Expert Tips for Construction Document Control
August 04, 2020
If you add up all the time you spend through the week looking for hard-to-find construction project documents, what does it total? The never-ending search for elusive documents is a common time-waster in the industry. How much? Up to six hours a week, according to a 2018 construction industry report.* That’s basically the span between lunch and dinner on any given day just searching for documents. Multiply that by the number of weeks in a construction project and you could be looking at days’ or weeks’ worth of lost time. That alone is reason enough to implement a document control system.
Need more convincing? Adding team members to the project (including from multiple trades such as electrical, plumbing, etc.), along with increasing project complexity, can contribute further to loss of document control when there isn’t already one in place — and at a time when everyone needs to be on the same page. And all those project documents and pieces of data still need to be available, and locatable, long after the build for any renovations or even structural changes to meet future building code requirements.
Of course, the consequences go far beyond wasted time. Basing work on outdated documents (such as previous project drawings revisions or old change orders) often leads to unnecessary rework to correct the issue, which can throw off the rest of the schedule. That can create a domino effect of a schedule overrun, which kills productivity levels, which inevitably leads to a budget overrun. Because time is money, right? This has a further cascade effect of potentially throwing off the timing of subsequent activities. And then hope that none of these triggers legal action, becoming costly in terms of settlements and sullied reputation.
But the reasons for establishing or improving a document control system aren’t all based on doom-and-gloom. There’s still considerable benefit to defining a system to simply make your and everyone else’s job much easier. Take for instance, the maximized efficiency that comes from easier searchability; lower incidence of errors and rework; making better use of resources, time and money; the ability to easily find and produce documents in response to legal or compliance-related requests.
Maybe you have a document control system in place and it may need some tweaking to function optimally. Or perhaps you realized, even the hard way, that such a system needs to be implemented — pronto. Does it seem overwhelming? Sure, but perhaps some of these digestible action steps can help.
Best practices for implementing a
document control system
- First and foremost, centralize all project documents and data in one construction management software. This serves as a single source of document truth where everyone — site crews, contractors, engineers, architects, clients, etc. — can upload, store and view all project information — including the full history of older versions up through current changes. Housing all items in one place lets you recover all those minutes or hours you would’ve spent chasing things down had they been strewn across multiple servers, computers and email accounts (where far too many still may live).
- Designate a main contact person to serve as the project manager of your control. They’re the person who knows the system like the back of their hand, and can train users on how to use the system effectively. They can be a gatekeeper of sorts — keeping them safe and backed up, safeguarding confidentiality of sensitive documents, designing the optimal forms and reports and granting appropriate permissions for specific individuals or teams to access to them. And one more consideration for this person: They can ensure compliance with retention and storage standards, which could prove crucial in the event of an audit or litigation.
- Create a document control. Ideally, this structure is simple enough that those new to the system are able to navigate it without feeling like they’ve entered a labyrinth. Establishing a basic folder system, much like most people are familiar with using on their own computers and email inboxes, can accomplish this. Now this is where naming and versioning conventions are critical. Simplicity and consistency are key, whether you’re using a word-based or numeric naming system, or a combo.
- Ensure document access anywhere, anytime from all devices. That includes mobile technology from the field or from a remote office. Cloud-based systems enable real-time access to necessary emails, drawings, change orders, contracts, RFIs, you name it. This keeps the flow of information moving back and forth so the project can stay on schedule.
- Communicate changes. Got a change order? Have specs been updated or corrected? Has a critical document been uploaded? Letting the necessary people know these updates right away not only saves valuable time, it ensures everyone is on the same page. The majority of software solutions offer automatic notifications to speed up and streamline this process, and removes the risk of oversight due to human error. This proactive way of keeping everyone informed means everyone is in the loop with the latest document version. More timely communication equals more productive collaboration, whether they’re across the room or across the globe.
For any build involving many project teams, vendors, task items, revisions and communications, establishing a document control system within a single source of document truth can be a true lifesaver when managing each construction project’s own unique set of documents: RFIs, contracts, emails, drawings, vendor agreements, schedules, photos, invoices, inspection reports … and so on.
InEight offers flexible document control software that’s easy to use. And it can make all the difference.