Information is everything in every domain or industry including construction that sees a lot of paperwork. With this article, we will extrapolate on the need for a document automation solution for construction companies.
Construction projects start with effective information management. All organizations (owner, PM, contractors, suppliers, subcontractors) on construction projects need fast access to the latest version of documents, including drawings, BIM models, contracts, reports, schedules, bids, tenders, H&S regulations, incident reports, and more. Construction companies generate enormous quantities of paper and digital documentation. They face specific challenges to meet building schedules, health and safety requirements, inspections, and more. All this hence calls for a document automation solution for construction companies that can help them alter the way construction projects are delivered, while aiding them reduce operational costs and improve overall project execution.
To date, many companies in the construction sector have been using simple folder structures, servers and word docs and excel spreadsheets to manage all of the important documentation. Other companies are even further behind', still managing their documents with paper and physical folders and filing cabinets. Managing documents in this way has been the status quo for most of the organizations for a long time, because it is the only way to manage documents according to them. But, most of the construction businesses fail to understand the fact that while it does 'work', it often results in a number of obvious and non-obvious problems.
A few issues it gives rise to are-
Stakeholders such as architects, planners , engineers etc spend a considerable amount of time in completing important forms and documents such as bidding documents, architectural drawings, safety reports, construction contractor agreement, etc manually- often with a pen and paper. This entire process is slow and involves an element of risk such as documents getting lost, getting illegible with time, etc. In addition, because of the fragmentation of pre-construction and construction based documentation, documents are difficult (sometimes impossible) to find for variations, internal and external audits.
It is a known fact that changes happen frequently in a construction project largely due to changing variables, such as fluctuations in the prices of materials and weather conditions. Change orders happen all the time, leading to adjustments in the scope of work. Markups are also a big part of the construction process as plans go back and forth between project participants until they are approved. For these reasons, many documents in a construction project go through multiple revisions that diverge from initial plans. This poses a challenge in determining which documents are up-to-date and which are not. Companies that still use physical paperwork are required to regularly schedule checks of documents to ensure that the participants are using the latest version.
Apart from this, relying on manual ways of document processing also means a slow collaboration between parties. This is in turn laborious and often creates delays and budget headaches for construction companies.
Now that we discussed the present day state of affairs in the construction industry, let's have a look at the benefits of document automation solutions for it.
Helps create a centralized database- With many workers and collaborators involved in each construction project, consolidation and centralization of numerous construction documents becomes an absolute necessity. Hence a document automation solution aids companies achieve this goal within a short span of time.
Helps increase accessibility: It is no secret that all the personnels and stakeholders involved in a construction project must have access to the documentation that they need. But in addition to that, they also require a system that can notify them of changes happening on a real time basis. No one wants an architect to keep working on an outdated version of the project. A document automation platform can thus help construction companies manage each of the phases of the entire project quickly and efficiently while gathering all the relative documentation by notifying the concerned parties of the related documentation, as well as the updates or changes applied along the way.
Helps cut down expenses: Implementing a document automation solution is in itself an ambitious project, but the benefits obtained from it are substantial. An automation solution can allow construction companies to implement business processes conveniently. This in turn can aid them save time and reduce project costs.
The recent revamping of technology within the construction industry is now being driven by a solid investment into the sector and a growing demand for housing. The massive investment that is now being made in the construction sector now simply means that for contractors, architects, supervisors and millions of owners, there is pressure to rethink workflows and design processes in projects.
A recent research has even predicted that the population is expected to grow by 2 billion by 2050, making it a priority to focus on coordination in construction processes to keep up with the growing demand. This means that the construction sector will now have to focus on automating a majority of their business documents.
Some core documents that can be automated in the construction sector regardless of the type of project they are handling include-
A construction agreement is a document that defines over the scope of work that is to be done on a construction project. It often include information such as:
General conditions define all general terms and items such as utilities, vehicles, organizational structure, mobilization, and demobilization. But these items are not directly related to the construction activities. Obligations of both parties, general conditions, overhead costs, bonuses, and some other conditions are included in this portion.
General conditions set the framework of the contract that establishes all the rights and obligations of the parties involved.
Simply put, general conditions answer the how questions;
To keep track of all tools and materials, a bill of quantities is needed. This is essentially an itemized list of all the materials, tools, labor, and parts used on the build. Pricing for each of these items is also included.
A bill of quantities helps contractors estimate how much a project will cost to build, so they can offer accurate bids. Customers can also benefit from this document, as they can see an itemized breakdown describing where their money has been spent.
