Construction comes about from a collaboration of a variety of characters, from architects to builders. Each of these parties carries their own challenges and frustrations. Without proper collaboration, these challenges are amplified and can lead to serious consequences.
Luckily, new technology facilitates communication between all of the individuals both on and off-site. In addition to being able to share documents, quality assurance and site inspections also become easier. In this guide you’ll be able to see how platforms such as Zutec’s create a safer and synergetic environment for all players of the field.
A simple way to reduce construction project management problems is through the utilisation of management software. The software is curated to help managers mitigate risks and can be an invaluable addition to anyone’s toolkit.
When things go wrong on a project, it is almost always due to some kind of communication breakdown. And using traditional documentation methods can cause delays while waiting for the architect, engineer or owner to review documents and respond to inquiries.
Another major challenge for contractors is managing the costs during a construction project. Under this umbrella, inefficient document management can also cause pain points. Contracts, change orders, materials orders, receipts, invoices, employment applications, certificates of insurance - contractors have to wade through enough paper to fill an entire room full of filing cabinets.
A digital software solution allows construction professionals to meet their daily challenges head-on and to quickly overcome them. It also helps to cut out many common problems before they arise in the first place.
When your software solution is cloud-based, it allows changes and updates to documents, schedules, and other management tools to be made in real time, facilitating better communication and collaboration.
All of this is beneficial to keeping track of shifting goalposts and changes to project scope. Digital management apps mean that teams can visually map out a project timeline and keep abreast of every single change to end goals, while accessing or providing up-to-date information from a desktop, smartphone or tablet, wherever they are.
Many apps allow for messaging that enables users to easily see what needs to be completed and gives real-time project status updates, which keeps everything running smoothly among the large groups working on projects.
It is in the early stages, when plans and strategies are being formulated, that project owners have the greatest influence over the construction process.
The biggest factors to be taken into consideration on any project are the budget requirements, quality of the finished construction and the schedule for completion.
If the correct decisions are not taken at the earliest stages, this will manifest itself throughout the build, causing delays and cost over-runs and may ultimately negatively affect the delivery or operation of the finished building.
Inexperienced project owners can under-estimate the scale and complexity of what they are getting into. In a major build, you don’t retain tight control; problems and delays will inevitably happen. This will lead to cost-overruns.
An inexperienced project owner might also assume good faith will be in play by all other stakeholders and subcontractors. They might not realise that if something goes wrong, the subcontractors will look to pass the buck.
The owner may also think they can oversee the entire project using just their wits. They often don’t realise the huge complexity of all the calculations, the tracking of costs or all the moving parts that they are ultimately responsible for.
They assume people will be easily contactable in the field, will quickly answer emails, will promptly provide necessary certs and documentation, that paperwork won’t get lost, or that human error won’t be a factor.
If the owner integrates a construction management software solution from the very beginning, it will help them avoid many of the common problems and mishaps that take place.
They now have ownership of all the data related to the job, and of all the benefits that brings – easier tracking of costs, full accessibility to all documents, better communication and collaboration, a clear view of the progress of the job and the performance of all the stakeholders involved.
With all the information flowing in throughout the build, the owner also has a smoother handover – a digital transfer allows for better operation and maintenance of the building, protecting the assets in the long term.
Involving all stakeholders through a digital platform from the planning stage will increase collaboration, drive efficiency, help avoid problems, and assist in the successful delivery of the building.
In any building project, the owner is most at risk - they are the ones with a massive financial investment at stake. There will be problems and challenges that must be overcome to make sure the project is delivered on time and on budget.
Risk allocation is a fundamental consideration in construction projects. Usually, parties will seek to include provisions that limit and distribute their respective risks, duties, responsibilities and liabilities. But ultimately the burden of risk falls on the project owner.
Therefore it's vital that the project owners do all in their power to avoid and overcome the common most problems.
If challenges are not met, they lead to delays, over-runs and increased costs. They can also mean reduced quality of work, which can affect the operation of a building through its life-cycle.
Project owners can face many challenges during the evolution of a construction job.
"There’s an awful lot of money tied up in that real estate and the owners need to start paying back as quickly as possible," says Zutec project manager Gemma Hawes. "Therefore, they need to get those buildings operational.’’
There is an element of trust involved with the contractor and the other teams. Often, these other stakeholders have competing agendas and this is where the element of trust is paramount.
