5. Determine the critical path. The critical path is determined by adding the times for the activities in each sequence and determining the longest path in the project. The critical path determines the total calendar time required for the project. If activities outside the critical path speed up oe slow down (within limits), the total project time does not change. The amount of time that a non – critical path activity can be delayed without the project is referred to as a slack time.
If the critical path is not immediately obvious, it may be helpful to determine the following four quantities foe each activity:
ES – Earliest Start time
EF - Earliest Finish time
LS – Latest Start time
LF - Latest Finish time
These times are calculated using the expected time for the relevant activities. The earliest start and finish times of each activity are determined by working forward through the network and determining the earliest time at which an activity can start and finish considering its predecessors activities. The latest start and finish times are the latest times that an activity can start and finish without delaying the project. LS and LF are found by working backward through the network. The difference in the latest and earliest finish of each activity is that activity’s slack. The critical path then is the path through the network in which none of the activities have slack.
The variance in the project completion time can be calculated by summing the variances in the completion times of the activities in the critical path. Given this variance, one can calculate the probability that the project will be completed by the certain date assuming a normal probability distribution for the critical path. The normal distribution assumption holds if the number of activities in the path is large enough for the central limit theorem to be applied.
Since the critical path determines the completion date of the project, the project can be accelerated by adding the resources required to decrease the time for the activities in the critical path. Such a shortening of the project sometimes is referred to as project crashing.
Update the PERT chart as the project progresses. Make adjustments in the PERT chart as the project progresses. As the project unfolds, the estimated times can be replaced with actual times. In cases where there are delays, additional resources may be needed to stay on schedule and the PERT chart may be modified to reflect the new situation.
PERT is useful because it provides the following information:
Expected project completion time;
Probability of completion before a specified date;