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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology Ultimate Guide

Electronic Approvals: The Key To Improved Synergy

When a construction company finds a way to improve communication and efficiency, it’s taking a step toward serious growth. With everyone in the company having access to the tools to work quickly and automate their most menial tasks, they can expand their possibilities and find job satisfaction. In construction, the synergy electronic approvals promote can be the key to unlocking both these scenarios.

Electronic approvals in construction are all about automating workflow, improving communication, and maximizing efficiency. Everyone benefits from these tools. Let’s find out how.

Electronic Approvals: An Overview

In construction, almost every decision, change, or adjustment requires someone to approve it. In the past, getting approval meant faxing or physically bringing a document to the owner, project manager, designer, or another party for a signature. If there were issues with the proposal or document, the courier would head back to the drawing board, draw up a new document, and track down the signature again. 

Obviously, this is slow, tedious, and inefficient. In a business with thin margins and tight deadlines, moving to an automated method of gathering signatures makes much more sense. Thankfully, we now have the electronic approval.

How Electronic Approvals Work

Electronic approvals serve the same purpose as traditional approvals, yet they benefit from supercharged efficiency. These approvals automatically head directly to the person who needs to review them. They’re often built into documents, allowing the user to open them on a computer or mobile device, sign them, and send them back in real-time. 

To make this process even faster and smoother, system administrators can set up automatic workflows that trigger alerts anytime someone does something that requires approval. And, to drill down even deeper, these administrators can often program which types of decisions need approval. They can opt for or against approvals for budget transfers, change orders, payment applications, compliance acceptances, and a number of other documents and processes. 

The Benefits of Using Electronic Approvals

There are lots of benefits of using electronic approvals. The obvious advantage is speed, but convenience and accuracy should both rank high on the list.

Electronic approvals are fast. Generating themselves automatically, they’re on the way to gathering a signature the moment that an event triggers them. This allows the company to work faster and more efficiently without adding additional staff.

Not only are electronic approvals great for intercompany transactions, they’re also a bonus for customers. Rather than taking time out of their day to head to a fax machine or print, sign, scan, and send a document via email, they can handle the approval from their mobile device. This convenience makes customers more responsive and improves communication.

Accuracy is also a major factor. Whenever there is a human inputting data or drawing up documents, there is potential for a small mistake or oversight. They might even misplace the document or forget to send it (or that they sent it in the first place). With electronic approvals, as long as the contact information is correct, the other party is sure to receive it. And, if they don’t sign it right away, the system can keep track and send reminders and alerts.

Electronic Approvals: Improving Synergy in Every Role

Speed, convenience, communication, and accuracy build synergy, and electronic approvals are no exception. These tools improve the lives of everyone involved in the project, from folks working in the office to the people on-site—even the project owner. Everyone feels the benefits of synergy.

Project Management

Electronic approvals make a massive impact on the way that project management teams perform. As they always seem to be putting out fires, having access to instant approvals on the fly is imperative.

Consider a cost overrun due to a materials shortage. First, the project management team might need to shift the budget from one line item to another, so they’ll need approval from the accounting department. Or, the architect might need to choose a different material, and they’ll need to send a change order to the project owner.

Regardless of the reason, the project management team can send and receive electronic approvals in seconds, allowing the project to move forward and avoid significant delay.

Finance and Accounting

Financing and accounting departments have some critical roles to play, keeping an eye on profitability and ensuring the company has the resources it needs to succeed. And, the type of clarity electronic approvals offers these departments allows them to see the whole picture.

As projects progress, delays, shortages, and changes can take the established budget and turn it on end. With electronic approvals generating automatically, the accounting department will always know where the money is going, who’s moving it, and what for. This improves communication, creates accountability, reduces errors and redundancy, and ultimately protects the company’s profits. 

Field Personnel and Subcontractors

The boots on the ground physically constructing the building benefit from electronic approvals, as well. While these folks might be top-notch problem solvers, they often need the approval of the project management team or designer to move forward.

Let’s envision that there is an issue with the on-site conditions, and the field personnel won’t be able to construct a wall according to the plan. The field personnel can submit an RFI to the architect. This RFI will state the issue and propose a solution, and with electronic approval, give the architect the ability to approve or disapprove in real-time. 

And, one of the most important electronic approvals involves on-site personnel. Modern construction companies often allow subs to submit their pay apps online, saving time and frustration. A few folks within the different departments have to put their eyes on these applications, and each can approve or deny the app with electronic approval. This reduces the amount of time it takes the sub to get paid, making them happier and more willing to work with the construction company again—once again, improving overall synergy.

