Lunes, Pebrero 6, 2012

The Gantt Chart: Already Dead Or Still Alive?

Recently, I was confronted with the provoking statement: "Henry Gantt is dead since almost 100 years, and virtually his charts are too." I did not reply, but decided to give this a thought.

The hypothesis that something is considered to be dead automatically means that it turned out alive before. As we are not referring to someone here but of a visualization technique, dead and alive quite simply signify this method were built with a value previously but is regarded as no longer needed nowadays. Hence, it may be worthwhile to lock into the past when knowing how to make a Gantt chart not just was seen as valuable, but in addition as revolutionary tool. This may reveal even more insights why it may have ended since then.

Environmental surroundings, for which Henry Laurence Gantt invented his charts, was the assembly industry and also the prime use case was the advance of managerial decision-making within the scheduling process. The design of the Gantt chart followed the question which information a foreman or supervisor needed to see to be able to quickly understand whether a production was on schedule, beforehand or running late. Gantt introduced the thought to make use of time and resource usage no longer quantity being a yardstick for making scheduling decisions, and created various types of charts depending on the individual needs of the production managers. These executives at that time were required to manage bottlenecks, were meant to deal with uncertainty, and needed to handle everything resulting from the still high degree of human contribution to industrial production. For this environment, Henry Gantt created a chart that summarized all relevant information at one glance to enable managers making profound scheduling decisions.

In summary, the Gantt chart have been alive if the following characteristics were met: It must be production environment where decision support for scheduling processes were needed and required context-sensitive information ("for individual needs") at one glance taking into consideration time and resource usage as crucial determinants.

What has changed since that time to declare the Gantt chart dead?

Although we are heading for the so-called service society, the cumulative net output of the manufacturing industry still counts for longer than 25% from the global GDP (source: World Bank). Undoubtedly, this sector continues to have its relevance. Competition is increasing and lots of products a growing number of become a commodity. Both trends drive a margin pressure particularly in the manufacturing industry. This allows making the first assumption that scheduling processes are becoming a lot more important, and therefore the equipment providing decision support for scheduling tasks.

This assumption may be endorsed by three core evidences: First, it seems like being sound judgment that point can be a key success factor for production companies. An underlining evidence because of this common sense can based on considering common key performance indicators such as time-to-market or production methodologies like just-in-time. This enhances the question why a time-focused scheduling tool is certainly outdated. Second, considering that the good old days of Henry Gantt the ratio fix costs to variable costs continues to be becoming more and more fix cost-savvy. This can be as well as true for production environments. In fix cost-intensive areas, people normally have to place a higher focus on the ideal resource usage to make maximum utilization of the fix cost-driving capacities. Again, the question must be raised why a resource-focused visualization to support scheduling decisions ought to be outdated in such a scenario. Third, one should take a look at decision support itself. The delivery of context-sensitive information has arisen as one candidate for becoming a new paradigm for the style of decision support systems. This becomes a lot more relevant if a person takes the tremendous data growth into consideration. Henry Gantt meant to create exactly this. His charts were meant being a context-sensitive tool to boost time- and resource-based scheduling decisions. For your third time the question needs to be raised why this really is considered as outdated. The alternative appears to be true: For manufacturers, there is certainly more requirement for a Gantt chart than previously.

Finally and fair enough: lots of "the Gantt is dead" advocates range from project management industry. This unique use case of a Gantt chart hasn't been analyzed here. The main focus here would have been to prove that the Gantt chart as Henry Gantt invented it, still is alive and needs to become alive within the production industry.

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