Improving the construction workflow between the field and back office is a crucial component of improving profitability and project delivery. There are many structural recommendations and leadership recommendation that come out every month to help improve workflows. Before looking at solutions, subcontractors must look at the issues they’re facing to see what would work best.
The Construction Workflow
There are multiple handoffs in construction between one company and another or even from one department or segment to another. A poor handoff can cause significant delays in a project and be costly to all involved. When looking at the construction workflow within a company it is the critical handoffs between the field and the office. These handoffs can be time cards from the field to the office, or other important documents and information transferring from the field to the office and back.
Where the Workflow Breaks Down
The construction workflow becomes an issue when there is a breakdown. Whether this is a breakdown in communication or a breakdown somewhere else in the workflow. The best way to improve workflows is to identify common places where the workflows breakdown.
Within companies workflows breakdown on a couple different levels. One common place for workflow breakdowns is between departments. Departments commonly have breakdowns because they feel as though their department exists separate from others. For example, the field supervisors might be reluctant to share information with the accounting department or others because they might not see why that department needs the information. However, just because it doesn’t seem like they need the information doesn’t mean they don’t. It could be part of a larger reporting effort to increase efficiency in estimation.
This ties in to the interdepartmental breakdowns and is just as crucial. A common issue that construction companies face is a lack of communication between the field and office. Either departments don’t talk to each other or aren’t appropriately looped in about the project. The field could be stuck waiting for the appropriate documents which can put the project on hold. Or they could choose to move forward and potentially put the project at risk.
Communication between companies can be even worse. Often times due to the amount of documents, or other factors, it can take companies weeks to respond. So if a field supervisor submits an RFI or Change Order, the project could end up halted. Or worse, the field supervisor has to continue with the project under the assumption that the change order will be approved which can result in nonpayment in the end.
Improving Construction Workflow Between the Field and Office
Improving construction workflows between the field and office is a big step towards improving all construction workflows. Every company has to overcome the issues leading to a workflow breakdown between their office and field. Sometimes these breakdowns come from the current reporting systems in place. Other times these breakdowns are due to timing.
One common problem is the use of paper in the field. If a foreman or supervisor is using paper field notes, time cards, and more that can cause issues in the back office. Because the back office will have to either scan all of the paper notes in or they have to retype it. This can cause hours of rework just trying to ensure there is accurate information available at all times. In companies with a hundred employees or more, just inputting time card information correctly can take a week.
The best way to combat this is to move from a paper system to a software system. Some software systems can handle daily reports, field notes, and time card information. This reduces the amount of double data entry that the back office must deal with. And it ensures there are easily searchable documents.
Improving Workflows Beyond
By moving to a software system it’s even easier for companies to be able to improve their communication and workflow structure outside of their own organization. Within the company, there is a reduction in double entry, and it’s easy to find documents in case of litigation. Outside of the company, there are even more benefits.
Since all of the documents are electronic they are easier to send from the field or office to a general contractor, owner, or other. Great software will even track all project correspondence so nothing slips through the cracks. A central database of information eliminates silos from the field, office, accounting, and more creating better-organized projects.