Project Owners

Some of the most frustrating things for project owners who don’t typically work in the construction space are the constant changes and paperwork. While they might have the architect or designer handling most of the issues, they still need to be available to make some decisions. Often, this means taking time out of their day to meet with contractors to review paperwork.

With electronic approvals, project owners don’t have to feel so overwhelmed. All of the documents they need are at their fingertips. They can quickly provide electronic approval through their mobile device. This can help relieve some of the tension, stress, and confusion that many project owners suffer during the construction process. And, since electronic approvals improve communication, project owners will always feel like they’re in the know.

Automated Workflows and Improved Synergy? Yes, Please

Ultimately, electronic approvals are excellent tools for building a better running, more efficient, more cohesive construction company. They keep everyone in the loop, allow for instant responses and improved communication, and minimize the chances of mistakes or errors. Who wouldn’t want those for the company, employees, projects, and clients?

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business.

Author Biography:

Tom Scalisi has over 15 years of experience working in the trades. Since moving to full-time freelance writing, he has developed a passion for helping construction companies grow. He enjoys teaching contractors how technology can streamline their businesses and educating them about their rights during payment disputes. 

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

Inefficiency Costs in Construction

It doesn’t matter which industry you work in, inefficiency is a profit killer. Doing things twice, taking too long to accomplish a goal, or paying too much to get something done are all sure ways to beat up a company’s wallet. For that reason, most companies aim to streamline their processes and improve efficiency. Unfortunately, that’s a tall order for the inefficiency costs in construction. 

What causes inefficiencies in construction?

Inefficiencies typically start with a lack of information, but they can take many forms. The following are some of the largest contributors to inefficiency costs in construction.

Poor Planning

There are many moving parts on a construction project: project owners, general contractors, subs, suppliers, designers, engineers, inspectors, financing lenders, and more. Getting all of those parties to play nicely and on time with each other is truly an art, especially when it comes to scheduling. 

One scheduling snafu can cause massive issues, especially if it involves a materials delivery or a specialty sub that can’t make it back to the site in the near future.

Poor Communication

One of the most significant issues causing inefficiencies in construction is poor communication. Job site confusion, questions about certain aspects of the project, unclear scopes of work, and even changes in designs aren’t always handled quickly and efficiently. Instead, questions compile and delays build, costing the contractor, subs, and project owners precious time and money.

Let’s look at a likely situation: A specified type of flooring isn’t available, and the flooring sub needs to know what to do. Instead of taking the efficient route and sending an RFI to the designer, he tells the GC he needs an answer before ordering. The GC is juggling 15 things at one time and gets distracted by something on the job. He never delivers the message. 

By the time the subcontractor needs to be on-site and laying floors, he’s already behind schedule because he was waiting on an answer and couldn’t order the floor. 

Lack of Skilled Labor and Training 

The construction industry’s need for skilled labor is well documented, but understanding how much this lack costs the industry isn’t so cut and dry. Without a crew of men and women that a company can rely on, projects take longer than necessary. Also, these crews’ inexperience means they might not recognize when they’re working inefficiently.

A lack of training can contribute to the issue. Whether it’s a new system or technique, or even just basic safety, not training staff in how to do a particular aspect of the job will cost a business. In the best case, they learn by trial and error. In the worst cases, injuries can occur. In either case, things are running inefficiently.

And, consider the amount of time and resources it takes to recruit the folks to help run the business as smoothly as possible. What could the company do with those resources, otherwise?

Aversion to Technology

One aspect that separates the construction industry from just about every other business is its unwillingness to adopt new technology. While most industries have moved toward automation and streamlined processes thanks to the latest technology, construction holds fast to its old ways. 

Take drawing management, for example. If a company is still using paper plans, they need to be sure they’re using the latest, most updated set of drawings. Someone needs to print the plans and get them to the job site, costing money in supplies (paper and ink) as well as travel time and vehicle cost (gas, wear and tear).

Instead, a drawing management system allows GCs and project managers to check for the latest plans via a mobile device from the job site. And, anyone else who needs to see those plans will also have instant access, allowing them to make decisions or change course whenever necessary. 

What Inefficiencies Can Cost a Construction Company

When you consider the wide range of inefficiencies that exist and what can cause them, it doesn’t take much to imagine they make a huge impact on the bottom line. 

While some situations are unavoidable, issues caused by poor communication are estimated to cost construction workers almost two full days of work each week. Multiply those two hours by everyone on the project, and it becomes painfully obvious that time is money. 