Technical Specifications describe the materials, workmanship, and equipment required for a task. Typically technical specifications describe the end product, therefore, the client should describe them clearly before the tendering stage. Every little task should be specified and deviation limits should be determined in technical specifications.
Contract documents include deliverables after the bidding is completed (i.e. owner-contractor agreement is executed). Any bidding requirements are not included in the contract documents. It consists of the owner-contractor agreement, the general and supplementary conditions, cost estimates, the specific instructions, construction drawings, plus any changes or modifications made to the contract. To receive a certificate of occupancy from a permitting authority, the final building must match the submittals provided at the beginning of a project.
A Construction Invoice is a document sent by a contractor, sub-contractor, or supplier to their customer when payment is owed for work performed. It sets a payment obligation, thereby creating an accounts receivable. Invoicing is what keeps the cash flowing. Therefore, creating, tracking and managing them is one of the essential tasks.
Here's what a typical construction invoice will include:
When construction documents such as bills of quantities, bidding documents, scope of work, etc are created manually, the whole process is comparatively slower. The business documents are generally created in bulk and the volume affects speed. Even if a construction business uses set templates for a specific documentation need, the manual process can be time-consuming. Document Automation solves the challenge of slower speed and helps construction companies in creating more documents in a shorter span of time.
Construction related documents must be free of errors as they involve writing a lot of data and even if the paperwork goes through multiple stages of proofreading, it can still result in errors. Document automation can solve the problem of errors as the automated process involves the use of capabilities such as AI, and ML that can ensure error-free documents. Doing so can aid construction businesses to avoid errors and in turn financial errors.
Construction businesses that are spread over a large area have different branches in different cities. When documents are created manually by different employees in different branches, there are chances of conflicts in the documentation. This problem arises when a single version is to be created for a document but due to a decentralized manual process, it results in conflicts in the versions of the same document. This problem can be solved by automated documentation as it provides personnels such as architects, planners, construction managers, etc with a centralized network and system for documentation. The documents can be revised, tracked and updated with ease due to document automation.
A construction business has different departments. These departments work in a collaborative environment. With manual documentation processes, they end up facing various limitations in collaboration across departments. Automated documentation can allow and ease collaboration within different departments of a business in the construction sector.
Legal and other confidential documents of construction business need to be kept in a secure system. Manual documentation limits the security of such documents while document automation helps in securing such documents. Hence, document automation can transform the way construction businesses can approach important documentation practices.
Making the switch from traditional documentation to newer methods can be a daunting task for construction companies, but it is well worth the effort.
Here are some tips that can aid construction businesses make a smooth transition:
1. Evaluating business needs: The first step in making the switch lies in evaluating your needs and deciding what type of document automation solution is right for you. There are many different options available, so take the time to research the different solutions and find one that fits your specific needs.
2. Convert your Documents: Once you have chosen a document automation platform or solution, you will need to convert your traditional documents into digital format. This can be a time-consuming process, but there are many software programs in the market that can make the conversion process easier.
3. Train your Staff: Once your documents have been converted, you will need to train your staff such as engineers, architects, finance professionals, etc on how to use the new system. Be sure to provide them with adequate training and support so they can utilize the new system effectively.
4. Make the Switch Gradually: If you are unable to convert all of your documents at once, you can make the switch gradually by converting a few documents at a time. This will allow you to test out the new system and make sure it meets your needs before making the full switch.
By following these tips, you can make the switch from traditional documentation to newer methods and enjoy all the benefits that come with a paperless office
As you can see, there are many reasons why traditional documentation can be a wrong choice for today’s fast growing construction sector. If you are still using traditional documentation for your construction business, now is the time to make the switch to a paperless system. By doing so, you can improve your process efficiency and reduce costs.
Some technical capabilities that are embedded in VisionERA’ IDP platform are-
All these combined together can help construction companies like you gain higher ROI’s, while reducing manual errors in processing huge amounts of data.
With construction projects becoming more complex and expensive, the construction sector is now under tremendous pressure to reduce costs, timelines and improve efficiency. Leveraging on an IDP platform can therefore aid construction companies weed out business problems such as manual and time consuming paperwork, while helping boost employee productivity. It can also aid them improve workflows, save time and increase profitability while making it easier for stakeholders such as architects, engineers, project controllers,construction managers, etc. to coordinate better.
Want to see what VisionERA holds in terms of a document automation solution for your construction business? Book a demo with us now.