What are transmittals in commercial construction? And, how do project managers make them faster or more effective during a project? What about accessing them long after the project has completed. Transmittals are primarily used on commercial construction projects and an effective form of communication that is used by the project manager or project lead to keep all vested stakeholders in the loop. Other individuals on the project can use transmittal, such as foreman, but for I will only focus on the Project Manager for this article.
What’s the purpose for using a transmittal?
There many specific reasons construction companies utilize transmittals, but Project Managers can use a transmittal to keep Owners, GCs, project managers, architects, inspectors, engineers, and any govt. agency staff, (stakeholders), updated on an important document change, change effect, or activity during the full life-cycle of a project.
Keeping stakeholders in the loop
Transmittals are communication messages that act as the bread crumbs that tell a story of the projects progress to all stakeholders to keep track what is sent and received and involved in the project. Transmittals ensure nothing gets overlooked during a complicated build that is associated with hundreds and thousands of documents and files. Transmittals can stitch together all the file changes, such as versions of plans being sent and received out on the job site. Transmittals can also be simple updates without attachments. But they are an important form of communications that ties the project’s activities and stakeholders to a timeline.
Recording activities and events
One of the biggest impediments to project success is miscommunication breakdowns which makes transmittals as a crucial record of activity – time it was sent, received and can be referred to later if an issue arises between the subcontractor and GC or other parties. Liability and legal disputes are frequent in construction and transmittals, unfortunately, become central centerpieces in evidence and proof.
Types of transmittals
In commercial construction, the project manager or lead can leverage three types of transmittals on a project. The first being request for information, more commonly referred to as RFI; submittals; and a simple transmittal. Below is an overview of each one:
A submittal is a document that always accompanies another item that is being sent to stakeholders associated to the construction project. The items associated with a submittal can include but not limited to the designs, plans, and materials for a project. Each submittal follows a sender and receiver process, so it needs be tracked (sent, reviewed, responded and not responded) in a central database. Tracking submittals in a central database creates an environment for you to search for future reference.
Requests for Information (RFI)
RFI’s in commercial construction are documents that are distributed asking specific questions and requiring specific and detailed responses. RFI’s are common if the designs that the field is using to build are frequently outdated because version control and delivery is manual or paper-based. Today, design tools such as Autodesk BIM 360 or PlanGrid can be seamlessly integrated with eSUB in the field to ensure field foreman and workers have real-time data right at their fingertips. If you are working off a manual process, a phone call or trip from the office is necessary to resolve the question. Of course, you can see an opportunity to greatly streamline this process.
Somewhat confusing is the use of simple transmittals as another type of transmittals. Simple transmittals do not include items (e.g., designs, plans or materials, etc.), but are an important form of communication and can be tracked in the project file using email integration if you use a system such as eSUB. However, simple transmittals do not require a response from the intended stakeholder. Documenting all communications is a very important protocol that every subcontractor should employ to protect itself from future issues should they arise. As the saying goes, “you need to document the work performed to get paid.”
Important Notifications (Version Control)
As mentioned above, transmittals in commercial construction are sent when things change. Which happens to be daily on many commercial projects. There is a great deal of fast-moving activity that requires immediate attention to keep the project and stakeholders on schedule. Materials, drawings, documents, blueprints, and several other things accompany transmittals which require tracking (sent, delivered, reviewed, and responded). Maintaining high productivity is a challenge by the massive amount of information being transmitted between the office and field, requiring subcontractor-only designed workflows, which is why subcontractor-designed cloud-based document control software is crucial for today’s trade contractor. The information sent using transmittals in software keeps all stakeholders involved in the project on the same page when changes occur and mitigates costly rework and other risks that impact profits.
Tips for Faster Transmittals in Construction
So, how can trade contractors speed up the transmittal process on commercial construction projects?
- Creating standardize templates with specific information that the GC and other stakeholders can quickly review, digest and respond to in a timely manner. The transmittal should contain a simple drop-down that pre-loaded with (who, what, when, why) company information, sender, receiver, job info, comments about what is attached to the transmittal.
- Specifics and detail-oriented relating to the specific activity within the project since commercial projects can be quite expansive.
- Easy access to the list of stakeholders associated with the project. Ever try to cut and paste email addresses into new emails on your mobile device? Searching for email contacts is a hinderance simply making the workers task more difficult.
- Employing a cloud-based software program for automating the transmittal and document management process (send, receive, review, and approve)!
- Software designed to automate the transmittal process – eSUB Construction Software is designed for trade contractors to host, track and automate the transmittal, submittal, and RFI process. The program can help the trade contractor generate standardized forms, either transmittals, submittals, RFIs, and many other forms based on contract information that is pre-loaded in a searchable database. The data is accessible from any location and available in real-time.
Transmittals such as submittals and RFIs are crucial communications tools for helping construction project managers and their company’s keep projects on schedule. These important documents follow specific response workflows unique to subcontractors and other project stakeholders and require tracking. If something is overlooked, it could be quite costly and eliminate profits or potentially cause a lawsuit down the road. So, why would a subcontractor continue doing things the old fashion way when employing a solution such as eSUB can automate workflows, tasks and reduce risks through improved document control. The software program can track responses to RFIs and Submittals and let’s the user know of any cases that our outstanding. The time and money savings are incredible and also eliminates a desk piled with paperwork that is easily lost in an office cabinet. Imagine never losing a file again because its saved in a secure, hosted virtual filing cabinet and searchable from any mobile device.
eSUB offers a virtual filing cabinet
As a business, tracking your transmittals is of upmost importance. A non-response to a transmittal (e.g., submittal or RFI) can create significant issues with any commercial construction project. And, these issues must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, any specialty contractor or subcontractor not embracing technology to replace their manual processes should reconsider before that next costly mistake occurs. The cost of easy-to-use and implement construction management software can easily be offset by the profits generated and risk mitigation achieved through a more efficient transmittal tracking process. You’ll also never have to search for important documents related to a project again.