Owners need to know they all relevant documentation is in order once the building is handed over and made operational - incomplete, incorrect or fragmented data can lead to serious problems.
The benefits of a digital construction management platform for an owner are many and it will help to protect their investment.
The general efficiency that it brings to the project means that speed is greatly increased, problems and cost-overruns are minimized and everyone involved in the job is held to greater account for the quality of their work.
But possibly the greatest benefit is the oversight it offers. The use of a centralized repository for all data means that the owner can easily keep track on the progress of their project in real time, to ensure deadlines are being hit, quality is assured and costs are not running above where they should be.
Being the head contractor on a major construction project is a very complex job and a huge responsibility, so success will involve the delegation of many tasks.
The challenges that head contractors traditionally face in this respect involve inefficient communication with the many different subcontractors on the job; decision-making based on incomplete or out-of-date information and a confused chain of command.
One of the most common obstacles that construction project managers need to overcome is the lack of a clear hierarchy. Having too many 'decision-makers' in one place can eventually hinder collaboration. The head contractor on a construction project acts as the main point of contact for all team members and stakeholders.
Their responsibilities include planning, co-ordinating, budgeting and managing every single aspect of the construction project. Head contractors must be skilled communicators, good time managers, detail-oriented, as well as proficient at managing a budget and dealing with subcontractors and often demanding clients.
Working directly under the main contractor will be their own site personnel. These will include the managers and supervisors who are responsible for the on-site co-ordination.
The general contractor will also normally select, vet and hire all subcontractors. Depending on the particulars of a project, the architect and design team may work directly for the contractor as well.
The best way for head contractors to do that is by incorporating construction management software into the project and getting everyone on board from the start. Due to the wide range of job duties included in being a head contractor, the benefits of construction management software are huge: it helps them to manage their planning, enhances collaboration, and allows for better delegation of tasks.
A digital solution facilitates better communication and real-time updates between head contractor and subcontractors, and also between different teams of contractors, meaning there's no confusion about the hierarchy of decision-making and it's easier to follow the planned workflow.
It also means the accumulation of important documents and information is baked into the process for all workers, simplifying the role of the head contractor and leading to a smoother handover at the end.
Planning is possibly the most important part of any construction project. Careful planning should mean a smooth build, on budget, on time, and with high levels of satisfaction for all stakeholders.
Planners must ensure that the project has an appropriate budget, a realistic schedule and a clearly defined strategy. They take the vision as laid out in the architect’s plans and construct the 'road map' to delivering the final build to the owner, within its time and budget constraints.
They work closely with decision-makers from the very beginning of a project. They will collaborate with the owners, architects, engineers and main contractors to figure out the optimum way to deliver the project.
Before any ground is broken or concrete poured, the planners will analyse all aspects of the project..
They will use this to estimate costs, work out the sequence of events, assess equipment needs and material needs, build schedules and workflows, engage various subcontractors to carry out the work on-site.
One challenge a planner faces is creating a tangible picture of the process towards which to plan, while working with many different types of data coming from various sources, and communicating this vision effectively to the other stakeholders.
By using an integrated digital software solution, project planners have the means to overcome or alleviate all of the common challenges they might face on a job.
When a digital solution is used from the very start, all the data that flows in from the different stakeholders does so within the digital eco-system, reducing the risk of human error and allowing the planners to create a clearer and more accurate picture.
One central tool in this is building information modelling (BIM) software, which offers great advantages in the planning stage, with the later benefits seen on-site.
It takes all of the information that flows in and uses it to create a 3D virtual model of the finished project, making it much more tangible to work with.
BIM means planners face fewer problems because it offers ‘clash detection’ - this means it highlights possible pain points in the design or functionality of the virtual construction, so offering solutions before the problems have a chance to materialize in bricks and mortar.
A digital software solution also helps planners in their oversight of the job once work on-site has begun. The accumulation of data through inspections gives them greater control over workflows and makes tracking costs easier.
Managing a construction project is often a series of trade-offs and compromises to keep things moving towards a successful completion.
The three elements of any project are:
These elements provide the most fundamental limits on the project and how it is delivered and a healthy balance must be found among the three.
If one of these elements is restricted or extended, the other two elements will be affected and so need to be adjusted accordingly, be it increased or reduced.
