Navigating the Crossroads: The High Cost of Inaction for Small Subcontractors in Commercial Construction

Over the past few years, the construction industry has seen a shift toward the adoption of software for project documentation, field communications, and project management. What has become a cornerstone of modern practices in other industries is now becoming a standard practice in construction.

Yet, some construction subcontractors remain resistant to this change, often underestimating the costs of doing nothing to change from outdated practices.

The Challenge of Traditional Practices in Construction

The construction industry has long been characterized by a reliance on traditional, paper-based systems and fragmented communication channels. Subcontractors, essential to the construction process, are particularly vulnerable as they juggle the coordination of various trades and manage against significant margin pressure.

However, as projects become more intricate, the limitations of these outdated systems become strikingly evident. The refusal to embrace modern software solutions for project documentation and field communications not only leads to inefficiencies but also poses significant financial and operational risks.

Simply put, subcontracting businesses face a critical junction: adapt to modern project management techniques or risk stagnation and decline.

This article delves into the ramifications of such resistance, highlighting the financial and operational risks that come with the refusal to embrace technological advancements.

The traditional methods of project management in construction are becoming increasingly untenable. Subcontractors play a critical role in the construction process, where the coordination of various tasks is paramount. As projects grow in complexity, the limitations of outdated systems become glaringly apparent.

Inefficiencies in Project Documentation

One of the most significant risks of resisting software adoption is the inefficiency in project documentation. Manual processes are not only time-consuming but are also prone to errors and omissions.

There have been instances where subcontractors faced substantial financial losses due to inaccuracies in manual documentation, which led to disputes and costly legal battles.

According to a report by FMI Corp, bad data accounts for 14% of avoidable rework, amounting to $88 billion in costs.

Construction is an industry where communication breakdowns are all too common without the aid of real-time communication tools. Delays and misunderstandings can cascade through a project, causing setbacks that impact every stakeholder involved.

For example, a subcontractor’s failure to communicate changes in a timely manner can result in work having to be redone, leading to project delays and strained relationships with general contractors and clients, or being done without full charges.

The financial implications of such inaction are multifaceted. Direct financial losses can stem from cost overruns due to inefficiencies and penalties for missed deadlines, or just things going sideways—as often happens on construction projects.

Mike Pruner, co-owner of Patriot Air Systems, recounted a large project where his company was deeply in the red. But due to utilizing eSUB’s change order management capabilities, they were able to bring the project back to profitability.

“I don’t recall how many change orders we did on that job,” Pruner said. “If we hadn’t had eSUB it would’ve been hard to track that many change orders and to recover where we had gone red on the job,” Pruner noted.

Indirectly, a subcontractor’s business can suffer, or stagnate, because it is unable to take on additional projects, or larger, more complex projects that pay more. This lack of growth could lead to fewer project opportunities overall and the potential loss of market share to competitors who embrace technology.

Alloys Sheet Metal, for example, is a relatively new business and directly attributes their ability to double revenue in just a year to eSUB enabling owner Bryan Lopez to focus on bigger picture issues.

“I’m focusing on larger projects, and without eSUB … I don’t think I would be able to manage a lot of the projects that we have gotten,” Lopez explained.

Benefits of Embracing Modern Solutions

The benefits of embracing technological solutions are clear and measurable. Enhanced efficiency and accuracy in project documentation can be achieved through streamlined processes, reducing the likelihood of costly errors.

Improved project management software allows for better tracking of project milestones and predictive analytics, aiding in more informed decision-making. Financial gains are realized through cost savings from reduced errors and rework, as well as increased profitability due to more efficient project execution.

The construction industry is undeniably shifting towards digital transformation. Subcontractors who continue to resist this shift are not only risking their current projects but also their future in the industry. The costs of doing nothing—in terms of financial loss, missed opportunities, and operational inefficiencies—are too significant to ignore. It is imperative for construction subcontractors to invest in and adapt to software solutions, ensuring a sustainable and profitable future in an increasingly competitive and complex industry.

The reluctance to adopt new technologies can often be attributed to a variety of factors, including perceived costs of implementation, disruption to established workflows, and a lack of digital literacy. However, the true cost of this reluctance is not always immediately apparent. It manifests over time, as competitors who harness the power of software solutions gain a competitive edge through more aggressive bidding, better project execution, and higher client satisfaction.

Enhancing Project Management with Software

As far as project management is concerned, the use of software allows for a level of oversight and control that manual methods cannot match. Subcontractors who utilize these tools can monitor project progress in real-time, anticipate problems before they arise, and allocate resources more effectively. This proactive approach to project management not only enhances the ability to meet deadlines but also elevates the quality of work, leading to a stronger portfolio and a more robust reputation in the industry.

The impact of technology on field communications cannot be overstated. Mobile technology enables instant updates from the job site, ensuring that all team members are informed of issues and changes as they happen. This immediacy reduces downtime and eliminates the costly delays that occur when workers are not synchronized. The ability to communicate quickly and effectively also enhances safety, as hazards can be reported and addressed without delay.

The costs of doing nothing also extend to client relationships. Today’s clients expect transparency and accountability, which digital tools are uniquely equipped to provide. Subcontractors who cannot offer this level of service may find themselves passed over for those who can. In an industry where reputation and trust are paramount, the ability to meet and exceed client expectations is critical.

The message is clear: adapt now or risk being left behind.

Reach out today for a consultation with eSUB. We can help you determine if now is the right time for a strategic investment in technology, and for embracing the tools that will define the construction industry for years to come.