While small and medium-sized construction companies may have avoided many technological advancements over the last few decades, document control is becoming essential for all firms with the advent of digital bidding platforms and mobile devices.
Construction firms that are lacking in document control practices tend to experience a wide range of issues as files go missing, fail to get updated across the entire team or end up in the wrong hands. Companies experiencing any of these seven issues on a regular basis should definitely consider utilizing a construction project document control system to improve workflow across the board.
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1. High Rate of Rework
With rework demands costing the U.S. construction industry over $31.3 billion in 2018, it’s clear that document control can result in substantial savings. A large number of rework requests are generated due to a lack of version control on drawings and plans. When the workers assembling the structure are working from an old set of plans that don’t reflect the latest change orders, rework is practically inevitable. Construction software that updates documents automatically and displays version information is useful to everyone from the project manager to the electrician or bricklayer following the plans.
2. Wasted Labor on Searches
A substantial amount of valuable labor is wasted each year on trying to find specific files within an uncategorized assortment of hundreds or thousands of documents. With quick responses needed for any request for information (RFI) that pops up during construction, document control systems make it easy to pull up any particular file or document with a simple search. Metadata and tagging features increase the power of document search functions. With the construction project manager ultimately responsible for finding necessary files before work can move forward, a document control and access system can free up hours per week for more valuable tasks.
3. Separate Storage Spaces
Many construction companies that attempt to use free or low-cost storage options that aren’t designed specifically for document control end up spreading their files over multiple services. Document control options vary between services, making it all too easy for accounts to trigger a security breach. These third-party services almost always impose a storage limit, even for paid accounts, and only accept certain types of files. Some storage accounts are even forgotten entirely after a project wraps up, resulting in a loss of documents that are then needed when there’s a problem with the structure. Switching to a construction document control system with unlimited storage is the best way to keep everything in the same space, ensuring steady access to everything as the years pass.
4. Communication Delays
Communication delays caused by document control issues can’t be solved with training or more advanced mobile devices. When a team member or subcontractor has to request access to essential documents rather than having access from the beginning, delays of hours or even days can develop to throw a project off its original timeline. Incompatible files and a lack of access on existing mobile devices can also slow down communication over plan change orders and RFIs. Apps with a wide range of device compatibility and tools for faster communication between team members help prevent these kinds of communication delays from derailing a project’s progress.
5. Slow Response to Change Orders
With construction projects generating an average of 56 change orders each over the course of design and building, there’s no way that manual updating methods can keep up with the requests. A delay of even a few hours in pushing out changes to crucial project documents after a change decision can result in wasted materials and labor. Document control processes that only allow access to the latest versions of a file, or at least designate the various revision versions, speed up the response process when dozens of change orders are coming in over the course of weeks and months. Tracking the changes between various versions of the same document also provides proof that a change order was received and responded to by the design team or construction firm responsible for the work.
6. Leaks of Project and Personal Data
The construction industry may not be targeted for hacking attempts quite as much as healthcare and retail companies, but there have been plenty of serious data leaks in the past few years within the industry. In 2017, just over 80% of surveyed companies in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industries reported at least one instance of fraud.
Document control practices, in particular, represent a weak point for access to sensitive data. Unsafe practices like using common login details shared between team members in emails can lead to unauthorized access when a single device or account is breached. Individual user accounts with permission controls are a much smarter, safer, and more efficient way to protect sensitive data without restricting access to the point of interrupting project workflow.
7. Difficulties With Closeout Packages
Closeout packages should include the latest versions of all drawings and files related to the layout, construction, and internal systems of a structure. Unfortunately, these handover packages often contain only a portion of the data they should, or they rely on outdated and incorrect documents. The owners and operators of the finished building often find themselves paying for independent surveying and inspection work to collect accurate information about their own structures.
Document control systems simplify the task of picking out only the latest and most relevant files for inclusion in a closeout package. Any company that finds itself dealing with repeat requests for more files after closing a construction project should invest in an upgrade to their document control software and practices.
Looking for More Ways to Improve Construction Document Control?
Learn more about the risks of operating without the right document control plans by downloading our ebook, “Best Practices for Document Control in Construction.”