The Critical Path Method and the Diefenbunker

Information about the Diefenbunker states that its design and construction was one of the first uses of the Critical Path Method for a large project in Canada.

I certainly believe this, but to this point I have had virtually no success in coming up with hard evidence.

A little bit of background.

The Critical Path Method – CPM – was created in the late 50s, initially in either the US or the UK (depends which on-line references you choose to believe).

In the US, it was required as the American government and DOD realized their ambitious program for submarine construction required a much more efficient method of building the boats than the practices developed earlier in WWII.

What is CPM? This management method identifies all activities in a given project, establishes the resources (workers, equipment, software and IT, etc) necessary to complete each activity, and their anticipated duration, and most importantly confirms the interdependencies of each activity to all others.

Interdependencies define which tasks must be completed, or be at a given stage of completion (e.g. 50%), before another activity can begin. Important project milestones can also be wrapped into the process.

When all activities are laid out on a time scale predicated on sequence and interdependencies, a picture will emerge which clearly shows the Critical Path – that is, the sequence of activities which define the earliest possible project completion date. Any delay to an activity on the Critical Path will delay the overall project completion.

Activities which are not on the Critical Path can be used to level out resource demands, or used as opportunity targets to keep specific resources employed.

This in simple terms is how the Critical Path Method functions as a management tool – although there are as many differing approaches, terminology, and displays as there are CPM consultants.

It was interesting examining some CPM instructional material in the Diefenbunker Archives. These were the very lessons I had received as a young officer at our Engineer School in Chilliwack in the 60s – and which I later taught to young British Army officers when I was on exchange with the British Army as an instructor.

But, to the Diefenbunker and CPM.

On the NFB film Nuclear Roof (describing the construction and initial use of the Diefenbunker, which can be viewed on the Diefenbunker web site) there is a tantalizingly short glimpse, in very bad lighting, of what is described as the CPM chart used to manage the Bunker construction. It certainly looks like a CPM chart from what can be seen.

However, to this point I’ve not been able to locate any specific or physical evidence of this mystery CPM chart.

It would be a coup to get my hands on such a chart, and I will continue to look into all possibilities.

The Foundation Engineering Corporation (FENCON) of Montreal, the design and construction management engineering company which built the Diefenbunker, is mentioned on AECON’s site as a predecessor company and part of AECON’s history.

I’ve contacted AECON twice in the past months, using their web site contact tool, seeking their assistance in identifying any Diefenbunker archival material they may have from FENCON.

So far, nothing heard. Not even an indication that my requests were received.

AECON – anybody home?

(Update Feb 6 – AECON Corporate Services has responded to my request stating that no records remain in their files of the Diefenbunker period. This is unfortunate, but I will continue to search for additional material.)


About ottawazoe

retired combat engineer officer, former provincial public servant, currently federal public servant, with an abiding interest in our fascinating local history
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