Why care about construction document management?
We don't get into the construction business because we love paperwork. We get into it because we love to build things. We like to use our hands. We like see a plan come together. We look forward to the day we can drive our grandchildren around town and show them the buildings that have become an integral part of the landscape--buildings that we made.
In this business, document management is an unavoidable part of the job. Perhaps a dreaded part, but definitely a critical part.
From architectural plans to markups to RFIs, one mistake in a single document can lead to costly mistakes in execution. Which means that managing all those documents, in an efficient, organized way, is as much a part of running a successful construction business as knowing which specialty contractors to call for which jobs.
Here are five reasons why effective document management will lead to better outcomes on your construction projects--along with some helpful guidance to make it far less painful.
1. Working off the wrong plans costs $$$$$
And it’s easy to do. In fact, I challenge you to find a single contractor who has never had to fix a costly mistake because someone on the jobsite was working off the wrong set of plans.
Depending on the size of the project, the number of drawings can range from less than 100 to 1,000 or more - and that doesn't even include the number to revisions to those drawings that are issued throughout the project. In the old days, plans were stored in a giant stack in the job trailer, and each morning everyone had to check in and make sure they had the latest version. Changes meant having to attach revision notes or print new documents.
Digital construction document management makes keeping track of the most current documentation easier by reducing the amount of paper copies, and enabling anytime, anywhere access for project stakeholders. Someone still has to upload the plan files, name them, and maintain them, however. Every time a change is issued, someone has to make sure the central files are updated and that everyone knows about the change.
Even with new and improved ways of utilizing technology to ensure plans are updated, it’s still possible to make mistakes. Fortunately, modern construction-specific software can alleviate a lot of the pain by creating a unified set of plans that everyone can access and update from their mobile devices, tablets, and laptops. This ensures that wherever your project team is - on or off the jobsite - they have the latest data to work from. And, it means less document management headaches for you.
2. Tracking markups is a critical pain in the... tush
Red pens and sticky notes may someday go the way of the dot matrix printer, but markups will always be a part of the business. Somebody has to manage the notes that are being made in the field, make sure they get added to the appropriate files, and then push the information up to the people who need to review it, then back out to the folks in the field.
Meanwhile, in the field, there are probably dozens of new markups being created that haven’t been recorded to a central repository yet. And that’s a problem.
This is another area where the right construction-specific software can reduce the pain and improve the results. By allowing users to make markups directly inside the plans, cloud-based document management software makes the latest data immediately available to everyone on the job--without time-consuming uploading and downloading.
Redline markup in BIM 360 Docs
Using construction document management software like BIM 360 Docs makes this really simple. Markups can be done by hand in an iPad or mouse, and with a variety of shapes as well as freehand, text, and arrows. Perhaps best of all, each markup is linked to the file and version that it was created on and open markups carry over from one version to the next. This means the markup matches up with correct file version, significantly helping with version-control.
3. New day, new issues
It’s a rare day when someone somewhere on the job site doesn’t run into an issue. Whether it’s an unexpected obstacle to construction, a discrepancy between the plan and the reality, or a conflict between one aspect of the design and another, issues are a part of the package.
And so is managing them.
In the old days, issues had to be written up manually, delivered to the job trailer, then delivered to the designers and the owner, who were responsible for making decisions, then communicating the solution back to the contractor, to communicate it back to the field.
At any point in the issues management process, a missed communication can lead to problems and delays. According to a study by Skanska called, "iPads and BIM in Construction: What is the ROI? — A Case Study," inaccurate documentation, in which the information gathered in the field does not reflect the latest designs and specifications is the largest contributing factor for rework, representing a whopping 55% of claims. Communication issues can also put build schedules on hold until the issues are resolved.
Cloud-based, construction-specific file management makes the process much less painful by providing an easy way to record issues directly in the plan documents, and to notify the right people immediately. This facilitates communication and ensures that everyone is working off the same issues and solutions, in real-time, both back at the office and in the field.
4. Photos, so many photos
Digital photography, drones, and the growth of mobile devices have been a huge boon to the construction industry, making it simple to document issues and share field information. However, this growth has also created a new file management problem. Somebody has to be responsible for organizing all those photos and images, and making them accessible to the right people at the right time.
A tool like BIM 360 Field lets you capture photos in the field, associate them with project checklists and issues, and maintain the photos as part of the the complete project record. For a GC to be able to pull up specific images as needed, quickly and easily, would help greatly with communication and planning.
What's more, the integration of BIM 360 Field with Smartvid.io makes searching for photos and videos even easier, by automatically pulling out photos and videos from BIM 360 Field and making them searchable with a choice of either a manual or an automatic tagging process.
Screenshot of a Smartvid.io photo database.
Imagine being able to find exactly the images you need while discussing options with an owner or with the project team. Having these visuals at your fingertips when you need to make the point would make explaining things a lot easier, and stakeholders potentially more receptive to your ideas.
5. The Client Wants Visibility
The owner needs to know what the project will look like, what the construction phase will be like, and needs to be kept up-to-date on current status. That means that someone has to find and compile the relevant documents, models, files, and reports.
Cloud-based document management, combined with 3D modeling, can give owners a better way to monitor progress, without taking time away from your team.
Construction document management can be made much easier by using apps like BIM 360 Docs which make all project information - including 2D drawings, 3D models, and other files, available in real time to owners and other stakeholders.
What makes these tools so helpful is that working in 3D allows contractors, owners and other stakeholders access to a level of detail, including the geometry of the structure, piping, ductwork, cable tray, etc., that two-dimensional drawings completely lack. If you’re working with an owner that prefers to view documents in 2D, these tools will also allow you to view the 2D drawings created from the 3D model if you need, so you have just the visual aid at your fingertips to help make your point, and get things done.
You’ve gotten to where you are because you’re smart and capable. You know how to put together a team, what it takes to build a building, and where to find the right materials. And now, with the latest technologies, you can reduce the amount of time and resources you spend on file management, and get back to what you love best: building.