Finding the right balance of time and cost directly impacts the success or failure of a construction project. These elements need to be tightly controlled in order to keep the progress of the project on track to hit its deadline on budget.
When those responsible for planning the project are creating the schedule, achieving this balance must inform all the decisions they make.
All projects have a finite budget - the owner is willing or able to spend a certain amount of money for delivery of their project. If the project’s budget is low, this will have an impact on the other elements, and the contractor will have to reduce its scope or increase its time.
For harmony to exist between the three elements, there must be a clear understanding at the planning stage that the project scope is realistic, in terms of time and budget, as well as requisite quality standards.
If projects are planned poorly from the start, delivering on time and without cost over-runs becomes a fool’s errand.
Construction management software gives stakeholders the tools they need to manage both the technical and financial aspects of a project. It offers greater planning so a schedule will be more realistic and it also offers greater insights in real-time.
Greater monitoring leads to greater accountability among all stakeholders. Sub-contractors are less likely to cut corners, but they are also less likely to drag their heels when they know their performance is being closely tracked and their payment will depend on their sticking to the agreed schedule.
For a contractor, clear and effective communication is crucial to the success of any building project. It means they can improve productivity, organisation, safety and cost-effectiveness.
Smooth interaction between the many different teams involved, including sub-contractors who come and go, will help drive efficiency and avoid problems. So it is crucial to the overall success of the job being delivered on deadline and on budget.
When on-site communication is based on phones, texts and emails, things can go wrong very easily. When all stakeholders can communicate easily with a digital solution, openly and with transparency, it greatly improves the overall health of any venture. Communication fosters idea-sharing and innovation. Effective communication between the various teams on a job means better planning, better execution and better problem-solving.
The complexity and scale of a big construction project doesn't naturally lend itself to efficient communication. There are significant obstacles to overcome in terms of teams being spread out, on-site and off-site, as well as the many different disciplines that are required to interact.
“The nature of construction is that people are not working side by side. They could be many floors or good distances apart. So the communications element of construction digitization will be huge. That's one of our targets,” says Zutec CEO Brendan O’Riordan.
A construction management software package allows for huge efficiencies in the communication process.
“In some of our projects we could have 50 to 100 or 150 different subcontractors and different subcontractor companies who submit information on the platform," says Zutec Vice President of Solution Sales, Daniel Da Silva.
With these numbers in mind, the advantage of being able to quickly and easily communicate a directive to all relevant parties, and of them being able to access whatever information they need, is crystal clear.
It also facilitates greater communication between those working on-site and those based off-site, be they architects, planners, or designers. As a consequence, construction management software thus helps you to hit your deadlines because of its speed, efficiency, safety and consistency.
The enhanced collaboration in the early stages between the owner, contractor and designer means that deadlines are matched, planning is more accurate and, in general, projects encounter fewer problems across the board.
As with any role in a construction project, an architect will face many challenges. Tasked with creating a design to meet the client’s requirements, they must consider factors such as budget, safety and timeline.
The complex path to the successful delivery of a project means they will face obstacles along the way, so how they avoid, react to and overcome these is a crucial part of success or failure.
Common challenges that architects can face emerge in the form of properly managing mark-ups and revisions to their designs, dealing with the vast amounts of documents involved in a project, collaborating with various different stakeholders involved in the job, all with potentially competing agendas.
Traditionally, architects’ drawings and designs were all carried out on paper, with models drawn up over two dimensions, or in physical 3D scale models. The exact measurements and dimensions of the various parts of the building allowed the correct quantities of required materials to be calculated, meaning estimates and costing could be done. This required total precision with the risk of errors constant and a high cost for a minor slip. Management of all the documents involved was a complicated task, especially when there was input from other stakeholders.
As projects progressed, and as the bricks and mortar were put in place, issues might arise that required mark-ups and revisions to take place. This led to the risk of stakeholders on the site working off out-of-date versions of the plans, because they hadn’t yet spotted the email in their inbox with an update.
This type of collaboration with various contractors and subcontractors meant communication in itself was never simple. Digital construction management software is a key tool for the modern architect and it can help to solve or avoid all of the common problems they might face over the course of a project.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) software means that right from the earliest stages of planning, all the data from different stakeholders is accumulated in digital form, facilitating the collaboration, through easier communication and sharing of information.
