The construction world is changing fast and more and more companies are finding their poor change control systems are making it difficult to keep up with time and quality pressure on jobs.
“Things are way more dynamic, these days,” says Zutec’s technical manager Ray McCaul. “Quality and time suffer and there’s a lot of pressure to start cutting corners in order to maintain margins.”
Keeping abreast of constantly evolving regulations can be an immensely complex process, particularly when a project is carried out in another jurisdiction. The biggest change, however, is a much lower tolerance for non-compliant work. It’s one thing to get all the required sign-offs, but quite another to be able to assemble the paper trail when inspectors or lawyers come calling.
Something as simple as not being able to produce records proving pieces were tested when they arrived on site can snowball exponentially. Given the number of subcontractors involved in a major build, and the amount of paper required to maintain compliance , documents can very easily get lost.
Managing compliance with construction tech software reduces the admin burden, ensures you can maintain compliance in even the most stringent environments and can help reduce onsite accidents making your company much more competitive.
Most companies don’t realise how many hours their employees and subcontractors actually spend on compliance admin. Normally, workers on-site do all their reporting during the day, shove the forms into their pocket and then the foreman has to spend hours at the end of the day getting everything fully filled out and filed. With a digital solution, a piece of compliance documentation goes on the system as it is captured.
A structural contractor, for example, could use his mobile phone and the Zutec app to upload photographic evidence proving the rebar was installed correctly. The images would then be uploaded to the cloud alongside a digital version of the old paper reports. All those documents would be uploaded to the cloud and then used to populate a report for owners, lawyers, subcontractors or any other stakeholder.
Because the system is completely transparent, the burden of proof is not so high. “To do 100% tests on a building like the Shard,” explains McCaul, “involves a massive amount of paperwork. If you only have to prove 10% compliance on that then obviously that’s 90% less work.”
On a major airport build in Abu Dhabi, Zutec reduced the time needed for close-out inspections from 130,000 man hours to 1,083, which works out to about one minute per inspection.
Another area where digital solutions significantly reduce time wasted is defects liability. Defects are identified, the main contractor can find out exactly which subcontractor was responsible, order the work and get photographic proof that the problem was fixed.
Compliance is a chain running through a project. In order to keep it intact, the sensible choice is to invest in digital solutions before the first boot hits the site. Different-sized projects have different regulatory requirements, but where it can get tricky is when builds are carried out in countries with especially complex compliance requirements.
Stand-alone software designed to manage only compliance does exist and many smaller companies use it quite happily. For companies making the full transition to digital or ones that work regularly outside their home country, a custom solution from a company like Zutec is a better choice.
Flexible solutions will start with a look at the reports you need for the build type, geographic location and a host of other factors and build data-capturing modules that make the barrier to on-site data input as low as possible.
“There are different compliance issues that some certain contractors need to adhere to, so it’s difficult to get a one-size-fits-all solution,” explains McCaul, “The data needs to be inputted in a specific format and unless that is taken care of from the very start of the project, the admin burden increases enormously.”
A robust software solution helps not only with maintaining compliance but also makes it easy to prove that requirements were actually met throughout the entire build.
As more and more companies go digital, there is also change in the industry attitude towards compliance.
Currently, most people operate on from the idea that compliance is a necessary evil and do the bare minimum to meet requirements. What is starting to happen is stakeholders are beginning to think about compliance as system of communication and protection. With digital tech, it’s so easy to stay up to date with changes, follow established processes and get immediate feedback, people are noticing their work life is becoming easier and safer.
Dodgy bosses, who don’t provide the right safety equipment or who substitute inferior materials, will no longer be able to take those sorts of risks without personal consequences. “If they haven’t got preventative equipment then they have a risk of life, or a disaster could happen,” says McCaul. “If someone doesn’t tick all the boxes they will be found to be non-compliant. They might not get paid, might get sued and that action might ultimately result in the company going bankrupt.”
Zutec has thousands of people in the Middle East using their platform for regulation and compliance reporting. “The message there is ‘Safety is not for you – it’s for your family’ and then they show pictures of their families just to drive it home,” says McCaul. “Construction is the one of the most dangerous industries in the world. We’re doing something about it.”