This month we’ll take a look at how you can consolidate a number of projects into one master to allow resource levelling across multiple projects.
Once again, we need some projects to work with. I have prepared 3 projects; each one is for a modification program for a different type of aircraft. No – you don’t need any technical knowledge about aeroplanes! The projects could have just as easily been for cars, or ships or boats or TV sets or PCs or even software programmes – I just chose aircraft from my Royal Air Force engineering background. Load them by clicking here:
So we have a situation where each aircraft is coming to the maintenance hangar to be updated with a series of modifications and repair modifications (eg: Mod 326 and R Mod 326). The mod programme is different for each aircraft type and they all require 3 types of technicians, which I’ve called Airframe who look after the nuts and bolts, Propulsion who look after the engines and Electrical who looks after the.. aaahh.. electrics! Some tasks, like preparation will require all 3 technicians, but some are the responsibility of a single tradesman or a combination of 2. (In real life, each mod would be broken down further into its constituent tasks – but I’m trying to keep it simple!) What the Maintenance Manager needs to know is how many tradesmen will be required to complete the program and how long will it take (again for simplicity I’ve ignored costs). Note that the Start Date of each aircraft project is different as they fly in one per week. Spend a few minutes browsing through the projects to get a feel for the dates, durations and the resource assignments. Also have a look at the Resource Sheet view to see the Resource data. Note that (again for simplicity) I have assigned to tasks only one tradesman of one type and thus they are all at 100%.
Resource Peak Units
Finally, so that we can have a before and after comparison, we need to see what the Peak Units are for each resource for each project. We do this, for example for Aircraft A, from the Gantt Chart view. Zoom to show weeks in the Timescale and center the view so that you can see the whole project. Window/Split, click in the lower window and then select View/Resource Graph. Remember that to see the graph, we need to select a task that has resources assigned, so click on the Preparation task as it has all three resource types assigned. You should see a view like this:
This view will show that for Project A, there is a Peak requirement of 200% Airframe technicians (or 2 technicians)
If you click in the bottom left scroll bar, you will be able to scroll through the other resources, and for Aircraft A you should see a peak of 200% Propulsion and 200% Electrical. Do the same for the other 2 aircraft to verify that you can see a peak for Aircraft B of 100% Airframe, 200% Propulsion and 200% Electrical, and for Aircraft C: 300% Airframe, 400% Propulsion and 300% Electrical. OK? So what happens if we try to multi-project manage by looking at all 3 Aircraft altogether? Can you predict the outcome?
The Maintenance Manager has a team of men available but he doesn’t know how many will be required or whether he can even do the multi-projects with the resources he has available. We need therefore to set up a resource pool and associate each project with that pool. With a resource pool, all the resource information that resides in the pool appears in each project file that shares the pool, because the resource pool will be linked to the projects. Whenever information in the resource pool is changed, such as a resource rate, it can be transmitted to all the linked projects, and vice versa.
Open a new project file to contain the resource pool and immediately save it as “pool” (for this exercise) ensuring that it is stored in the same folder as the other 3 aircraft projects. View/Resource Sheet to note that there are no resources in our blank pool project. For the pool to be used, we must tell each project to go to the Pool for its resources. We do this by sharing the resources from the pool.
[As an aside, at this point in my writing I had to break off and go out. In the open project, I went to File/Save Workspace…/and gave it the name “ramps” (Resource Assignment and Multi-Project Management) with the suffix mpw – Microsoft Project Workspace.
Then, when I came back to start again, I opened the folder with my projects and selected ramps and all of the projects opened up as I had left them – neat eh?]
Open the first project to share the resource pool. In our case, as all the project files are open, you can go to Window and select Aircraft A, or use Alt+Tab.
Now Tools/Resource Sharing…/Share Resources…
In the Share Resources dialog, select to Use Resources From: and select the pool.mpp file
To see what the result is, go to the pool project again and see that Project has automatically filled the pool’s Resource Sheet with the resource data taken from Aircraft A.
Repeat the sharing process for Aircraft B and C, and note that the pool is still showing the same three resources.
So that we can return to this set up again, please save the workspace as ramps.mpw.
It is quite possible to manage each project separately or as multiple projects, but it might be better if the Maintenance Manager could see all the projects in one view. We can do this by creating a master file. Frequent work with a number of related projects may best be managed more easily by consolidating them. There are several ways to consolidate projects, copy/paste them into a master file, insert them into a single project file, or use the Window function to do it all for you. Any changes made (other than format changes) to the source file appear automatically in the corresponding inserted project of the consolidated file, and vice versa.
Let’s try the consolidation using the built-in Windows functions. Open all the project files required for consolidation. Select Window/New Window...
…and in the Projects: list, select the 3 Aircraft project files (you can use the Windows facility of Shift or Ctrl click to make your selection of the 3 files all at once) and OK.
Notice that each of the 3 aircraft maintains its own ID task numbering and that the 3 project summaries are numbered 1, 2 and 3. Click on the little minus sign to contract the 3 summaries, then Tools/Options…/View tab select Project Summary task, then File/Save As… ramps, you should see a consolidated file like this:
Note the start and finish dates of the 3 aircraft are maintained with a week’s gap between them. The consolidated file also shows a Duration of 39 days.
As before, split the screen, select the Resource Graph for the lower screen, and Zoom to weeks. We will have to open one of the files (click the + next to the summary) and select the Preparation task to see the graphs. Now we see a peak requirement of 4 Aircraft, 7 Propulsion and 6 Electrical technicians. (Did you forecast that?) Not also that all the resources are overallocated as Project is using the default maximum units (see the Resource Sheet view) of 1 man or Max. Units of 100%.
At last we’re beginning to use Project for project management, as we’ve input all the data and Project is giving us useful information back to us. As Project Manager, what can we read into these figures? Well, the conclusion I’ve come to is that, based on the calculations that Project has made for us, the Project can be done in 39 days Duration, starting on 3 Jan 05 and finishing on 24 Feb 05 – PROVIDING I have 4 Aircraft, 7 Propulsion and 6 Electrical technicians. If that is the situation, I need do nothing more than get on with it! Please save ramps again so that we can use it next month.
This relatively simple exercise shows the principles behind consolidating a number of projects to be able to multi-project manage. The setting up of each project, creating a resource pool and sharing each project with the pool is the essence. Project will do the calculations for you and make visible areas needing attention like the overallocation of resources.
In the next issue I plan to have a look some of the other ways we can consolidate projects, and then discuss some ideas of how to manage these multiple projects.