None of us got into construction because we love paperwork; we got into it because we love to build things. We like to use our hands, to see a plan come together, and we take pride in doing good work, delivering quality projects. We look forward to the day we can drive our grandchildren around town and show them the buildings that are an integral part of the landscape--buildings that shape the communities we live in.
With that said, there's no way around the fact that construction document management is an unavoidable part of the job. Perhaps a dreaded part, but definitely an integral part, and one that is crucial to get right.
From architectural plans to markups to RFIs, one mistake in a single document can lead to costly mistakes in execution. Managing all those documents in an efficient, organized way is as much a part of running a successful construction business as knowing how to accurately bid on jobs..
Below are five reasons how effective document management leads to better outcomes on construction projects--along with some helpful guidance to make it far less painful.
Ensure your team is always working off the right plans with proper construction document management
1. Working off the wrong plans wastes time, material, and man-hours
This is such a common occurrence that we challenge you to find a single contractor who has never had to fix a costly mistake because someone on the jobsite was working off the wrong set of plans.
Naturally, the size and complexity of a project determine the number of drawings, ranging from dozens to thousands - and that’s before we start counting revisions to those drawings, often issued with little or no notice throughout the project. In the old days, plans were stored in a giant stack in the job trailer, and each morning everyone had to check in and make sure they had the latest version. Changes meant having to attach revision notes or print new documents.
Software tools that digitize construction document management streamline the process, making it far easier to keep up-to-date with the most current versions, reducing the amount of paper copies, and enabling anytime, anywhere access for project stakeholders. Every time a change is issued, someone has to make sure the central files are updated and that everyone knows about the change, and this is the primary speedbump in going digital. Most firms who make the switch to digital document management designate someone on the team to handle this task as an ongoing position.
Even with new and improved ways of utilizing technology to ensure plans are updated, it’s still possible to make mistakes. Fortunately, modern construction-specific software can alleviate a lot of the pain by creating a unified set of plans that everyone can access and update from their mobile devices, tablets, and laptops. This ensures that wherever your project team is - on or off the jobsite - they have the latest data to work from. And, it means less document management headaches for you.
2. Tracking markups is a pain
Red pens and sticky notes may someday go the way of the dot matrix printer, but markups will always be a part of the business. Somebody has to manage the notes that are being made in the field, make sure they get added to the appropriate files, and then push the information up to the people who need to review it, then back out to the folks in the field.
Meanwhile, in the field, there are probably dozens of new markups being created that haven’t been recorded to a central repository yet. And that’s a problem.
This is another area where the right construction specific software can reduce the pain and improve the results. By allowing users to make markups directly inside the plans, cloud-based document management software makes the latest data immediately available to everyone on the job--without time-consuming uploading and downloading.
Construction specific software can reduce the pain of tracking markups
Using construction document management software like BIM 360 makes this really simple. Markups can be done by hand on an iPad or smartphone, and with a variety of shapes as well as freehand, text, and arrows. Perhaps best of all, each markup is automatically linked to the file and version that it was created on and open markups carry over from one version to the next. This means the markup matches up with correct file version, significantly helping with version-control.
3. New day, new issues.
It’s a rare day when someone somewhere on the job site doesn’t run into an issue. Whether it’s an unexpected obstacle to construction, a discrepancy between the plan and the reality, or a conflict between one aspect of the design and another, issues are a part of the package, and so is managing them.
In the old days, issues had to be written up manually, carried by hand to the job trailer, then delivered to the designers and the owner, who were then responsible for making decisions, communicating the solution back to the contractor, who then had to get it back to the field.
Cloud-based, construction document management software provides an easy way to record issues directly in the plan documents
Doing it this way is already a hassle and a drag on the schedule, and at any point in the issues management process, a missed communication can lead to additional problems and more delays. According to a study by Skanska called, "iPads and BIM in Construction: What is the ROI? — A Case Study," inaccurate documentation, in which the information gathered in the field does not reflect the latest designs and specifications is the largest contributing factor for rework, representing a whopping 55% of claims. Depending on the size of the issue, communication missteps can put a project on hold until the issue is resolved.
Cloud-based, construction document management makes the process much smoother by providing an easy way to record issues directly in the plan documents, and to notify the right people immediately. This facilitates communication and ensures that everyone is working off the same issues and solutions, in real-time, both back at the office and in the field, saving time and shortening turnaround on issue resolution.
4. Photos, so many photos
Digital photography, drones in construction, and the growth of mobile devices have been a huge boon to the construction industry, making it simple to document issues and share field information. However, this growth has also created an explosion of new documents, as well as a new file management problem. Somebody has to be responsible for organizing all those photos and images, and making them accessible to the right people at the right time.
A tool like BIM 360 lets you capture photos in the field, associate them with project checklists and issues, and maintain the photos as part of the the complete project record. For a GC or project manager to have instant access to specific images as needed, goes a long way to simplifying communication and planning.
What's more, the integration of BIM 360 with Smartvid.io makes searching for photos and videos even easier, by automatically pulling out photos and videos from BIM 360 and making them searchable with a choice of either a manual or an automatic tagging process.
Screenshot of a Smartvid.io photo database.
Now you can find exactly the images you need while discussing options with an owner or with the project team. Having these visuals at your fingertips when you need to make the point makes explaining things far easier, and gives the stakeholders a clearer understanding and the confidence to make decisions more easily.
5. The Client Wants Visibility
Owners want to know what the project will look like, what the construction phase will be like, and need to be kept up-to-date on project status. That means that someone has to find and compile the relevant documents, models, files, and reports to put in front of them, then take the time to meet with them and review everything.
Construction document management is much easier with apps like BIM 360, which make all project information - including 2D drawings, 3D models, and other files, available in real time to owners and other stakeholders, without taking valuable time away from your team.
Construction document management software makes 2D drawings, 3D models, and all other project files available to owners in real time
What makes these tools so helpful is that working in 3D allows contractors, owners and other stakeholders to visualize the project in a way that takes the guesswork out. Details like the geometry of the structure, piping, ductwork, cable tray, etc., things that two-dimensional drawings can’t convey in the same way. 3D modelling software now offers the ability to manage clash detection in the model, before a single pipe or duct is hung, reducing rework significantly.
If you’re working with an owner that prefers to view documents in 2D, the software even allows you to display 2D drawings, created from the 3D model, so you have just the visual aid at your fingertips to help make your point, and get things done.
You’ve gotten to where you are because you love what you do and you’re good at it. You know how to put together a team, where to find the right materials, and what it takes to get a project off the ground. Now, with the latest technologies, you can reduce the amount of time and resources you spend on file management, with some added benefits along the way, and get back to what you love best: building.