Construction, whilst being one of the largest industries, remains the second least digitized. Despite a variety of problems and a wave of new technologies well suited to solving them, the industry has been slow to adapt.
The majority of issues which arise on construction sites can be put down to poor communication and collaborative roadblocks. Text and email aren’t able to guarantee the level of traceability or transparency that’s needed in such a detail-oriented environment. A platform like Zutec’s makes the construction easier, more efficient and safer for everyone involved.
This guide is going to show you the potential that technology can unlock for the construction industry. Regardless of your role in the process, software can ensure that your construction project is completed on time and to standard.
From concept to completion, effective communication is a crucial aspect to the successful delivery of any construction project. For a job to go as smoothly as possible, it is imperative that project information is up-to-date and easily accessible to all shareholders so that no detail or change goes unnoticed.
Effective communication, collaboration and document-sharing among the different players on a building job is made easy with a cloud-based platform such as Zutec. Long-established processes for daily communication, on-site and beyond, have significant flaws.
Technology such as mobile phones, email, voicemail and texting have all simplified construction communications in their own ways. However, they have also caused communications to become fragmented, sometimes delayed and always unreliable.
A project team’s objective is to facilitate a flow of information between multiple parties in pursuit of a common goal through effective communication. But in order for communication to be effective, it should be accurate, timely and available at everyone's fingertips.
Poor communication on a project can lead to a range of problems at different stages of the job and among the different stakeholders. If collaboration is not successful, what should be a team effort can become a collection of individuals operating in isolation to the detriment of the overall project goals.
Failure to communicate clear instructions can all lead to delays, cost over-runs and inefficiencies such as duplication of work, not to mention accidents or poor execution of work on-site.
The various groups involved on a construction site all come and go at different times and often have different priorities. If all stakeholders aren’t on the same page, details get missed and information is lost, wasting time and costing money.
“This is a big problem in construction at the moment - traceability, transparency. We even see Whatsapp as being one of the biggest forms of communication on sites,’’ says Zutec CEO Brendan O’Riordan.
Zutec’s construction management software is one of the most effective ways of communicating between designers, office staff, and on-site workers.Through an efficient, cloud-based system the entire project team is always in the loop - they can access all the job information and specification they need, with immediate updates and instant tracking.
“The nature of construction is that people are not working side by side," says Brendan O'Riordan. "They could be many floors or long distances apart; it could be difficult to get from one to the other. So the digitization of communications will be huge.”
The paperless approach even allows users to mark up, edit and make suggestions to plans and specs in real-time, from where ever they are. It simplifies the life of the main contractor as the complexity of gathering documentation becomes baked into the work done on the site by all stakeholders, as they input data on the go.
It also removes the huge headache and cost of dealing with and storing mountains of paper.
Construction companies require agile, flexible systems to manage the operations and workflow of their business. Managing task-based workflow, interacting with countless subcontractors, and orchestrating complex approval processes requires a system that is easily customisable and reliable.
It is through cloud-based platforms like Zutec that this instantaneous collaboration is made possible. Workflow automation allows construction managers to get through a job swiftly with ease and accuracy. Most people have more things on their to-do list each day than they have time for and building contractors are no different.
The urgency of project deadlines and budgets means that builders must do everything they can to stay on schedule. Without some kind of digital assistance, processes and inspections are very time-consuming and can easily become bogged down.
As Zutec’s Vice President of Solution Sales, Daniel DaSilva, says: “Before digital solutions were created, inspections were all done on paper. Someone would walk around and complete a paper form checklist and sign it off, and then hand over the paper to a different party for them to go out and make sure that it has been done.”
Contractors deal with the potentiality of extensive problems and risks in their line of work, from the financial and legal side of the business, all the way to protecting themselves and their field crew from physical harm. They have building permits to complete, inspections to schedule, licensing requirements to meet and insurance prerequisites to file, as well as all the accompanying paperwork that goes with each.
Similarly, the challenges of managing and communicating the workflow of large numbers of workers, spread out across different physical sites and involved in a wide variety of roles and disciplines, means that problems, confusion, delays and errors can often arise.
Utilizing technology to streamline workflows can ensure smoother processes and greater efficiency, ultimately reducing costs and preventing wasted time.
