Digitised handover for the construction industry

 

The handover of a construction project is the final piece of the puzzle which has to be laid down before the contractor’s team can finish up their work and the owner can finally take full control of the structure which they have slowly watched rise over the course of the build.

However, this process can be a long, drawn out affair, with the potential of disastrous consequences befalling all parties if not handled correctly. To make matters worse, many projects still rely on paper documentation to carry out a handover – meaning they are depending on sources which could be lost, misplaced, or destroyed during a project’s lifespan.

Digital handovers provide a way to circumvent these possibilities, and provide one single hub where all reports, drawings, and manuals can be sourced.

This guide lays out exactly how the process of a digital handover works, and how the many benefits of a cloud solution can turn handover from a potential administrative nightmare to a safe, reliable, and streamlined process.

What is a digital handover solution?Who needs a digital handover solution?What features should a digital handover have?Why are paper-based handovers ineffective?What are the benefits to a digitised handover?Who else is providing digital handover solutions?Why do Zutec customers use the digital handover platform?What does Zutec’s digital handover cost?

What is a digital handover solution?

 

The handover of a construction project marks the point at which the main contractor formally delivers it to the client. It’s essential to have a concise, detailed and thorough handover for the client to not only operate the building as intended, but also to plan and carry out maintenance in the future.

In the paper era, the process could involve hundreds of documents, drawings, plans and certificates. This made the handover vulnerable to a variety of problems including confusion, miscommunication and lapses in safety or compliance.

By contrast, digital handover management assembles all the necessary documentation in a final cloud-based package that can be accessed and shared by multiple users across various locations .

In a nutshell, the client receives a comprehensive list of what assets they need to maintain, where they are, and what action is required to do so.

For more details on what a digital handover is, click here.

Why are digital handovers important?

Clients and owners require full visibility of the status, condition and standards of the building.

Previously, the paper-based handover system introduced an element of trust into the exchange, but with a digital handover both sides can share information in a seamless, transparent manner.

Furthermore, a digital handover eliminates the problematic delays that occur at the project’s conclusion, when contractors find themselves scrambling for documentation in order to meet the deadline. By gathering documentation throughout the construction process, and storing it in a single, shareable repository, contractors can avoid delays that may be costly.

Above all, a trouble-free handover is key for client satisfaction. Misunderstandings or unresolved issues can tarnish an otherwise successful construction project, so the benefits of a smooth digital handover cannot be underestimated.

When does a digital handover take place?

Typically, one might see the digital handover as the end of a project. However, that gives a picture that is not entirely accurate.

While the digital handover does indeed mark the symbolic transfer of a project from main contractor to owner, the handover itself has a much longer lifespan, both before and after the project is complete.

When do you first begin thinking about handover in a construction project?

A successful digital handover is a proactive information-gathering exercise based on solid planning.

A bad handover, by contrast, is a retrospective hunt for missing documentation, typically on paper. Therefore, work on the digital handover should start from the design phase of construction, long before any ground has been broken.

This then sets the template for all information collection in subsequent phases. As subcontractors come and go, the digital handover template will indicate to them what documentation needs to be submitted, in what format, and by what deadline.

What happens after the digital handover takes place?

Even once the project has been transferred to the owner, the handover is not yet ready to archive for posterity.

Generally, a two- to three-month buffer period should be factored in. This allows for post-handover testing and commissioning to take place, and action to be taken should any issues arise once the construction site goes ‘live’.

It's quite normal for one floor of a building to be issued as ready for occupation while other floors in the building are still at the fitting stage.

Digital handover allows feedback and learning from the first phase to inform and improve subsequent phases. As long as information sharing is dynamic and collaborative, both construction manager and owner benefit.

For more on the process of a digital handover, click here.

Who needs a digital handover solution?

 

Seen from a broad perspective, digital handover offers clear improvements in project management compared to the paper-based system.

Examining the solution on a more granular level, however, reveals that the benefits are not confined to the main contractor and end-user alone.

In fact, a digital handover can improve efficiency, speed and safety throughout the whole life cycle of a project, starting from the initial plans and lasting long after delivery.

Subcontractors and design teams, for example, can collaborate earlier on plans, while clients can monitor progress ahead of delivery. Whatever the scale of the project, from a single home to a large-scale office complex, a cloud-based digital solution yields tangible benefits for all users.

