How to Manage Construction Submittals What Subcontractors Need to Know

How to Manage Construction Submittals: What Subcontractors Need to Know

Construction submittals are an important part of the documentation process. Submittals are how contractors inform architects and engineers about the materials they plan to use and how they will complete the project. They ensure that major systems will have the appropriate utilities hooked up. As well as that the structure will match the specifications set forth by the engineers and architects. As such, it’s important to manage construction submittals properly.

construction submittal
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What Are Construction Submittals?

Construction submittals cover many types of construction documents. Contractors and subcontractors must submit them before work starts on a construction project. Documents used for construction submittals can include drawings, schedules, diagrams, other points of data created by the subcontractor or contractor. The goal is to show the general contractor how the project will be completed and ensure that everything will be in place and to specifications. Construction submittals are detailed in the contract between general contractors and subcontractors. The contract will state which documents contractors must submit before work starts. Which is another reason why construction submittal logs are important because subcontractors that submit the appropriate documents show that they’ve read and paid attention to the contract documents. When submittals are enabled in your company’s eSUB account, eSUB gives you the ability to generate, release, and update current status, return dates and revisions.

construction submittals
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Managing Construction Submittals: The General Contractor and Architect

On the side of the general contractor and architects, they draw up a list of necessary submittals they’ll need. This list identifies the submittals needed and puts the list together into the project guide or manual. From there, the general contractor or whoever is in charge of the actual project will create a schedule for the submittals. This will list the submittals needed from each group involved in the project, what it should include, and when it’s due. This is so the general contractor will have the right documentation when it’s due, and know who still needs to submit.

General contractor, architects, and projects suffer when submittals aren’t turned in on schedule. Especially since subcontractors must submit them before the project starts. The general contractor and architects or engineers must approve submittals, especially if there are any changes. Because they’re responsible for ensuring that any changes will work without causing any delays or rework.

Managing Construction Submittals: Subcontractors

Depending on the amount of work a subcontractor is doing, the submittal process can be stressful and sometimes gets disorganized. The projects often require a lot from subcontractors to ensure that everything is in order. Originally, subcontractors had to submit all paperwork in paper form; however, many general contractors are switching to electronic solutions. Fortunately, subcontractors have electronic solutions available to them as well.

Submittal management tools help subcontractors put together submittals. Good submittal management tools let you enter all line items into their software and attach other documents and data points. Then it pushes the line items into a professional looking submittal. Good management software for construction submittals will also send the submittal with all attached documents. This saves subcontractors time and headaches because the submittal will show as sent within their software. Users can push replies into the submittal management program. So subcontractors will have one location they can use to determine the status of all submittals and manage progress on all submittals.

Common Submittal Pitfalls and How To Avoid Them

Experienced construction professionals and experts say the submittal itself and process have common pitfalls. With discipline, however, you can avoid or mitigate many of the stumbling blocks. Still, professionals at general contracting and architecture firms indicate that their training is limited and does not sufficiently prepare them for dealing with submittals, and they learn on the job.  In addition, some of the problems are strapped in the differing agendas of GCs, subcontractors, and architects when dealing with submittals. Let’s review three of them.

Timeline Friction: Contractors often find submittals tedious and time-consuming – they are expected to get work done. And, when they finally finish them, they want quick approval from the architects. Architects, on the other hand, sometimes complain that they receive submittals later than they should and then immediately face pressure from contractors to approve them. Architects and engineers also say that general contractors occasionally do not give subcontractor submittals enough scrutiny and instead rely on the design team to catch any errors. Experts say that compressed timelines projects add to these pressures, but they urge an emphasis on teamwork, starting with the preconstruction conference to avoid adversarial relationships. Integrated Labor Delivery suggests that all stakeholders are involved in the pre-construction phase to ensure success – on several levels, of the project.

Circumventing the Process: Shortcuts seem to always bring about miscommunication.  Contractors can perceive architects as misusing the submittal process to insert design changes, such as switching colors. Architects feel that contractors sometimes do not put enough effort into understanding their design intent and cut corners by relying on the architect’s own drawings rather than on more detailed shop drawings in the submittal. Drawing solutions, such as Autodesk BIM 360 Docs and PlanGrid, integrated with eSUB’s labor productivity platform provides seamless plans and data to fieldworkers so they’re working off the latest version of drawings.

Lack of Performance Indicators: All stakeholders in the submittal process understand that mismanagement of submittals can lead to costly mistakes, rework, and unecessary delays, but improvement has been limited by a failure to track performance – Be it manually, or using technology.  Many academics and experts are calling for construction managers to use a performance index to show how each stakeholder is performing in the submittal process. If tracked, this data is useful for the entire project team to continually improve in a crucially important sub-workflow of the entire construction delivery schedule.

Submittal Process Workflows Can Get Quite Complex

See examples below:

Construction submittals process 1

Construction submittals process 2

Construction submittals process 3

Construction submittals process 4

This is Why You Need Construction Submittal Management Software

While many construction companies, architectural firms, and engineering companies are switching to electronic solutions, not all of them are using software that has full submittal management features and functionality. Construction submittal management software offers users the ability to create submittals in the software and store relevant documents together. By storing all submittal documents together, it’s easier to see whether all documents are in order. In addition, the workflow status (submitted, multiple review steps, received and paperwork processing) of submittals is automated and easily manageable.  The productivity gains are significant on projects with tight deadlines.  The risk-mitigating factors to prevent losing paperwork or incurring costs from mistakes are ten-fold.

For subcontractors, construction submittal software helps them know who still needs to draft documents or what needs to be tracked down. The communication benefits of working with a trade contractor with a proven software program to improve the submittal process can provide general contractors with complete confidence in the company they hired to perform the work.