Getting Started Standardizing Your Projects
For any company, growth can be as exciting as it is uncomfortable and terrifying. Growing pains can come in multiple forms from getting new workers up to speed, increasing administrative work, rising operations costs and more. In the field, more work can, unfortunately, result in more mistakes. For most of us, it comes as no surprise that as a company grows, construction quality is increasingly more difficult to maintain. As a result, stakeholders have to recognize that a change in scale will require them to pay closer attention to all details of the operation since mistakes or missteps can have more of a negative effect on the bottom line than ever before.
Chances are, if you’re a growing company, you have been doing something right. Your work is being recognized as quality–but diligence is needed to ensure you don’t lose what made you so excel to begin with. If construction companies fail to address the growing pains before they become a major issue, your business could shrink back to the same size it previously was or worse, even less. The quality of work you provide directly corresponds to your brand’s reputation and your ability to retain business. Clearly, there’s a lot more on the line as your company grows in size and scope.
If you’re planning to scale your business or are already beginning the process to build your company further, you should be concerned about maintaining construction quality and reducing risk to keep growing and retain profitability. Nevertheless, quality can be subjective measurement. For instance, one of your workers might consider quality to mean something completely different to another laborer. Therefore, to best address quality, you need a system of standards– or a set of rules and processes that are generally accepted.
Below, we’ll discuss the importance of maintaining quality as your company grows and how you can get started standardizing today.
A Mandate for Growth…
Growing the business is a chief goal for most construction companies, and yours should certainly be no exception. The business plan you developed when first establishing the company included projections for growth, but perhaps it was early on and did not spell out specifically how you would continue to expand.
Nevertheless, you want to take on more projects, turn more profits and hire more staff. This will be a boon to the labor force as well as serve to boost your presence and stature in the local community, which further expands your brand in the marketplace.
But with growth, two major concerns will arise: how your organization can maintain its high standards of quality and what it can do to reduce risk during expansion.
…But the Need to Maintain Quality
You already recognize that construction quality cannot suffer, or otherwise, you will lose projects and business. Contractors are already used to working on dangerously tight margins. Poorer quality jobs result in increased costs, blown schedules and rework that eats into the bottom line—perhaps disastrously.
Quality assurance is also critical to avoiding unnecessary and easily preventable injuries. Since accidents can be a life and death matter in construction sites, it’s important for managers and owners to adopt a mindset of humility, to avoid blind spots that could compromise the team’s safety, noted a report from the Association for Talent Development.
To maintain both quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC), you’ll need a cohesive team and collaboration tools dedicated to monitoring both the entire construction process in addition to the final product. Careful communication is vital here because when communication is disjointed, projects will suffer from both QA and QC issues.
How Growth Increases Risk and Threatens Quality
As a rule of thumb, more growth will entail more construction risk. For example, your organization will have more people to manage, along with an increase in processes as you work through a myriad of simultaneous projects in various stages of development. At the same time, you have to stay on top of industry developments so you can continue following best practices as well as comply with any emerging government regulations.
You don’t need your CFO to tell you that with more risk come increased costs. As a company grows, sometimes workers and management will “cut corners” in order to complete jobs on time. Instead of saving time, this most commonly results in shoddy work and poor safety. A lack of sufficient safety standards is a significant risk and could result in massive legal fees that have the potential to incapacitate companies in their growth stage.
Other risks to control include minimizing the impact of the labor shortage. If you’re growing, you’ll need to get the most out of the labor you have readily available. The labor shortage makes it hard to find necessary labor to keep up with jobs. At the same time, you don’t want to overwork your employees to the point of burnout. Instead, using specialized construction productivity software can help mitigate the impact of the shortage by increasing productivity. If you are just using generic, off-the-shelf business planning software like Excel to power your business, now is the time to look into dedicated construction industry-oriented applications that will allow you staff to accomplish more with fewer resources.
Why Standardization Maintains Construction Quality
In short, one of the most effective strategies for any growing company is to start standardizing. While each project your construction company takes on will be different, standardization will keep a project on track and allow you to take on more business. According to TechTarget, standardization is “the process of developing, promoting and possibly mandating standards-based and compatible technologies and processes within a given industry.”
In construction, standardization is driven through the implementation of field hardware and the use of construction software to systemize workflows and processes. With so many existing variances in each building project and market, standards help ensure both safety and construction quality are maintained.
To implement standardization successfully, you have to allocate sufficient time and resources to set up the software and processes into one cohesive system. For businesses just getting started implementing construction software, the process may at first appear overwhelming. However, don’t fret. Once you’ve successfully made the transition, your operations and processes will be exponentially more productive.
How to Start Standardizing
Standardize software across projects
First, find the construction software system that works for your team–both in the field and in the office back at headquarters. It’s best to read objective reviews from industry publications that you already know and trust. You’ll also want to consult colleagues in the field on their needs, as their ability to work effectively has the largest impact on your profits. Finally, always try before you buy. If a software option you are considering offers a demo or trial, give it a try.
Keep everyone on the same page with tools
You will get much better results if the project team is working on one system, rather than several (potentially conflicting) systems. This means that you will need to provide similar hardware throughout projects or project teams. Will you use an iPad or Android devices? The choice should depend on your labor’s preference in addition to budget considerations. You may even want to consider rolling out standards for mobile device accessories and gear.
If you’re looking for suggestions on hardware, we’ve outlined several in our blog post, “Gear Up for Success: 18 Top Mobile Construction Tech Recommendations for Your Field Team [Supergraphic].”
Establish and standardize workflows
Your managers will need to know exactly who does what and how projects will be executed in each step. Otherwise, you face a chaotic scene, with the potential to inadvertently assign too many workers to one aspect of a project while starving another part of the construction effort with an inadequate number of building professionals.
Set up templates whenever possible
The use of software templates ensures that different teams don’t go off on their own, with incompatible ways of doing the same thing in different parts of your company.
Automation will help you maintain standards and reduce errors. Indeed, robots and automation can help construction companies boost their quality while lowering risk to human workers.
For example, a recently invented bricklaying robot known as the SAM100 is capable of laying 2,000 bricks per day, which dwarfs the accomplishments of ordinary human masons, who can lay about 400 bricks on average every day, noted a recent Recode report on robots in construction.
Administrative processes like submittals can also be automated. The faster you can create a submittal log and then keep track of it through all steps until approval, the faster you can get down to business.
The key performance indicators you establish will give everyone a single set of metrics to measure that are visible, and that will serve to hold staff accountable. Objective standards will show each person on the team what is expected of them. This makes it easier for you to ensure you have what you need to track performance over time.
Standardize the turnover package
Once you handoff the project, what will you provide? Some construction company owners do not receive a complete idea of the project’s history at turnover, making facility management ever the more difficult and expensive. But when you have standards in place for as-builts and project closeout, facility management will be easier for the owners.
Stand Out From the Competition With Better Quality Control and Lowered Risk
To minimize risk and keep construction quality at an acceptable level, you need to establish your standards. Effectively doing so will solidify your position as a top construction company and gain the attention of more clients who will be interested in hiring you for projects. From standardizing technology tools to improving how members of your team communicate and share information, you’ll be ahead of the competitors and prepared to continue to take on more work.
Looking to learn more about how to start standardizing your projects? Download our guide to help get you started.