6 File Management Headaches Only Construction Professionals Understand

October 17, 2016 Joan Allen

Construction File Management Headache


General contractors, we see you.

You’re spending long days (and sometimes sleepless nights) keeping your projects running smoothly. From bidding to construction to handover, your eye is continuously on the schedule, the budget, and the bottom line. From boardroom meetings with owners to managing subcontractors and job site inspections, your job never really ends.

More than anything, every day, you just want to get it right. And if there’s one thing that matters when it comes to getting it right, it’s making sure everyone has current versions of the latest construction files, plans and models.

This used to require, and in many cases still does, maintaining a stack of documents in the job trailer. Every morning, the superintendent, foremen, and subcontractors on the site would stomp through the trailer checking for the latest versions of the relevant documents. On site, they’d make markups in pen, and return the documents with notes and stickies, noting issues and changes.

Making new copies of documents was expensive, and there was an ever-present danger that the files would get scrambled, a note would get missed, or a newer document would get accidentally replaced with an old one.

With the advent of cloud file storage, some of that pain went away. But not all of it, right?

Which of these six file management problems drives you craziest? Pick one, then scroll down for solutions. 

1. When You Download from One Application, Then Upload Into Another Application, MarkUp, Then Download Then Upload Then Check Then Repeat Over and Over and Over


Storing files digitally and being able to share them via a link is great. But what happens when you actually need to do something with those files? Download from the server. Upload to the appropriate viewing application. Make notes. Upload to the markup application. Markup. Download to the server. Make a mistake? Need to add changes? Start over.

2. When Someone Else Downloads the Document You’re Currently Marking Up


You download the document, open it up in the right application, make your changes, re-upload… and discover that someone else has downloaded the same file in the meantime. Now there’s another version out there floating around, and you’ve got to track it down, compare it to your own, argue over who’s responsible for making the two match up, and pull your hair out because you will never get that hour (or more) back again ever.

3. When You’re Working Off an Outdated Plan Because You Don’t Know There’s a Newer One


The only thing worse than discovering someone else has downloaded the same document and made changes simultaneously with yours, is operating off an outdated plan… and not discovering it until after the work is done. Bye-bye schedule control. Hello big, expensive mistakes.

4. When You’re Paying A Project Engineer to Name Files. Lots of Files.


Getting all the construction files loaded into the file management system is no small task. First, the plans must be broken down into individual sheets. Then each sheet must be named.

Title block, unique number, unique name.

And since you’ve put a project engineer in charge of document management, you’re paying some eager young college grad an engineer’s salary to spend hours typing, “Construction Set-First Floor Plan-A101,” “Construction Set-First Floor Plan-A102,” “Construction Set-First Floor Plan-A103.”

5. When You’re Viewing a Plan drawing and Need to See Details for the Electrical Layout, But They’re Not Linked


PDFs are great for document storage, but they can only handle so much detail in a single document. That means, when you need a detailed view, you sometimes have to dig deep in the files to find what you’re looking for, and that takes time you really don’t have to spare.

6. Not Knowing Who’s Responsible for the $*%^(@! Rework!


When there’s an unresolved issue that leads to rework, it can be tough to track down exactly what happened--and decide who has to pay for it.

(thanks to Giphy for illustrating these points...)


There is, of course, a better way...

File management solutions have evolved beyond Dropbox (and its cousins), so that now you have access to a range of construction-specific file management solutions that eliminate many of your biggest pains. Take a look at how the right product suite solves all six problems (and what to look for):

1. Eliminate upload/download woes

The convoluted upload / download / markup / upload / download cycle is the result of using too many separate applications for specific tasks. In addition to being a headache in and of itself, moving files in and out of applications causes problems with versioning, file format compatibility, and locating information.

A good cloud-based solution with built-in cross functionality eliminates all of these related problems, by allowing users to edit and markup documents directly. Automatic syncing enables real-time file and document collaboration.

2. Put yourself back in control

Maintaining all your information in a cloud-based repository eliminates the risks associated with multiple copies. Look for software with versioning and in-app notifications to alert you when someone else is editing the document you’re working on. In the rare instance of a conflict, versioning lets you decide which version “wins.”

3. Know when someone downloads a file you share

Construction project teams are made up of a lot of people focused on doing their job and getting it done on time. Nobody wants to be the one who causes a delay, but just because an architect completed a design change to address an RFI by midnight of the deadline, doesn’t mean the superintendent is viewing the change at 5:00 am the next morning. The right software provides custom notification settings to alert you when someone has downloaded or edited a document that you share, so the relevant people know to check those updates before proceeding with work.

4. Streamline document management

With the right software suite, you can assign the job of naming files to the software, rather than an expensive engineer. Which is good news, because your software doesn’t demand overtime pay. Look for customizable setup and the ability to control naming conventions in your software suite.

5. Click or swipe for quick access

The best software suites enable you to quickly access any page you choose, from an index, search, or a hyperlink inside a related file, enabling you to drill down instantly to get the details you need.

6. Capture all the info

The right electronic document management system will capture all current and historic data, so when someone screws up (and someone always screws up), it’s easy to track down who’s responsible. This has the benefit not only of identifying has to fix it, but also reduces the number and cost of those mistakes.


PRO-TIP: Construction Specific Solutions

The right cloud-based product suite solves all of these problems, while allowing project teams to view 2D and 3D plans directly inside the file management system from any mobile device. Native file types allow seamless zooming in for details, real-time change tracking, and confidence you’re always working with the latest version.

Here's how our construction-specific solution stacks up against the generic competition:


Head to Head: Generic File Management Versus BIM 360

Generic File Management Solution vs BIM 360 Docs There's quite a difference between generic file management, and a system purpose built for construction workflows.



Ready to get started with our FREE construction document management solution?



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What construction file management headaches do you deal with? 

Post them in the comments below!



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