Construction involves a lot of different documents throughout the process of sending proposals, landing a client, and finally designing and building it.The last thing you want is a runaway architectural drawing or building permit disappearing right before a crucial client meeting.
Document management tools and processes can help you ensure that every document is right where you need it at a moment’s notice. With the click of a button, you can find the necessary blueprint or permit and print it out if necessary.
In this article, we’ll cover construction document management and how you can use smart tools to go paperless and boost the efficiency of your team.
Use the links below to navigate:
- What Is Construction Document Management?
- Benefits of Construction Document Management
- What Are the Most Important Construction Documents?
- How Do You Organize Construction Documents More Efficiently?
What Is Construction Document Management?
Construction document management is the general process of organizing and storing proposals, contracts, permits, blueprints, and other documents necessary for day-to-day operations.
In the old days, this would mean that you had dedicated filing cabinets with stuffed drawers dedicated to each client and project. But in 2022, thankfully, your team no longer has to dive in and sort through papers to find what they need.
Instead, they can use a document management system to securely store, categorize, and access all integral construction documents when they need to. For example, your engineers can search for and instantly find the specific parts of the blueprint or from the construction survey. You can also easily share key documents with clients, building departments, or other regulators.
This new and streamlined process comes with a lot of benefits.
Benefits of Construction Document Management
Let’s take a closer look at some of the top advantages of a modern construction document management process.
Minimize Building Project Delays
It’s no secret that a lot of building and engineering projects go beyond their original schedule. In 2022, 72% of firms say projects have taken longer than anticipated.
That means the vast majority of construction projects are affected by some level of delay. One major cause of delays is ineffective communication between the different partners in a building project: the client, general contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers.
With instant access to necessary information whenever you need it, you can avoid issues like scheduling the concrete pour before the construction permit comes through.
Help Coordinate Your Teams Better and Boost Productivity
60% of general contractors identify problems with coordination between project teams and team members and issues with the quality of contract documents as key contributors to decreased productivity.
By centralizing your documents, you can quickly identify issues in contracts and bids and create new processes to adjust for these issues. Plus, it allows teams to collaborate on documents across locations in real-time, streamlining the workflow and minimizing issues from lack of coordination.
Maintain Healthy Client and Supplier Relationships in a Rapidly Changing Industry
With effective construction document management, you can reduce the risk of delaying projects or delivering something that doesn’t match the client’s vision and damaging your relationship.
Minimizing scheduling issues that impact orders from suppliers can also help you maintain healthy supplier relationships.
What Are the Most Important Construction Documents?
But before we dive into how to set up a modern construction document management, let’s cover the different documents and their roles throughout a building project. It’s important to understand who needs access to what if you want to set up an efficient workflow.
Most major construction projects go through a bidding process, where a bid or proposal is a document on which each company outlines a rough timeline and cost estimates, including building plans, specifications, and a work schedule (depending on the project).
Not only are construction bid documents crucial for landing larger projects, but you can also use previous bids as a foundation to build new ones for similar builds, speeding up the process.
Typically, these are prepared in conjunction with an architect before being submitted to the potential client.
Because they involve long-term and large-scale projects, construction contracts are often more complex than work contracts in other industries. In the construction industry, contracts often include clauses about delays, meeting milestones by certain due dates, and more.
They include a varying level of detail — for example, under design-bid-build contracts, the owner hired a separate firm to do the design, which means your contract only covers the building of the project. Under a design-build contract, the same firm is hired to handle both the design and the build, which increases the scope and complexity of the contracts.
In the vast majority of states and countries, you can’t even put up a shed in your yard without a building permit — a document from your relevant county, city, or state building department that allows you to go through with your building plan.
For large-scale commercial building and complex civil engineering projects, these permits are a lot harder to come by and important to maintain and follow. A state-licensed engineer or architect needs to draw up the plans, and you need to get them reviewed by the building department examiner to get your permits.
Architectural Plans and Drawings
Architectural plans and drawings are obviously crucial to the construction process, as they detail how to construct the building and what the final product should look like.
There are multiple different types of drawings that you need to properly categorize and manage to avoid issues.
- Contract drawings depict the proposed building and design.
