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Difference between 'resource smoothing' and 'resource levelling'

A scheduling calculation that involves utilising float or increasing or decreasing the resources required for specific activities, such that any peaks and troughs of resource usage are smoothed out. This does not affect the overall duration. It is also known as time limitedresource scheduling.

What is the difference between 'resource smoothing' and 'resource levelling?

Resource smoothing is used when the time constraint takes priority. The objective is to complete the work by the required date while avoiding peaks and troughs of resource demand. Resource levelling is used when limits on the availability of resources are paramount. It simply answers the question ‘With the resources available, when will the work be finished?’. 

Few re-usable resources are limitless, so the time schedule has to be adjusted to take into account the limited availability of resources over time. There are two approaches to reconciling resource limits and time constraints; resource smoothing (or time limited resource scheduling) and resource levelling (or resource limited scheduling).

Resource smoothing is used when the time constraint takes priority. The objective is to complete the work by the required date while avoiding peaks and troughs of resource demand.

A smoothed resource profile will be achieved by delaying some work. This will remove some flexibility from the schedule and its ability to deal with unavoidable delays, but the advantage is usually a more efficient and cost-effective use of resources.

Resource levelling is used when limits on the availability of resources are paramount. It simply answers the question ‘With the resources available, when will the work be finished?’

In many situations a mixture of levelling and smoothing may be required. This is particularly true in the programme and portfolio dimensions.

Further reading 

Blog post from the APM Portfolio Management SIG: Resource management? I've got Excel and half a day a week thank you. What else do I need? 

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