  • Project Owners: With a digital handover, owners can access reliable information about the building post-handover. In other words, they know exactly what materials and structures are in their building, how it is intended to work, and what will be required to maintain it.
  • Construction Design Team: Recent legislation affecting the UK construction sector has arguably made the job more demanding for design teams, who are now required to submit 3D Building Information Modelling (BIM) up to at least Level 2. In effect, this means architects and design planners must submit detailed 3D renderings of the site layout and structure, supported by separate discipline models.With the Zutec platform, the process is seamless, to the extent where 3D designs can even be accessed on a tablet using the app.
  • Contractors: Ultimate responsibility for delivering the project on time (and to budget) lies with the main contractor. As such, any solution that allows the main contractor to record and store information more effectively will translate into cost savings and better customer satisfaction. Under the paper-based system, key documents could be scattered across several locations. With a digital handover, this issue is resolved with the ability to access information from a single dashboard in real time.

For more on the benefits to each stakeholder in the digital handover process, click here.

What features should a digital handover have?

 

Some sectors are better equipped than others to make the switch from physical to digital assets. The migration of large amounts of data is itself a challenge, with many banks, for example, suffering system crashes when moving data from on-premise servers to the cloud.

For the construction sector, the switch tends to be directly from paper to cloud. In this case, the challenge is in the learning curve - changing behaviour and communicating the necessary skills for staff to get to grips with the software.

The Zutec platform meets this challenge with a user-friendly, intuitive interface. Once this has been mastered, the tangible benefits reveal themselves in the form of faster delivery, greater visibility, and essential features such as BIM integration.

  • Simple and Intuitive Navigation: In order for stakeholders to get onboard with a new digital platform, it has to be somewhat familiar to them. In order words, it has to be consistent with software and apps that they are already comfortable with. If users struggle with the platform, they will be slow to appreciate it and its benefits.
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) integration: The submission of separate models from clients, architects, engineers, suppliers and subcontractors does not simply lend itself to a digital handover solution - it demands one. Without the collaboration tools that a digital solution offers, it would be prohibitively complicated and expensive to bring so many models together in a single repository.
  • Cloud Storage Capability: One of the biggest challenges for the contractor is keeping track of all the information packages that are generated. With a digital handover, the main contractor can capture information as teams come on and off site, by sending out notifications, updating status and reviewing or approving documents on a rolling basis.

Why are paper-based handovers ineffective?

 

The balance of power in a paper-driven handover solution has been compared to a pendulum.

At the outset of the project, the main contractor establishes the schedule, budget, resources and direction of construction, then hands these over to a variety of subcontractors spread across several phases, relinquishing visibility and control in the process. Power doesn’t swing back to the main contractor until each subcontractor has completed their task and delivered all the required information.

Clearly, a paper-based system gives the subcontractor enormous power to withhold or delay information, potentially driving up costs and prolonging delivery time.

With a digital handover, control is never wrested away from the main contractor, because they are able to examine progress at every step, raise concerns and take necessary remedial action.

Paper-based handovers versus digital handovers

Under the paper-driven system, designs, 3D models and plans are submitted, reviewed and archived in physical storage. Site inspections, material sheets and safety certs are filled in on-site, then brought back to the office for filing.It might be familiar and comfortable, but it’s a very inefficient way to work.

Key information cannot be added to a database without employees leaving the site to return to base, and gaps or conflicts do not reveal themselves until everything is assembled for handover, by which time it may be too late.

Information recording during a digital handover, by contrast, is ongoing and cross-platform.

Subcontractors on-site can submit logs and record activity from a tablet, architectural teams can share 3D models and designs on a central portal, and the main contractor can see an electronic trail of signatures and sign-offs at any time to ensure compliance documentation is complete.

The Zutec platform feeds on live data and processes it into actionable intelligence.

For more on why paper-based handovers are ineffective, click here.

What are the benefits to a digitised handover?

 

There a variety of benefits to digitising a handover, many based on the value of having a paperless solution to site supervision to start with.

