Reader’s Note: The following guest post is provided by Patrick Hogan, Co-founder and CEO of Handle.com. AkitaBox would like to thank Patrick for his contribution to our industry blog.
Meet the Author:
Patrick Hogan is the CEO of Handle.com, an organization that specializes in software that helps contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.
It’s no secret that managing construction documents can be a difficult job. In today’s technology-driven world, traditional pen-and-paper management methods can be cumbersome and unreliable. Without a proper document management system, dealing with construction documents can be tedious and could even lead to expensive mistakes.
The good news is that modern solutions have alleviated many of the challenges in document management that exist today. Keep reading to learn five construction documentation challenges and the best ways to overcome them.
5 Construction Documentation Challenges and How to Fix Them
Documentation management may not be considered the most exciting aspect of construction, yet it has one of the greatest impacts on the success of a construction project and on business operations as a whole. Almost every part of the construction process needs to be documented, from the initial contract among the participants of a project, to invoices and lien waivers to facilitate payment.
In order to create an effective paper document management system, or before you consider a cloud-based solution for document management, it is important to identify the challenges in construction documentation that project managers face.
Challenge #1: Lack of Accessibility
Document accessibility is crucial to promoting efficiency, communication and prevention of delays. For example, project participants (especially clients and their lenders) will require updates on the status of a project. Project managers provide participants with reports regarding project milestones, schedules, and expenses in order to maintain transparency. And lastly, contractors must access project plans to ensure requests are followed closely. When deliveries of material supplies and equipment arrive, or when subcontractors have sent their invoices, these must be cross-referenced and validated using documents currently on hand.
Project managers who still use physical paperwork will have difficulty digging through a bunch of documents, especially when they’re managing a high number of projects. Modern technology, such as construction software and cloud-based document repositories, have alleviated this issue and allow users to centralize construction project documentation in a singular source.
Challenge #2: Modification of Documents on the Field
The office plays a huge role in a construction project, but much of the process is done on the field. Managers and supervisors on the field need to have access to documents while working on the job site. The size and complexity of a project determine the number of plans, documents, and photos, which means it gets harder to track and modify documents while on the field.
For projects with manual paperwork, every modification done on the field needs to be copied and sent to relevant subcontractors and stakeholders. Using cloud-based software makes it easier to modify documents on the fly and synchronize modifications with other project participants instantaneously.
Challenge #3: Management of Revisions
Changes happen frequently in a construction project largely due to changing variables, such as fluctuations in the prices of materials and weather conditions. Change orders happen all the time, leading to adjustments in the scope of work. Markups are also a big part of the construction process as plans go back and forth between project participants until they are approved. For these reasons, many documents in a construction project go through multiple revisions that diverge from initial plans. This poses a challenge in determining which documents are up-to-date and which are not.
Projects that still use physical paperwork will need to have regularly scheduled checks of documents to ensure that the participants are using the latest version. Unfortunately, even teams that use construction software may still face issues with their versioning. Avoid this issue by choosing an application that reflects document updates in real-time and synchronizes them with all project participants.
Challenge #4: Wasted Time and Materials
Fixing a costly mistake tends to be a common occurrence in a construction project and the primary cause is a contractor working off incorrect plans. As previously mentioned, the size of a project dictates the number of plans and documents.
Outdated versions of a document can find themselves in the hands of a contractor who will then use it for work. This results in further project delays, as well as wasted materials and man-hours to fix the mistakes. When work is done, it can take some time before mistakes become apparent and by then, work must stop in order to find and verify the right version and restart the construction.
Challenge #5: Disorganized Photographs
Drones and digital photography have a huge impact on the construction industry by making it easier to identify issues on the field and share information immediately with key decision-makers. However, these technologies have also given rise to newer documentation and file management issues. Digital cameras and drones may have made it easier to take photos on the field, but they also yield a huge amount of photographic data. Someone needs to be responsible for organizing these photos on top of the usual project documents and make them accessible to the right people at the right time. Some software applications have alleviated this burden by allowing users to easily attach photographs to specific tasks and projects, eliminating potential disorganization and confusion.
Address Construction Documentation Issues in 3 Steps
Managing construction documents is one of the most time-consuming parts of the construction process. In order for the right document to be accessed by the right person at the right time, it is crucial that project managers design an effective document management system. Here are three steps to help your team get started.
Step #1: Centralize your plans, photos, and other important documents. Establish one place where these documents and other important information will be stored. Use cloud computing or an integrated software solution to give access to the most updated versions of your project documents. Cloud-based management takes way less space compared to using a physical location.
Step #2: Boost communication with construction software. The application you choose should let project participants collaborate over project documents and synchronize any modifications done on the field. The proper document management system will prevent delays and make it easier for your team to stay within the allocated budget.
Step #3: Assign a dedicated person to oversee the organization of documents. It is crucial that project participants are able to access documents quickly instead of wasting time searching manually. You should also implement coding systems that let project participants know which version of a file they are looking at.
By following these steps, your construction team will be one step closer to higher efficiency and organization on the field.