PlanGrid Construction Productivity Blog
How Digital Technology Can Improve Collaboration at Formwork Firms

How Digital Technology Can Improve Collaboration at Formwork Firms

Think back to the most challenging projects you’ve ever worked on. Maybe there were mistakes, missed deadlines, changes to the brief–or even conflict with contractors and clients.

On the jobsite, there can be lots of reasons why things go wrong. But more often than not, the root issue is difficulties in collaborating effectively, whether that’s with the contractor, other firms or simply within your team.

This is an issue across the construction industry. In the Asia-Pacific region, 29% of all rework is caused by poor communication, costing $4.1 billion in 2018 alone.

As a specialist subcontractor, sometimes it can seem that challenges with collaboration are beyond your control. However, digital technology can help to not only improve collaboration on the jobsite but enable formwork firms to build strong, lasting client relationships.

Collaboration Complications

Formwork subcontractors play a critical role in delivering buildings, whether it’s creating sturdy foundations or installing elaborately shaped feature roofs and walls. But delivering high-quality formwork requires complex planning and precise execution, to meet deadlines and enable the project to stay on track–and that depends on careful collaboration.

Working with other firms is critical, whether it’s gaining the latest project specifications from the contractor, intense coordination with concrete subcontractors or working alongside other partners on a tight schedule on site.

The Issue with Information

Poor information-sharing, however, can be a huge barrier to collaboration. It’s often challenging for contractors to share the latest information across multiple subcontractors. As a result, time can be wasted waiting for data; in fact, the average construction worker spends 4.9 hours a week looking for the information they need.

It can be difficult to get answers to key questions about the work; the most common cause of poor communication is unresponsiveness to requests. This not only limits productivity and causes delays, but can result in mistakes. As correcting errors in formwork can be extremely costly and time-consuming, this can set back the project schedule and cut into the business’ profit margin.

Ultimately, challenges with collaboration can lead to stressful working conditions, conflict on-site and ultimately damage to relationships with contractors and clients. But by using digital technology to enhance information-sharing, formwork businesses can improve collaboration and their overall performance.

Perfecting Partnerships with Digital Platforms

Today, formwork businesses can benefit from mobile collaboration tools like PlanGrid, which are available on familiar devices like smartphones and tablets. These digital platforms enable firms to easily access the latest project information from the jobsite, whether that’s drawings, specifications, Building Information Modelling data (BIM) or other documentation.

Because the data is stored in the cloud, it’s updated automatically, eliminating the problem of version control–and the challenge of constantly asking contractors for the latest information.

Importantly, these digital platforms have been designed to enable seamless collaboration between firms on-site. Formwork subcontractors can upload notes or photos attached directly to locations on drawings, to share instant updates on progress. Contractors can easily assign fixes for snag defect list items to individual firms with deadlines, and subcontractors can feedback immediately when the work has been completed, to ensure that work is completed to the highest standard.

It’s true that different firms might use different digital tools, which can make it difficult to transfer compatible data. However, there are features available like PlanGrid Connect, which use APIs to enable easy integration between different platforms–so that it’s easy to share data across systems.

A New Class of Cooperation for Formwork Firms

Having access to up to date information enables formwork businesses to work more collaboratively and productively with other partners on-site. This is vital for delivering work that’s right first time and on schedule. But importantly, digital tools can also enable firms to build stronger relationships with contractors and clients over time.

Subcontractors can communicate regularly and in detail about progress on-site throughout the construction process, sharing updates and reports whenever needed. Formwork businesses can also feed into rich, digital as-built records, that can help with facilities management and any renovations further down the line. This higher level of service can create a more cooperative relationship, and help formwork firms to stand out from the crowd for future work.

Equally, accurate digital records can help to reduce the risk of conflict about work that’s been completed. PlanGrid software enables firms to document any changes in scope and provide evidence of work completed on time. This protects both the subcontractor and the client and creates a stronger, more trusting relationship.

Stronger Together

Digital tools can enable formwork businesses to improve their relationships with other firms, improving the performance on individual jobs and building a strong foundation for future projects. However, with these tools, formwork firms can also improve collaboration within the business.

Mobile collaboration tools can mitigate some of the most challenging elements of the job, whether that’s frustrations waiting for information or coping with conflict. Teams can share information with each other seamlessly, coordinating between the jobsite, the office and other locations with ease. That makes for better working lives–and a more productive and cohesive organisation.

Seamless collaboration creates for better relationships, whether it’s within the business or with others. And with digital technology, formwork firms can eliminate collaboration challenges and set themselves up for long term success.

Adele Bernard

Adele Bernard (@Aadelebe) is APAC Marketing Director at PlanGrid and has spent the last decade as an APAC Tech Road Warrior, presenting to leaders of enterprise organisations and organising corporate events around the region.

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