  • More time on site: With a digital solution, the contractor can send out blanket requests for documents, with visibility at all times over completion. Collaboration is ongoing and dynamic, so that lack of progress in one phase does not have to hold back another. All these combine to liberate the contractor from administrative tasks.
  • Digital inspections: With the capability to perform digital inspections, the main contractor is fully in control. Being able to access a single source of information from a simple dashboard makes it easier to manage quality insurance and validation.
  • One digital source: After the handover is complete, a paperless solution also makes maintenance much simpler, not least because maintenance planners have all the site inspection data they need prior to the building going operational, instead of paperwork trickling in over a period of weeks or months.
  • Fully auditable platform: This means that each user can see when someone logged in, what information was submitted, audited or reviewed, and when authorisation was approved. From a liability perspective, there is no time limit on finding the necessary information.
  • Share information: Whereas paper-based documentation is difficult for collaborative teams to access simultaneously, a cloud-based digital portal allows multiple stakeholders to upload and access information regardless of location.

For more benefits of digital handovers, such as how it saves both time and space, click here.

Who else is providing digital handover solutions?

 

Zutec is joined by a handful of software providers who are driving adoption, changing behaviour and establishing the overall benefits.

While Zutec aims to present an integrated suite of software tools to meet respective challenges, other providers are pursuing a strategy of consolidating operations around a specific niche. Either way, the industry as a whole benefits from a wider choice of solutions that are capable of addressing the fundamental vulnerability of a paper-based approach.

What on-site construction apps help with digital handovers?

One of the more established names in the construction software market, Plangrid gives builders access to blueprints and reports on the go. The request for information (RFI) capability in particular has generated some enthusiastic reviews.

Like Zutec, the Plangrid dashboard resolves a crucial issue for any construction software platform - it has to be easy to use and intuitive, particularly for those who are not tech-savvy by nature. In this respect, Plangrid delivers, as well as packing some great tools for scaled dimension and takeoff, and drawing overlay.

Plangrid offers additional proof that digital handover can slash blueprint costs and drive efficiency throughout the whole construction process. We think Zutec goes even further where subcontractor functionality and support are concerned. With so many providers under pressure to roll out new tools, the importance of support keeping pace to resolve any glitches cannot be underestimated.

To read about how Bluebeam’s Revu platform implements drawing management into a digital handover, click here.

Is there a complete integrated solution for digital handover?

Other names in the market are more established, some have a narrower focus, but we believe the Zutec platform has the strongest proposition for a simple reason. It’s the most intuitive, capable integrated platform for the full building life cycle.

The design and BIM features are a match for any of the design specialists, while the reporting and markup tools are user-friendly, collaborative and accessible throughout the process. We’re inspired by the competition, but we’re also smart enough to learn from their mistakes. That’s why we don’t bow to the pressure to release new tools and features until we’re fully confident that they’ll deliver.

Why do Zutec customers use the digital handover platform?

 

For all the advantages a digital software solution promises, the benefits will not be tangible unless the platform is time-saving and user-friendly.

Herein lies the strength of Zutec’s digital platform. It consistently outperforms the traditional paper-based approach without requiring a steep learning curve for the user.

  • A sense of confidence: Responsibility for transferring to the client a complete, satisfactory suite of project documents by the agreed deadline falls to the main contractor. With a digital solution, the main contractor can stay on top of documentation at every phase so there are no gaps to fill or unanswered requests for information on deadline.
  • A reliable solution: The construction sector has a tendency to put trust in tangible, physical objects and a reluctance to embrace innovative digital solutions. Users need reassurance that switching to digital will be as robust and reliable as paper. In fact, digital storage is more resilient than an assortment of files holding sheets, design rolls and printed certificates.
  • Operations and maintenance information: The digital solution might make the process of gathering information easier for the contractor, but ultimately the end user is only concerned with the final resource. Zutec’s platform allows the contractor to fulfil the handover with the confidence that the information is complete.

What does Zutec’s digital handover cost?

 

Construction is one of the biggest industries on the planet but, as Zutec CEO Brendan O’Riordan notes, it remains the second least digitized industry, ahead of only agriculture.

It’s easy to see why. This is traditionally a practical, hands-on sector that puts trust in what is familiar and known to work (paper) above what is new and innovative (digital) - even if the latter is much more efficient.

Nevertheless, even construction has to move with the times to remain competitive. Key to convincing the sector to embrace a digital handover is demonstrating how seamlessly it can be integrated into, and improve, long-standing processes. Cost is also a factor, but one of the distinguishing features of construction is a willingness to invest in any solution that will translate into an advantage.

With every phase of every project subject to aggressive bidding, stakeholders throughout the construction life cycle can see tangible proof that digital delivers.

To read more about Zutec’s Digital Handover pricing, click here.

 

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