An app such as Zutec’s Elevation will allow architects to view drawings on site, and includes mark-up tools, revision management and access control. Similarly, Zutec’s Dimensions app works as an advanced 3D model viewer, with features such as visual filters, meaning you can access the model from wherever you are.
New digital tools have been so successful in helping architects to overcome challenges that they are now a key part of the discipline. This can lead to its own challenges, as architects are required to learn how to use various new types of software and get to grips with its complexities.
An engineer is responsible for the way the building works. It’s up to them to validate the design of the project and how it will function, and to ensure that all the quality, health and safety requirements are exceeded.
Their involvement on a project will run throughout its pre-operational life-span, from even before the design stage right up to the handover. For example, one of the first tasks an engineer will carry out on a project is to look into the maps and data gleaned from surveys to ensure the site will serve as a stable foundation for the structure.
The early part of an engineer’s role on a project involves collaborating with owners, architects, designers and main contractors to figure out from the plans how the building will perform and to try to spot any possible problems.
This work depends on data coming in from various stakeholders regarding timelines and materials. The engineer will use information at this stage to advise on what materials to use, so inaccuracies can lead to bigger problems down the line.
The engineer must take into account and balance competing agendas. For example, while the client wants energy efficiency in a certain part of the building, this may conflict with regulations or clash with the provision of utilities.
They also face a challenge regarding oversight of the job, with lots of moving parts and many stakeholders, some coming and going long before the project is complete. This involves being on-site and dealing with challenges as they arise. It also means updating documents as changes happen, and making sure everyone is working off the latest versions.
Spending lots of time in the field raises the challenge of access to documents, and time can be wasted as the engineer has to return to base to check something on the drawings or supporting documents.
They must also manage the large number of quality assurance documents and certificates flowing in from all aspects of the project which prove that the build is within all the engineering norms and regulations.
A construction software solution offers engineers a very useful tool when it comes to meeting the challenges they face. Using digital technology, all the information in the initial stage flows in to building information modelling (BIM) software. This creates a 3D virtual model of the project, greatly simplifying and speeding up the engineer’s ability to test that various aspects of the structure.
Another benefit of using digital software is that it gives the engineer access in the field to all the drawings and documents they need. Using the Zutec apps, the engineer can access and even update key documents from their smartphone or tablet, which saves valuable time and brings efficiency to everything they do.
A safe working environment is imperative for any person involved in working in the construction industry. Construction sites can be dangerous places and accidents can happen. This fundamental concern should be at the forefront of all plans developed by project owners and contractors, as well as a key factor for workers on-site carrying out potentially dangerous tasks.
The improved planning and communication involved with digital construction management can greatly reduce the risks to workers and minimize any dangers they may face.
With increased construction safety, owners and contractors can lower the amount of money spent on repairing damaged equipment, pay lower insurance premiums, and avoid the delays and other headaches that follow from on-site accidents.
Although workers should be trained to avoid on-site hazards and take a safety-first attitude to their job, eliminating all risk is impossible. The use of casual workers, many lacking in experience, can increase the risk of something going wrong.
Accidents can also involve pedestrians or other non-construction workers. In these types of cases, a construction company or worker, contractor, subcontractor may be held responsible for any injuries.
Apart from the human cost, accidents can lead to huge repercussions for a building project, including increased costs, fines and delays - as well as possibly tarnishing the reputation of the contractor, the client and the project itself.
A culture of safety is paramount on any building site and the steps that can be taken include greater accountability, better communication on-site and better oversight that work is completed according to safety procedures and regulations.
One way to help instill this culture is with a digital software solution being incorporated at every level of the job, through mobile apps on smartphones and tablets. Greater communication and access to files and plans mean that workers are better informed when they step on-site, meaning they are less likely to make a mistake. And it means a contractor has more control of who is on their site, casual workers included.
The integrated system of accumulating documentation in the field means that corners are less likely to be cut as everyone is more accountable for what they do and therefore the quality of work is higher.
Zutec is keenly aware of the importance of safety, both to the well-being of workers and to the successful completion of a project. The Zutec platform drives greater safety on-site, through better communication and access to information. It makes possible better general oversight. All stakeholders, from the main contractor to those down the chain, can keep a closer eye on what is going on on-site and ensure that everything is being done properly and safely.