And, if you consider how much time call-backs cost, as well as time spent on fixing avoidable errors caused by miscommunication, the numbers get worse. It’s estimated that all of these inefficiencies are costing the construction industry around $177 billion each year. 

There is a Solution

Most of the issues that cause inefficiencies are the result of poor communication or missing information. The good news is there is a simple way to improve communication and collect data in one spot—utilizing and ERP-based construction management software.

Automation

ERP software can streamline a business’s day-to-day tasks. By automating some of the more mundane and error-prone manual tasks, the team can focus their attention on creative solutions to unique problems. Whether it be tracking revisions, ensuring everyone’s compliances are up to date or giving everyone on the job an easier way to pay or get paid, automation can be the answer.

Better Decisions

It’s tough to make a good decision without all the information available, and construction management software can help. By centralizing all the data collection with an ERP, decision-makers will have the latest data and information available. This allows them to make smarter, more informed decisions to limit inefficiencies and keep the company and project on track. 

Drawing Management

Drawing management is also critical to ensure everyone is literally on the same page. Revisions and changes are instantly available to everyone on the job. If there are any questions or an RFI is necessary, creating and managing those documents using the ERP software is easy. Automated workflows ensure everyone who needs to receive these documents does, improving communication.

Cloud-based Access

Finally, construction management software can ensure that all of the important data, reports, drawings, invoices, and other documents are available at the users’ fingertips. Cloud-based software allows access from anywhere and on any device with access to the internet. Coupled with real-time updates, cloud storage ensures everyone is working with the same data at all times. 

Better Reporting

Last but not least, ERP-based construction management software helps businesses look at their past practices and forecast their futures. With automatically updated reports like job costing and budgets, and key performance indicators, the company will have an easier time hunting down inefficiencies and improving its practices.

Check out Premier Construction Software to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals.  Our construction management and accounting software provide teams with the tools they need to take advantage of these technologies. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

We’re more than just construction financial software. We’re built to help your business. 

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101

 

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

How COVID Changed Construction

There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus has changed everyone’s life. Those who had it will never be the same, and those who haven’t still live in fear. The construction industry is not immune to these changes. From a drastic material shortage to new ways to collaborate, the industry will never be the same.

Here are five ways the construction industry has been impacted by COVID.

1. Materials shortage

There isn’t a trade that hasn’t been impacted by the materials shortage in some way. It started with factory shutdowns due to stay-at-home orders and was followed by a trucking and shipping labor shortage. Now we have hundreds of cargo ships stranded outside ports waiting to be offloaded.

The materials shortage started with lumber, then moved quickly to steel and other building materials. Now there isn’t anything that hasn’t been affected. Approximately 68% of contractors surveyed said they were experiencing material delays in the 2nd quarter of 2021. The shortage has delayed projects and caused prices to skyrocket. At one time lumber was up over 300% from the previous year! And now we have additional supply chain issues to deal with in the coming months. There doesn’t seem to be a quick answer to this one.

2. Health becomes a priority

Gone are the days of going to work when you are sick. Since almost any symptom could be a sign of the COVID virus, everyone with cold or flu-like symptoms was sent home. Workers were told not to come in if they felt sick. Then, once tests were available, we went to testing everyone and quarantining those who tested positive. Whole crews or job sites could be knocked out and the project placed on hold due to contact tracing and the required quarantining.

Now we are dealing with vaccines, mandates, and whether to mask or not. What started as a health issue has become a political hot potato. It’s left companies in employees wondering “what next?” Things won’t go back to normal anytime soon. Contractors developed new ways to track symptoms and contact traces using construction software packages.

3. New ways to collaborate

When the stay-at-home orders first came out, design teams could no longer travel or meet on job sites. Everyone that could work from home did, which made collaboration much more difficult. But teams rose to the occasion and found new tools they could use to work together. Tools like drawing collaboration were used to keep everyone informed of design changes. And Zoom calls became the norm as teams worked together to make it work.

Even building inspectors started doing inspections using photographs and video conferencing. This sped up the inspection process for all involved.

Cloud computing and web-based SaaS software have changed the ways teams collaborate. Since most were working from home and travel was restricted, being able to access documents and information from anywhere became a necessity, not a luxury. Cloud-based technology and construction

management software, like Premier, helped contractors stay connected, scale their operations without having to rely on human resources, make investments in their companies that eliminated time-consuming processes, and identify cash flow issues and problem projects early. Without such flexibility, many companies found it hard to operate in the new environment.

