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Nailing document management in the construction industry

Document Management in the construction industry
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Nailing document management in the construction industry

Construction professionals deal with a multitude of very specific document types every day.  So, do you have construction-specific systems tailored to work with these very specific file types?; or are you trying to use a general document management system (which is basically a square peg for a round hole?)

Most common document management tools such as dropbox and share point are great at sharing and storing general documents. Still, when it comes to project management, you require more than just a traditional file management system.

I can hear you asking – why do I need a different document management system? My current system can:

  • Upload documents
  • Allow searching
  • Create folders for the organisation of documents
  • Has sharing abilities

But, where your software may be letting you down is in areas unique to the construction industry.  Let’s have a look at some of these requirements and how they can save you time and money.

Construction document file types

Most document management solutions can deal with pdfs and general office documents; however, they rarely support construction-specific file types like DWGs, DNGs and model files.

With a generalised solution, you have no way to view these documents, and you will need extra licenses just to view them. In comparison, construction-specific solutions are able to view and read these file types out of the box.

Organisation v Project team

Most general document management solutions are aimed at organisations.  They provide tools that allow searching and organising documents and even people in your business.

However, the construction industry is not based around the organisational structure, but by projects.  Projects that could involve dozens of companies, hundreds if not thousands of employees and multiple points of truth all working together to create the same goal.

Construction document management systems work differently to generalised solutions.  They ensure you are selecting the correct recipients and project teams, not just those people from within your business.  These solutions allow you to search all documents, not just the ones created within your organisation.  It is also a great place to store emails related to your project, so (for example) extensions of time and RFIs are all searchable to anyone involved in the project.

Project-based construction document management systems allow clear communication with all involved and ultimately a smoother, more transparent project.

Field Access

In construction, a bulk of your employees are out in the field every day, not sitting in air-conditioned offices with the best in computer hardware and internet access.  On a lot of building sites, the internet is rubbish as the area is still under construction, thus making it even harder for your team to gain access to information where and when they need it. 

Construction based solutions most often provide both cloud and offline access to documents.  Your staff can download essential documents before heading on-site and then view them, even without an internet connection once they arrive.  Other mobile options can enable tools such as photo capturing, defects lists, RFIs and other construction-specific documents that are critical to the success of your project.

All the project documents

Most available document management systems handle all data as equal.  They allocate the same attribute fields, capabilities and options.  However, as you know in the construction industry, documentation comes in many shapes, sizes and colours.

A typical list of essential records can include

  • plans
  • specs
  • meeting minutes
  • extension of time requests
  • RFIs
  • submittals
  • change requests
  • orders
  • progress photos
  • and more.

Each one of these different items requires its own tailored information and processes.  By this, I mean, plans need to go through a review process, RFIs require a specific workflow to gain acceptance by the principal contractor. 

With a document management solution specifically for the construction industry, you will gain software that understands the individual needs of each of these pieces of information.  The system will then provide the correct capture method, search, workflow, sharing options and reporting for each. 

Related documents

As well as these individual requirements for each item, we need to be able to see documents in relation to each other. Documents are rarely siloed in this industry.  So being able to see an RFI, the plan it relates to, the purchase order sent, and the response from the principal contractor easily would reduce your time chasing paper trails. If you were using a general system, you would have to go through and search for each item one by one and hope and pray that you didn’t miss any bits, or Tom doesn’t have an email stored on his laptop that no one else knows about containing critical information.

Now, if you have hung around this long, I know you are saying – Lauren, I know all this, none of this is news…. so, my question to you is, what are you doing about it?  Are you just sucking it up and putting up with a general document management system?  Yours and your teams time could be better used on-site getting the project completed than spending hours walking around looking for an internet signal and then trying to find the correct document in dropbox. Use your time wisely, get your team organised and everyone on the same page.

If you want to discuss how Thrive can help you build a better business with the right document management solution, and how it can save you time, money and lost documents (..and your sanity), give our team of experts a call today on 1300 868 474.