PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
specialty contractors independence

How Specialty Contractors Can Find Project Independence [Scorecard]

How Does Your Project Independence Rank?

For specialty contractors, many workers enter a particular trade as a chance to further a passion or skill in construction. Whether it’s mechanical, electrical, drywall, interior or landscaping, each specialty is a chance to unleash their trade. But unfortunately, finding this autonomy in subcontracting isn’t as easy as it should be.

All too often, subcontractors are limited because they are dependent on other aspects of the job. While seamless collaboration between general contractors and other specialty contractors is critical, subs can find themselves obliged to the processes and technology brought to them by other stakeholders. As a result, construction methods aren’t always optimized for subs specifically which can provide inconsistencies from project to project.

Nonetheless, given the many challenges and workload of subs, finding project independence is essential to keep them working productively. Subs with more control, consistency and collaboration over their projects and trade will be more ready to meet the increasing demands of construction. Projects will only be able to be profitable if subcontractors are empowered to control their success.

But how do you know if you’re finding project independence? Use our scorecard to find out how independent are your projects:

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Are you finding hurdles when it comes to controlling your own destiny as a subcontractor? Wouldn’t it be better to have your whole team operate using the same processes and tech, project to project, to help facilitate construction faster? In our latest ebook, we’ve identified several productivity strategies to help your teams own and better manage their trade and bring consistency to projects.

Download Ebook

Further Reading:  Building 101: What Is a Change Order?

Below, we’ll discuss a few of the major roadblocks that subcontractors come across on an average project, as well as what will empower them to move past the difficulties and truly own their trade.

Fundamental Problems Facing Today’s Specialty Contractors

Success depends not only on a quality job completed on time but your ability to work with general contractors and other specialty contractors. Subs are at the mercy of schedule and scope changes communicated by the general contractors and other subs. Frequently, it can feel like a constant game of catching up and waiting around.

Primarily due to their dependence on GCs, specialty contractors face an array of business challenges that inhibit them from managing and finishing their work efficiently. Here are a few of the obstacles subs face due to their reliance on other teams:

  • Unpredictable changes in scope and cost: Throughout the project, changes are driven down by the owner and GC. Due to fragmented communications, frequently these changes come as a surprise to subs who usually only hear about it just before the work needs to be completed, if at all.
  • Chaotic schedules: Scheduling is always a hurdle due to coordination issues with GCs and other subcontractors. Furthermore, subs are often working many projects at once and have to coordinate planning, labor, etc. across all of these.  A change in schedule on one project could derail plans for several other projects.
  • Cash flow: Subs usually have to front the cost of all materials then get paid back later. As a result, payments from GCs can often be delayed. Without extensive documentation, it’s difficult to keep track of the work and get paid on time.
  • Availability and retainment of skilled labor: Subs have a higher percentage of business costs tied up in labor compared to GCs. Finding skilled labor is hard especially given the shortage. Lack of supply and competing subs also increases the cost of labor.
  • Inconsistent coordination: On one job, there could be 50 trades on a jobsite at various times during the project. This creates lots of overlap and requires serious coordination and scheduling skills.
  • Poor issue tracking and accountability: With so many things happening on a job, keeping track of your work can be tough enough. On top of that, GCs also have their list of things they’re worried about and are coming to subs to coordinate. For instance, specialty contractors might be trying to closeout a project, and GC assigns a ton of punchlist work, but half of it should be assigned to another team. With so many things to keep track of across trades, it can be hard for GC to manage, making it difficult for subs as a result.
  • Inadequate reporting and documentation: Documentation on projects can be exhaustive, especially if done manually. Subs need to document everything from materials that they’ll need to get paid back for the work that’s been completed and installed. Even if weather or another team is causing a delay, subs will need to document that to ensure they don’t get blamed later down the road.

How Subs Can Overcome Hurdles and Find Project Independence

Clearly, subcontractors face plenty of everyday challenges that keep them on their toes. Without the right tools and processes, specialty contractors will continue to find themselves at the will of GCs and owners. Therefore, it’s essential for subs to get on board with the right technology to improve their documentation and keep them in constant communication with the right teams.

The ideal software for subs to use should include the following features:

  1. Easy to use for any trade. To improve adoption in the field, subs need technology that everyone in the field and the office, from foreman to project executives, can use.
  2. Real-time project visibility. With the most up-to-date plans and documents available at all times, teams are always working from the latest set and can easily compare, identify and manage the smallest changes in scope and cost.
  3. Capture your work, get paid. Subs need technology that allows to effortlessly document their work, right from the field. With software that allows them to markup, attach photos and track every detail of work that gets done, there’s no question about what work was done or when.

Own Your Trade, Control Your Success

Ready to find more project independence and own your trade? The right software gives teams more control over their work and helps teams collaborate on the most up to date project information anywhere, on any device. For specialty contractors, this results in more productive field and office teams, healthier relationships with GCs and other stakeholders, and better business outcomes.

To get started, download our ebook today:

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Further Reading:  Top Construction Articles of 2017 to Improve Your Bottom Line in 2018

Grace Ellis

Currently, as the Content Marketing Specialist at PlanGrid, Grace is responsible for helping to manage the PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog. With over eight years of experience in marketing, communications, and PR for technology companies, she is specialized in content creation across both traditional and digital media platforms.

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