Project manager Thomas Heery, of Zutec, says: “With a digital solution, you've got your paper trail and evidence. Digital solutions will also help you with fast resolution of issues. You can raise issues fast and you can resolve them fast. And as a result of this it actually should improve safety, quality and time on a project.”
New innovation allows site personnel to utilise speech-to-text to make notes about site conditions. This saves time by allowing the worker to capture their notes and observations quickly and easily in real time. Better accuracy and speed, instant-sharing and access to documents and secure data back-up illustrate how technology can be used to streamline workflows.
From architectural plans to drawing mark-ups to requests for information, the loss of a single document can lead to costly mistakes or delays.
Human error is unavoidable when construction companies rely on traditional hard-copy document management systems. Project owners can spend more time searching for a missing sheet of paper than getting on with the important aspects of their work.
For the modern building contractor, managing documents is as much a part of running a successful project as knowing which specialty contractors to call for which jobs.
Construction documents form the core of any project. Without them, work cannot be done. These documents are crucial for every step of the life cycle of a construction project - from the design, mapping and planning stage, to the records of inspections and quality certs of the work as it is done, to the warranties and maintenance information.
Traditional sharing and storage of documents not only makes it difficult to ensure stakeholders are referencing the most recent version, but the act of communicating information to a variety of employees is very difficult.
Cloud-based solutions offer a vastly superior document management system. The software will centralise information in an easily accessible platform. Documents from all project departments flow into one main hub and from there are widely. Crucially too they remain safe from harm or loss.
Zutec’s cloud-based software integrates document management with a whole suite of other useful tools.
“We offer more than any of our competitors," says CEO Brendan O’Riordan. "We do not just document collaboration, on-site data management or 3D management - we bring all of that together under the one roof.”
As any complex construction project develops, the detail of its plans will be evolving all the time.
Documentation and drawings will be continuously updated and, as the team moves through the workflow to deliver the project, updates will be made, decisions taken, challenges met and work-arounds utilized. All of these will have to be recorded, documented and, if necessary, the master drawings tweaked accordingly.
Relevant stakeholders will be authorized to make changes to the drawings, and everyone will then be expected to work from the revised version.
Traditionally, paper drawings are marked up and revised by hand, and then disseminated to collaborators and contractors by either printing and handing out hard copies, or by scanning and emailing.
With paper-based drawings, a team member must physically receive new information back from the field, mark up the drawings, make duplicates, collate, annotate and disseminate all changes to all relevant stakeholders.
The result is that you end up with the up-to-date drawings in the office, but with various stakeholders spread out across the site working from out-of-date versions, unaware that changes have been made. This can lead to mistakes, confusion and duplication.
But managing your drawings and documents using cloud-based software offers the perfect solution. A cloud-based drawing management solution streamlines the process by combining and synchronizing mark-ups from various authorized sources across multiple devices.
Cloud-based platforms also allow you to access revision history of a drawing and how it evolved every step of the way. Project teams can also access annotations or text comments, approve changes, and distribute updated plan sets out to the entire project team in a matter of minutes.
Not only that, but using apps such as Zutec’s Elevation, stakeholders can view drawings while out in the field, and its mark-up tools mean changes can be made by authorized persons, no matter where they are.
Upon completion of a construction project, a handover process takes place from the contractor to the owner or end-user. The handover can be complex for all parties and problems are likely to arise if building operators do not prepare.
With a digital cloud-based software solution, this transition has become less daunting and easier to manage. Instead of dealing with cumbersome and possibly incomplete paper records, the client receives all reviewed and approved handover documentation in digital format.
A handover essentially comes at the end of a construction project and it usually involves the client formally accepting the building and all relevant information from the contractor. But if an efficient digital handover process has been put in place from the very start of the project - to accumulate the relevant data, certs, warranties and documents - its effects will be felt through the life cycle of the building as all this information is used for optimal operation and maintenance.
Ideally, the handover process will ensure that the client is confident their new asset is ready and safe for use and that they are able to operate, manage and maintain it with ease.
At project completion, the owner will expect to receive guarantees of workmanship, manufacturer warranties, operating and maintenance manuals, as-built drawings, formal testing reports, finalized surveys and a certificate of completion from the local authority where the project is located.
Additionally, the handover process includes items that are easily overlooked, such as water, sewer and storm drainage specifications, landscaping and lighting details, main power sources, natural gas details and more.
Utilizing a digital handover means that compliance detail, consents, certification and drawings can now become immediately available to the client and their maintenance teams.