4. E-Signing became more popular

One thing that couldn’t stop was payments, and to keep the documents flowing many companies had to rely on electronic signatures. Although they’ve been legal for years, they gained in popularity during the pandemic. Some states, like Oregon, started accepting remote notaries, while others had been for years. A remote notary session involves the notary and signer getting together on a conference call to witness the signature. This makes it easier for lien waivers and other documents to be notarized so they don’t hold up payments.

The more electronic signatures were collected, the more document management became a necessity. Companies had to track lien waivers, subcontracts, contracts, change orders, and purchase orders and know when each had been signed. Construction management software, like Premier, allows contractors to keep these documents organized and know exactly who’s missing. You can seamlessly connect your e-signature software with Premier software to collect the signatures you need quickly and easily.

5. Materials cost increases force price increases

It started with lumber, rocketing 300 percent from its starting price, then other materials started raising their prices. Now gas prices are rising, along with other supplies for construction projects. As prices rose, contractors started to pass on those costs to their customers. The cost to frame a house more than doubled during the height of the lumber price spike.

Some customers delayed projects to try to avoid high material costs, while others just paid the price. Many contractors started adding price escalation clauses to their contracts to protect them in this volatile market.

Conclusion

We can only hope that someday we’ll be able to put this pandemic behind us and return to life as we knew it. Some of the changes to the construction industry caused by COVID are for the better, like making health a priority and the rise of collaboration. Other changes, however, like price increases and material shortages, are best left in the rearview mirror.

 

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

9 Reasons You Need Drawing Management

Drawings are the backbone of every construction project. Without correct drawings, the work completed may be incorrect or not needed at all. With so many drawings being issued for even the simplest of projects, keeping them organized is imperative for project teams to work successfully. Drawing management software provides the organization and features that teams need to complete their projects on time and on budget.

We’ve put together nine reasons why you need a drawing management system to help you stay on top of your project and your work.

1. Version control

It’s crucial that project teams work off the latest revisions of the drawings and specifications as the project progresses. New drawings may be issued periodically based on changes to the design or RFI responses. Keeping up with these changes can be confusing and difficult if you don’t have a system to keep it all straight.

Version control tracks the latest version of each drawing and ensures that you’re always looking at the most current one. This ensures the team is always up to date and working off the correct drawings.

2. Central storage

Teams often have multiple places they store their drawings, some on local computers, in Dropbox, in email attachments, etc. With a central storage location for all drawings, you reduce the number of places you have to look for a specific file. This can save hours of frustration and search.

A central storage system keeps all drawings in the same place so everyone can have access when they need it.

3. Markup ability

Changes happen in every job. With a drawing management system, you can digitally markup drawings to document questions or changes to the drawings. You can highlight changes with bubble clouds and mark as-built locations for utilities, walls, and other features of the project.

The ability to digitally markup drawings allows teams to keep a live as-built set in the system. Everyone can access it and know exactly where things ended up.

4. Connect drawings to other correspondence

Drawing management systems allow teams to tag RFI locations and link them with the corresponding questions, then markup changes on the drawing based on the response. They can also tag change order locations and associate them with the appropriate CO. Now when someone asks why a specific change was made, teams can go to the electronic drawing tool and immediately see the RFI and response that caused the change.

Open communication is key during construction projects, especially those with lots of changes. The ability to connect drawings to other correspondence allows teams to instantly see when and why changes were made.

5. Security and controls

With drawing management tools, you can set security permissions to allow team members to see only those documents that they need to see. This keeps sensitive data and trademarks safe from those who don’t need to have that information.

Keeping data safe and secure is important in any data management system. By setting security permissions on a need-to-know basis, you protect your client’s trademarks and trade secrets.

6. Cloud storage

Storing drawings in the cloud allows all team members to have access from any device with an internet connection. No more searching in folders or trying to locate links, all the drawings are on the tool and everyone who has access can easily see them. Cloud storage also provides limitless data storage, allowing multiple large projects to be stored in the cloud.

Cloud storage provides easy access from any device for all team members who have permissions.

7. Easy to archive

As electronic drawings are marked up throughout the project, the record creates an as-built set that can be accessed at any time during the project. Team members can easily see how the documents have changed versus the original design. All changes are recorded in the electronic version visible from any device.

The ability to create an as-built set at any time during the project improves communication with the owner and speeds up the project closeout process.

8. Search capabilities

Optical character recognition allows the software to locate specific keywords within the drawings. Teams can search for specific terms or location names and find them instantly without searching through all the pages.

Searching for keywords in the drawing tool saves teams hours looking through individual sheets.

