Construction documents form the core of any project. Without them, work cannot be done, and contractors cannot get paid. Documents serve as the critical evidence to support or dispute any claims. Because of their importance, it is critical that a project has proper document control procedures. Many construction firms utilize cloud-based software to manage their construction documentation. In 2018, you can throw away the binders and transition to similar software. Read on for important document control tips in a paperless documentation process.
Create a central repository
Nowadays, it is all too easy for team members to store files in their own hard drives. Or sometimes everyone sets up their own Google Drive or Dropbox. However, when everyone has their own storage, this creates multiple documents and disconnected systems. The highly problematic keywords to disrupting productivity and reducing profits is “own” or “personal.” How can they ensure that their documents are the most accurate and up-to-date version?
First of all, there needs to be a central repository that serves as the single source of truth for construction documents. No more wasting time searching in individual emails, hard drives, or storage drives. A cloud-based system ensures that everyone has access to the repository for viewing, editing, and sharing files as needed.
Develop an organized file structure
With all construction documents now in a central repository, team members must develop an organized file structure. Without an organized file structure, team members will still waste valuable time searching for the correct document.
Creating separate folders for specific documents will make searching a breeze. An example of some sub-folder structures can include: Contracts, Drawings, Daily Reports, RFIs, Submittals, Change Orders, Purchase Orders, Time Cards, Safety Meetings, Inspection Checklists, Meeting Minutes, etc.
An additional document control tip includes establishing a naming structure for consistency. Label files with appropriate code numbers, dates, versions, and individuals editing. Moreover, this will be helpful in tracking appropriate revisions. The important part is that following the structure becomes part of the policy and everyone agrees to abide by it.
Ensure field accessibility
Construction happens at the jobsite. When questions arise during building, oftentimes the computer is in the trailer, and the internet is hit or miss. Because of this, it is important that construction documents are accessible from any device—including smartphones and tablets—even when offline.
The field team has access to the most current documents to begin their day. Another document control tip for the field team is the ability to save new versions of a document with their markups and annotations. Again, employees should save these document versions in the central repository for easy access by the office team. These documents serve as important supporting evidence for any issues, RFIs, or Change Orders.
During a project, multiple versions of a document arise, and they arise quickly. Team members should be able to view the changes and differences between documents. For example, when new versions of drawings are released, the field team should be able to overlay the two sheets to view any additions, deletions, and changes. Tracking revisions is a valuable document control tip to eliminate any confusion and avoid costly rework.
For documents that are not drawings, version tracking and time stamp are helpful in indicating the most updated document. If the updated document is approved, the outdated version should be archived into a separate folder to eliminate any misunderstanding or accidentally pulling wrong files. As a document control tip, we do not recommend deleting any document. Instead, we recommend just archiving the file to make it available for later use in the event of any discrepancy or dispute to the revisions.
Notification of changes
When you are in the throes of a job, it can be difficult to keep track of all the document updates and revisions. An email notification or alert system will keep team members informed of any changes made to documents. Without it, it can be tiresome to constantly wondering, monitoring, and searching for updates.
Emails and notification alerts are helpful, but sometimes employees dismiss those as well. When a user logs into the document control system, a notification of updates since you last logged serve as an additional reminder of any document updates.
With all the changes in documents and individuals with access, an important document control tip is to review the audit log. A detailed audit log shows all documents, the action that was taken (added, edited or deleted), when the action was taken, and who performed the action.
In addition, a traceable audit trail provides critical backup if any questions arise if an individual edits or deletes a document without proper approval or authorization. The audit log minimizes any risk of compromise or breach to your documentation.
In conclusion, document control plays a major role in managing a project effectively. A comprehensive document management system will incorporate many of these document control tips into its feature set to help you mitigate risk and avoid claims. Take important steps in ensuring that your firm has adequate document control to set you up for success in 2018.