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network analysis or programme evaluation and review technique (PERT)a method of planning, scheduling and controlling projects involving interrelated but distinct elements of work, or activities. Activities and their interrelationships are depicted in a network of arrowed links representing activities. For example, Fig. 59 shows a simple schematic network for the construction of a kitchen extension, with planned activities and their estimated duration in weeks. Certain activities (like preparing the ground) have to be performed before the next stage of production can be embarked upon (like constructing the shell of the building). The sequential path which takes the least time to complete the project is called the ‘critical path’ (here the route a-b-c-d-e-f, taking 20 weeks) and any delay to these critical activities will delay the project completion. Other activities (like preparing the ground) are non-critical and can be delayed (in this case by up to one week) without delaying the overall project. Such non-critical activities embody an amount of slack time (one week in the example). The total amount of slack time for all non-critical activities shows the extent to which these activities can be delayed before affecting the project completion date.
Network analysis is often applied to large-scale projects in civil engineering and shipbuilding or to major repair or maintenance projects or new product launches. It is used to identify problem areas where bottlenecks may occur and where additional resources may be needed.