your project schedule. To learn how Visual Planning can help with scheduling your next limited resource project, request a demo.