With Zutec’s cloud-based software, all necessary closeout documents, drawings and data are able to be turned over to a project owner digitally. This allows the hand-off of project construction documents to be done much quicker. The ability of the client to verify that they are getting what they expect is a key element of the handover process.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) systems are a crucial element of any modern construction project. Through cloud-based BIM software, project teams are enabled to design and build a construction project collaboratively using one coherent system of virtual models. At the technical core of BIM is software that enables 3D modelling and information management.
The paper-based system is ill-suited to the collation of vast amounts of modelling data for projects. The submission of separate information from clients, architects, engineers, suppliers and subcontractors can be prohibitively complex.
Architecture, design and engineering teams attempt to put every detail into the drawings. Key documents could be submitted according to separate schedules and scattered across several locations.
Inevitably some items are omitted, or other errors or changes are made, meaning physical documents or models require revisions. At that point, changes can be a direct risk to the cost and timing of the project.
BIM software works using data input by designers, architects, engineers, consultants and contractors. Using all this information, it creates a virtual version of a project.
Sub-contractors from all trades can provide data relating to their part of the job to increase the accuracy of the modelling. Using BIM really facilitates collaboration between stakeholders, as, for example, the architect and contractors will be working with a single shared model rather than separate ones.
By utilizing BIM through cloud-based programmes, co-ordination and agreements between all stakeholders are able to be finalized before any ground is broken. It highlights possible problems in the design or functionality of the virtual construction, allowing solutions to be found before the problems have a chance to materialize in bricks and mortar.
Finding these errors is vital, as they would severely impact the construction process, causing delays, design changes, materials costs and a slew of other problems and, ultimately, budget overruns.
BIM facilitates milestone planning and successful sequential planning of the project. It also allows different sections of the job to be planned in granular detail. For example, it helps to calculate the exact quantities of building materials to be used.
As worker safety should be the number one priority of every construction company, it makes sense that technology solutions are being woven into the best practices and jobsite safety.
Construction sites can be very dangerous places, with a variety of risks to employees: the threat of falls from a height, crush injuries due to falling or moving objects, of electrocution due to faulty wiring, to name but three examples. As well as the obvious personal cost to individuals, there is also a material cost in terms of delays, damaged equipment, and insurance or damages claims.
Cloud-based solutions are making it easier to properly monitor workers, prevent accidents and worker deaths.
Inspections are an essential part of the construction process. If done correctly, they can have tremendous advantages. Inspections should provide the certainty that everything is proceeding exactly as it should.
The basic premise of inspections is that a third party checks that work is done correctly and will provide documentary evidence. If this inspection finds any of the work is not up to standard, they will inform the relevant sub-contractor and ensure that the work is redone before anyone moves on.
A fact of building sites is that workers are often operating under time pressures.That is when accidents happen. Building sites also have a lot of personnel coming and going and this leads to issues with poor familiarity with the site and workflows.
Such problems lead to more problems. If a project site is not managed efficiently as a whole, small issues can become much bigger and more costly ones.
Having an integrated construction software platform helps to improve standards and efficiencies throughout an entire project. It will lead to a more efficient site, meaning fewer problems, less time pressure, so less incentive to cut corners.
There is greater and more immediate accountability, meaning subcontractors know they will not get away with sub-standard work. And having access to information in the field means workers are less likely to take a chance. With a digital solution, they can proceed with their tasks promptly and safely..
A digital solution means main contractors can keep tabs on everyone on-site, casuals included, and it makes it easier for workers to easily report on-site hazards or unsafe conditions, enabling a quick resolution.Click here to learn more about how technology can safeguard your construction workers.
Site inspections are a fundamental part of any construction project. They ensure that work is being done properly, to the required quality standard, on schedule and within all health and safety norms.
It is crucial that project leaders and decision-makers have a clear oversight that the job is progressing properly, so the work of site inspectors plays a vital role here. They are tasked with ensuring that any problems with the work are flagged up and quickly solved.
Step One – Preparing For The Inspection
An inspector needs to ensure they have all the right tools to carry out the inspection – hard hat, work boots, camera, tape measure, etc – but the most important tool is the relevant documents.
The key to good inspection preparation is good document management. The inspector must be able to source the most up-to-date drawings to work off, then use these drawings to plan the inspection and create a check-list to complete.
