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Information is the essential core of every commercial construction project. From the initial stages of a project through to its conclusion, having the correct information at every step is the best way to ensure you will not face costly delays and errors. Whether you are an architect, engineer, or a contractor, organizing your information is the first step toward mitigating project risks like time delays, budget issues, miscommunication and mistakes.
Following are five areas where risks are most likely to arise, and ideas on what you can do to prevent them.
1. Misplaced Documents
In an average construction project involving thousands of documents, finding a specific one at any given time can be a challenge. Whether it has been misplaced entirely or you just cannot remember where you filed it away, trying to find it can waste valuable time and impede productivity. Worse yet, you can be putting yourself at serious risk. Any time you cannot access the information needed to make the best possible decision, you could be opening yourself to mistakes and jeopardizing the whole project. Having a system that allows you organize, access and find project information regardless of where it is stored is crucial to avoiding that risk. With a complete index of your project data, you can easily search and find what you need, and possibly even things you didn't know about, allowing you to make the most timely and effective decisions possible.
2. Transcription Mistakes
Every team on a construction project is likely using its own specialized software. There is just no product in the world that can be all things to all people, but multiple systems add risk in that the project information will not be entered the same way into all systems.
One approach is to manually retype information between the systems in use. The obvious problem with this approach is that manual entry always opens the door to mistakes and omissions. The result can be as simple as catching the error and manually fixing it, resulting in lost time and energy, or as serious as missing the error and having it percolate through the system, resulting in many additional errors across the project. Progressive AEC firms are adopting systems that help reduce transcription errors and are designed to work with many disparate construction management applications
3. Managing Large Project Teams
Construction is a unique field, in that many different companies to come together to build something on a one-time basis. Every company involved in a project has its own team - an architectural team, an engineering team, a construction team -- with dozens of subcontractors. With that many teams and individuals involved and operating separately, there is a risk that each team does not know who the other players are or what they are working on.
The way to mitigate this significant risk is to find a tool that allows these dispersed teams to collaborate as much as possible in a single place. Having a unified vision and approach to understanding who is on the larger project team and making sure that team can communicate amongst itself in an efficient fashion is essential to preventing miscommunications and things falling through the cracks. Without a centralized platform, you likely will experience scheduling mix-ups, missed deadlines, and a host of other problems that result in additional cost.
4. Tracking Tasks
It is not enough just to know who is on the team and how to contact them. You also need to be able to create and assign tasks to specific people, and then track who those tasks have been assigned to, what the status is, and if the task has been closed. If you don't know the status of assignments always, you are creating a situation where mistakes happen.
Let's use submittals as an example of tracking tasks. Contractors turn in submittals specifying how they plan to meet the design criteria and the architect signs off on them. What happens if the submittal gets lost in the process and no one is ever assigned to approve it? The subcontractor arrives onsite and ready to install according to the submittal, but cannot determine if it was approved or finds out that it was never received. Sorting through the confusion of miscommunication can take an inordinate amount of time before the project can move forward. With a system that allows you to keep track of assignments, you will never find yourself in that situation. You will always have an inside view of what is going on, what is late, and where the bottlenecks lie, allowing you to avoid delays or mistakes that increase project costs.
5. Knowing Who Did What and When They Did It
One of the most direct risks any team on a construction project faces is the risk of being sued if something goes wrong. What happens if others claim you did not do what you were supposed to do? Thankfully, there is a direct way to mitigate this risk and be able to disprove such claims. Litigation does not have to be the final phase of every construction project.
If you conduct your business on a platform that facilitates the sharing of information between all parties and their individual systems, you will have a clear record of who sent the relevant document, when it was sent, who received it, and when it was downloaded. With a centralized platform, there can be no more claims of people failing to receive project information. These audit trails or history logs not only allow you to track project activities, knowing who did what and when, but they also directly mitigate your risk because they hold up in a court of law and allow you to support your story with facts.
As with anything that involves a large amount of information, disorganization in construction projects can quickly lead to delays and quality assurance issues. These potential problems are only compounded as your project grows - large projects with several disparate teams that are not coordinated face the possibility of exponentially worse problems. Information can make or break your building and infrastructure projects. Using tools that keep your information organized can help you mitigate some of the biggest risks like time delays, budget issues and miscommunication, and ensure your project is delivered on time and within budget.
Aaron Kivett spent 9 years at BNIM Architects in Kansas City learning first-hand about information management in the design industry. He has spent the past 9 years as Newforma's technical product manager, helping global Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms solve information management problems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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