9. Avoid added work or rework

Teams can avoid rework and performing added work that wasn’t necessary by always using the latest version of the drawings available. Having a drawing management system ensures that the latest version is accessible with a click of a button, as opposed to searching through folders and documents. The system will also document the receipt of specific drawings, so the information can be used if a dispute arises.

Teams can avoid rework when they work from the latest versions of the drawings and can document receipt of new versions.

Save time and money with drawing management

Drawing management systems should make your life easier, not create more work. They can help keep teams organized, help them find the information they need, and save time and money searching for documents.

When looking for the best drawing management software for your team, make sure it has the features above and fits your workflow. To find out if Premier Construction Software is a good fit for your team, contact us today.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.

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Tips & Advice Trends & Technology

A Way of Attracting Younger Construction Workers? Technology.

Many construction industry companies are looking for ways to attract the younger generations to work with them so their businesses can continue on into the future. But with a labor shortage throughout the country, and particularly in construction, companies have to work harder to attract younger workers.

The answer to the question of how to reach younger workers and encourage them to join the industry is technology. By updating systems and software, using the latest in tech gear, and focusing on recruiting young workers, construction companies can make the industry attractive again.

An aging workforce

Workers younger than 25 make up only 9% of the total construction industry workforce. Roughly 40% of workers in the industry are 45–64. And according to data from the Center for Construction Research and Training, workers aged 55 and over increased from 17% in 2011 to 22% in 2018.

Add to that the fact that the industry has struggled to attract younger workers and it’s a recipe for a shortage in the near future. High school students are encouraged to go to college and choose a career path from there. The trades and other construction-related occupations are not given as much fanfare.

Contractors are complaining about the lack of skilled workers available, but the truth is the industry doesn’t do a good enough job attracting potential workers. The younger generations have grown up with technology by their side and have come to rely on it for every aspect of their lives. However, construction has been slow to adopt new technology, and many workers still rely on outdated resources to perform their work.

If contractors and other construction companies want to attract younger workers, they’ve got to adopt the latest in technology. This will allow them to take advantage of the benefits of younger workers’ skills. Students in construction management programs are getting trained on the use of scheduling software, project management software, estimating software, and electronic material takeoff. Administrative and accounting professionals are being trained using new software with new functionalities. Asking highly trained workers to use outdated programs discounts the education they worked so hard to get.

By asking workers to use systems they are not familiar with also slows down the training time and increases costs. Companies that still do manual takeoffs will struggle to teach a Millenial worker about scales and manual calculations. This leads to a longer onboarding process, costing companies more money while they wait for a new worker to become productive.

Upgrade your tools

Companies that want to attract younger workers need to upgrade their tools to the latest technology can offer. You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge, but there’s a lot of researched and tried-and-true technology that construction has been hesitant to implement. Companies need to adopt tech to help match the skill sets, education, and training those future workers are receiving.

Accounting

In accounting education students are quickly trained on the debits and credits, then they are moved to software. While most construction companies use accounting software, not many use software specifically designed for the industry. QuickBooks and other general-purpose accounting software can be useful when a company is starting out, but as they grow and want to attract a higher level of talent, industry-specific software becomes a necessity.

Since construction accounting is so different than any other industry, using industry-specific software becomes even more important. Trying to show someone the intricacies of construction accounting using software that isn’t built for those intricacies can lead to a lot of confusion. New workers need a straightforward process that often isn’t available when using generic software.

Project management

Students in construction management programs are learning project management and documentation by using software packages. These packages make tracking correspondence, submittals, and RFIs much easier than using an Excel spreadsheet. If companies aren’t using these tools, they could be losing the opportunity to work with some of the best and brightest.

Estimating and takeoff

When it comes to estimating and material takeoffs, integration is the key. Too many companies rely on outdated software or manual methods to create project estimates and do material takeoffs. Those amounts then need to be entered into another software system once the project is approved. By integrating and automating the estimating takeoff process, companies can improve speed and accuracy. Both of these lead to more work and higher profits.

Scheduling

Scheduling software allows project managers to build dependencies and relationships between tasks on a project. This makes updating the schedule a lot easier because tasks automatically move depending on their predecessors. Having to spend hours manually updating a schedule can be costly.

In addition, some schedules can be imported into the project management system, allowing the team to view the day’s activities and adjust the schedule as needed.

Update your software with Premier

By implementing the latest in technology and bringing processes into the 21st century, construction companies can attract younger, skilled workers. Companies that do not upgrade will continue to struggle to recruit new workers and attract the best and brightest.

If your company is ready to upgrade your accounting and project management software, contact us to see a demo of Premier Construction Software.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.