If the inspector is relying on paper documents, this can be complicated process and sourcing drawings and ensuring they are the latest version can take up lots of valuable time. If the project is using an integrated digital software solution, the inspector’s job is made a whole lot easier.
Step Two – Performing The Inspection
Once their prep work is complete, the inspector will then walk the site and check to see if what has been built matches what has been specified in the drawings and plans.
They will go through their checklist to make sure that all work has been carried out as required, up to standard in terms of quality and within all the safety regulations.
Using traditional methods, this will involve ticking their checklists or scribbling down notes in the field, only to have to type them up later, essentially duplicating this element of the task.
Using a digital app, such as Zutec’s Elevation, the inspector can mark-up drawings easily while they are out on-site. They can also create and fill out their inspection report while they are out in the field.
They can also easily and immediately attach photos to relevant checklists. Again, with the Zutec app, these can be saved directly to the cloud.
Step Three – Reporting On The Inspection
Traditionally, an inspector would have to make notes of all their observations, go back to the office, type up their report, download and attach their photos, and email the package to the head contractor and other stakeholders, such as the owner or architect.
Using a digital solution greatly speeds up this process. The report is being compiled on the tablet or smartphone while the inspector is still walking the site. The finished report is instantly shared to the cloud.
A snag list is an inventory of tasks that must be completed by the contractor before a construction project can be finally handed over to the owner. Creating and completing an accurate and concise snag list is essential in delivering a successful project, but it is not always easy when dated methods are utilized.
Snag lists can spiral as a result of poor communication, poor on-site accountability and a lack of proper management of documentation. A cloud-based software solution ensures better processes and more efficient work throughout the build and that will reduce the length of snag lists substantially.
A snag is part of the job, often minor, that has been deemed defective, broken, or unfinished. Most snags are cosmetic, but they can be more serious and include defective workmanship that can cause problems into the future.
On many construction sites, the snag list is prepared only at the end of the project. An inspection takes place, the contractor and owner will walk the site and together make a hand-written or dictated list of loose ends that must be tied up.
The speed of resolution relies on subcontractors reacting promptly to their emails or voice-mails and delays or confusion can happen. For instance, it is vital that what one subcontractor does to fix one assigned problem does not create other problems for a different subcontractor.
When everyone on the project is using a software solution such as the Zutec platform, it means the frequent inspections and the accumulation of documentation on any defects is baked into the building process.
This means any deficiencies or concerns are more likely to be dealt with throughout the process, rather than only at the end.
Vice President of Solution Sales, Daniel DaSilva, says: "Collaboration platforms like Zutec allow you to disseminate or send information to all responsible parties so that they know: here's my defects list."
Regardless of the type or size, all construction projects need to be completed on time, within budget and - crucially - to the required quality standards.
Construction management software can help in maintaining quality control. A cloud-based solution records the information necessary to effectively ensure the highest standards.The software does this by providing a web-based platform to automate processes while capturing real-time, trustworthy data for all of the project’s stakeholders.
The contractor’s quality management programme is a written document defining the contractor’s processes, practices and procedures, which are to ensure the project’s quality requirements are met or exceeded.
The programme has two elements: the quality control plan and the quality assurance procedures. Improper maintenance of the quality control procedures causes a project to incur additional expenses and results in project delays. Having to redo this work increases the maintenance and opportunity costs as well.
Digital technology has proven a very efficient tool in managing quality control in construction.
Cloud-based software helps minimise the potential for error and ensures that work conforms to the standards demanded in the contract.
Zutec’s platform allows a team to collect data while completing their tasks. This data can then be used to mitigate risk, track performance and continuously improve their quality and safety processes.
Technical Director Ray McCaul says: “If you have a cloud-based solution where everybody can log in and see information easily, and can find information very quickly, it creates this environment of transparency and that's very, very important. It also means that knowledge is never lost.”
As an example, one of the many formal communications that a contractor is obliged to submit is their daily report. The is used to record details of the completed works and resources, labour and non-labour, employed on the construction site. It will even detail the weather status.
Zutec’s cloud-based platform can be used to capture all these details, along with progress photographs of the project’s development or important incidents.As soon as a quality issue is noticed on a project site, the contractor can photograph and document the exact location and make notes to request that the defect be addressed.
When subcontractors log into Zutec’s cloud-based platform, they will be immediately alerted about these quality concerns.