- Shop drawings add additional details for the construction process.
- As-built drawings detail the final construction, including any changes to the initial design.
Construction managers and relevant project teams all need access to shop drawings. And the contract drawings should be untouched for the owner to contrast with the as-built drawings at the end of a project.
Bill of Quantities
The bill of quantities is a document that breaks down and itemizes materials, parts, labor, and their associated costs.
The document is often prepared by an outside consultant, typically a quantity surveyor, and needs to follow a standard methodology (depending on the region). Contractors often group costs together in logical “work sections” to facilitate a more efficient and accurate bidding process with subcontractors.
Once the project starts, you need to keep a paper trail of all the work you order out to subcontractors, which is where work orders come in.
They outline the amount of work you need done, what you’re paying for it, and the dates the work happens on. By digitizing work orders, you can easily create a logical timeline of your building project’s progress and its related costs at each stage.
How Do You Organize Construction Documents More Efficiently?
The best way to organize your construction documents is to use sophisticated document management software. With it, you can set up a system that controls who can access what and makes it easy to search and find the information you need at any time.
Let’s take a closer look at the exact steps you need to take to organize your documents more efficiently.
1. Map Out Your Current Document Workflow
Construction project managers understand the overwhelming amount of documentation that’s involved in a typical build. And it makes sense — if a subcontractor doesn’t understand the building specs, they can ruin the entire project with one concrete pour.
But documentation alone doesn’t prevent miscommunication. You need to make sure the right people have access to the right information at all times.
The first step toward that is to map out your current document management workflow and all the documents, people, and micro-processes involved.
2. Invest in a Centralized Solution
Don’t try to piece-meal a solution together using a rag-tag assembly of different software tools and platforms.
The goal is to create a “single source of truth” that aggregates crucial information from a variety of different sources. For example, you might create your blueprints digitally using a different piece of software, but you should still be able to access them from your document management system.
So invest in a robust document management system that can integrate directly with your ERP, like DocuPhase.
3. Organize a Digital File Structure
The next step is to set up a logical digital file structure for your documents that allows for easy access. This is what will replace your physical filing system, so create logical folders that indicate what type of documents are in it, making it easier to find, update, and share later.
With DocuPhase, you can use metadata to make documents easily findable without having to browse folders and click your way to each document.
Don’t currently have digital copies of all your documents? Don’t worry — with smart optical character recognition (OCR) and capture software, you can digitize physical documents at scale, fast.
4. Use Conditional Business Rules to Ensure the Correct “Document Flow”
But the main reason to use digital copies isn’t so that you’ll have to dig through digital folders to find each file. It’s so that you can set up an automated workflow that ensures everyone has access to the right documents at the right time.
To do this, you need an automation solution that lets you use “dynamic business rules.” These rules essentially allow you to create an automated “if this happens, and this condition is met, then do this” workflow.
For example, you can automatically share architectural drawings like shop drawings with different building project teams, even sharing specific sections based on what they’re working on.
5. Share Access with External Shareholders
Another benefit of using a smart document management system is that it makes it easy to share access with external shareholders.
You can set up similar rules from the previous step to make sure that the owner, suppliers, and any tenderers or sub-contractors have access to the documents they need.
6. Automate Work Orders and Your Accounts Payable Process
If you’re working with a wide variety of subcontractors for a large-scale project, keeping track of internal and external work orders can be a nightmare.
With a smart automation platform, you can automate the process of approving, assigning, and storing work orders in the right place.
But even then, once a subcontractor has finished their work, you need to pay them in a timely manner to maintain a healthy relationship. With accounts payable automation, you can automatically compare invoices to work orders. That helps you streamline the approval and payment process, ensuring each invoice always reaches the right person.
While the construction industry is often looked at as old-fashioned, emerging technologies and software have really transformed the landscape over the past two decades. If you take advantage, you can’t only go paperless and save on clutter, but you can also use automation to streamline crucial processes, improve collaboration, and ultimately, speed up projects.
And when the majority of construction projects are delayed, what better way to differentiate your company and build lasting client relationships than to finish on time?
Want to see what DocuPhase can do for your company? Sign up for a free demo today.