Last week we published part 1 of an article describing how the construction industry faces unique challenges with its workforce. Today, we’re publishing part two that focuses on solutions and steps to address some of those demands. A construction site has many moving parts that need to move with precision and in a timely fashion. There are digital solutions to being organized and creating standard workflows for construction’s unique challenges. That starts with developing better communication across all involved parties. By collaborating electronically, disparate and remote teams can experience a much smoother workflow. Doing so also avoids time- and cost-consuming paperwork, human error, and lack of communication.
Avoiding Fragmented Teams
Because of the spread of teams on mobile devices at job sites, a collaborative document management solution is essential for the construction industry. Recent figures bear out the reasoning. The total amount of construction work declined from 2006 to 2009, according to a 2013 AECbytes report by Paul Teicholz, Professor Emeritus, Stanford Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Some of the reasons, other than economic factors, include:
- Multiple sets of data on paper documents created by fragmented teams. Each team works independently, so problems are often not found until later in the construction process
- Different teams work under disparate location, work, weather, and regulatory conditions
- Competitive methods such as bidding can lead to poor collaboration on projects that are over budget and behind schedule. A potential side effect of poor collaborative document management integration is that construction teams may try to protect themselves against the repercussions of errors, owner modifications, and omissions of important data
Mobile Access/Content Collaboration in Construction A collaborative document management solution can streamline the entire construction process, even between separate companies and teams. Construction managers and other personnel can access contract documentation stored in one location. All involved in the project can view this right from a tablet. The best solution includes a personalized digital approval process for collaboration. It also features:
- Mark-up and annotation tools for PDFs
- Form populating tools
- Access to the latest contracts, approvals, and other documentation for all team members
Collaborative document management is especially important in construction, since multiple parties share emails, images, faxes, contracts, and other significant information. By logging into one electronic source, employees can avoid sifting through loads of unorganized paperwork.
With an automated document workflow, teams use less paper, leading to a decrease in related expenses and impact on the environment. A digital approach also avoids straying off course of project goals. Paper workflows also have an increased risk of human error, something that is less likely with digital documentation. The result is a faster, more accurate, and less costly collaboration process.
An increasing need for companies is the ability to have users sign legally-binding documents right on their tablets. Such software also aids compliance with company policies, thanks to configurable user and group permissions. In addition, digital signature certifications and biometric encryption keys reinforce security. The most useful collaborative document management software also make available best practice information not just from one project, but previous ones. Alternate methods of working don’t necessarily have to get lost when one building is complete. For instance, project stakeholders also have better access to information on environmentally sustainable products meeting green building standards such as LEED v4 from the U.S. Green Building Council. The software makes it easier for everyone to work towards a common goal, rather than cut corners to reduce costs.
Using Collaborative Document Management in Practice
For the construction industry, specifically, the software will include the ability to:
- Save time by providing instant access to the latest documents related to construction and job management. Bring up documents instantly during a phone call or when preparing for a meeting or presentation
- Print documents stored on any iOS mobile device, including the iPhone and iPad.
- Scan documents directly into the software interface
- Approve work tasks via strategically designed workflows
- Manage contractor forms such as G703 continuation sheets, G702 applications, invoices, subcontracts, payroll, change orders, purchase orders, and more
- Track the status of documents, changes, and contract approvals
As a construction company – or one with very similar demands – tries to change its internal operations for the better, it needs a solution that works not only with their own challenges but one that can also work with the traditional ways contractors work. The entire industry will not change overnight but being able to demonstrate a tool that saves your company money shows others there is a solution out there.