By Michael Benedict on August 23, 2016
For construction company owners, managing workflows across multiple project stakeholders — owners, investors, developers, project managers, designers, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, consultants, product vendors, and government agencies — is very complex.
This complexity may be part of the reason why the amount of U.S. construction work declined from 1993 to 2013, according to University of Melbourne Senior Lecturer in Construction Matt Stevens. Obviously, economic factors played a role in that decline as well, but in addition, construction firms are hampered by poor collaboration and multiple sets of paper documents created by fragmented teams. “Lack of consistent engagement by construction project stakeholders to each other has made project information flow unevenly, causing chaos,” Stevens told The Magazine for Professional Engineers.
According to consulting giant McKinsey, cost and schedule overruns are now the norm in the construction industry; most clients don't wonder if their project will be over budget, but by how much.
McKinsey's report acknowledges that these challenges are not easy to address in the construction sector: "Rolling out solutions across construction sites for multiple sectors that are geographically dispersed — compare an oil pipeline, say, with an airport — is no easy task.
"However, none of this is going to get easier. Projects are ever more complex and larger in scale. The growing demand for environmentally sensitive construction means traditional practices must change. And the shortage of skilled labor and supervisory staff will only get worse. These are deep issues that require new ways of thinking and working."
Perhaps the most important new way “of thinking and working” involves harnessing the power of mobile technology for workflow automation.
Different Versions of Reality
Construction companies have traditionally kept project documents on paper, or, at best, on one company's network. With multiple stakeholders — subcontractors and designers and engineers — that "solution" isn’t much of one, as stakeholders outside of the internal company network still need to print, fax, courier, or snail mail documents.
McKinsey again: "One reason for the industry’s poor productivity record is that it still relies mainly on paper to manage its processes and deliverables such as blueprints, design drawings, procurement and supply-chain orders, equipment logs, daily progress reports, and punch lists. Due to the lack of digitization, information sharing is delayed and may not be universal. Owners and contractors therefore often work from different versions of reality."
The New Way of Thinking
The new way of thinking first and foremost moves important activities and documents to the cloud, where they can be accessed at any time by anyone affiliated with the project. In short, these systems let everyone know "who's doing what, how, when, and where." This keeps jobs on track and ultimately results in more productivity — and a better bottom line — for your business.
Here are five ways that workflow automation, like that made possible with GoCanvas's new Workflow tool, can help make your construction company more efficient and profitable:
Labor Productivity: Jobs are bid based on estimated labor productivity, but projects often exceed those targets. Automated alerts based on timecard data can alert a supervisor or project manager to a potential issue before it becomes a big problem.
Procurement: You can't afford to wait around for materials and equipment or to have a piece of machinery disappear from the lot. Automated workflows can keep procurement on track by alerting supervisors of potential issues and by ensuring that no equipment goes missing from one jobsite to the next. Equipment check-in and check-out can be automatically routed to a supervisor for approval.
Document approval: Instead of having a project manager physically sign a paper document to approve it, GoCanvas's new Workflow tool allows signatures to be provided — and accepted — right on a mobile device. And if there are issues with a document, it can be automatically routed to the right person to make a fix.
A bulletproof paper trail — without the paper: GoCanvas stores all documents securely in the cloud. Nothing can go missing or be misfiled, making internal and external audits a breeze. Since about 1 out of every 12 paper documents are lost — and more than three-quarters of what is filed away in a cabinet is never looked at again — you're talking significant time and cost savings.
Easy status notifications and updates: No more calling to ask, "Did you update the purchase order?" Now, when documents are updated or approved, interested parties can be automatically notified.
Ready to see how GoCanvas can expedite your back office and help your construction company run more smoothly and realize greater profits? Give GoCanvas a try today.
Want more detail on how workflow automation can improve processes in your company? Download our eBook, How Digitizing Workflow Will Transform Your Business.