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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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How Construction Is Moving Toward an Automated World

Experts have long criticized the construction industry’s unwillingness to get with the times. As one of the oldest industries in the world, it would rather stick to the status quo than try new things. That is until recently when some of the largest construction companies in the world started to recognize the benefits that technology and automation have to offer. And the reason for this change makes a lot of sense.

Construction has some of the tightest profit margins of any industry. Not only that, inefficiencies and errors shrink those margins even more. Automation aims to fix that by taking mundane, error-prone tasks and utilizing a system to handle them. The result is more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Let’s take a look at a few ways construction is moving toward this automated world.

Automation in Construction

Construction automation conjures thoughts of robots and machines erecting buildings. While there are some machines that can lay bricks or pour concrete, construction automation is more about the processes behind the scenes, as a contract, documents, and invoice management. These processes take up a lot of time inputting data, double-checking documents, checking for compliance, and finding (and fixing) errors.

Smart Contracts

Many construction companies are moving toward smart contracts to help streamline and automate certain processes. These contracts work by utilizing “if/then” scenarios, recognizing that once one action takes place, another action needs to occur. 

For instance, some smart contracts will recognize that once a certain stage of a project is complete (say, the contractor gets paid) that more materials will be necessary. The program can then trigger an order to a supplier, making sure there is enough material to continue the job.

This type of automation keeps the construction vehicle rolling, minimizing downtime and maximizing efficiency.

Compliance Automation

Manual compliance management and tracking take a lot of time. Someone needs to check to ensure that each contractor is meeting the requirements set forth but the contract. This could be keeping licenses on file, meeting bond requirements, updating insurance information, sending lien waivers, or many other scenarios. And, should some of those compliances expire, someone needs to know—this sounds like a job for automation.

Automated compliance tracking and management is a significant help to construction companies. Not only will the system track and log compliances as they come in, but it will also notify the project management team if any are missing. They can also prevent expired compliances from going unnoticed by automatically sending a warning to the team.

Document Management

As much as the industry relies on raw materials to build structures, it also relies on documents (and lots of them) to keep the job on track. Between drawings, contracts, compliances, change orders, RFIs, and other construction documents, physically sorting and storing them all is mundane and time-consuming. Manual entry might reduce storage, but it’s also time heavy and prone to mistakes. Automated document management has the answer.

Some document management programs allow a user to upload a document into the system. The system then automatically reviews the document, pulls the important data, and stores it in such a way that’s easy to find and accessible for the whole team.

Automated Payments

Payment problems are always an issue in the construction industry, but automation can help. By giving subcontractors and suppliers an automated system to upload invoices and compliances, you reduce the time it takes for them to get paid. You also limit your risk of multiple payments or paying more than the budget allows.

Invoice Management

Beyond automated payment management, automated invoice management simplifies the entire process. Automated invoice systems will scan an invoice, pull the important data, cross-reference it with other documents, and assess the validity of the invoice. It will also recognize who sent the invoice, which job it’s attached to, and which contract it falls under. 

Automated invoice management can go quite a bit further, as well. The more invoices these systems see, the more proficient they become at recognizing job numbers, vendor codes, cost types, and more, pulling these values and ID numbers straight from the page. 

Possibly most important of all, automated invoice management systems reduce errors and oversights. The system will automatically check to ensure the amount is correct, as well as check that the document in question isn’t a duplicate or fraudulent invoice. This reduces lost money due to errors and mistakes, allowing automated invoice management to pay for itself.

Premier partnered with Smart Ui to offer services just like these. This system offers automated invoice management that only gets smarter the more you use it, helping you improve your company’s efficiency and accounts payable and receivable processes.

Automation Is the Future

Clearly, automation will play a big role in the construction industry’s future. From bots and machines to the way the industry handles data entry tasks, automating tasks allows for growth, increased profits, and better project management.

Check out Premier Construction Software’s automated systems to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

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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Why is Drawing Management Important?

Today’s construction industry is finally starting to embrace technology. From project management programs to accounting software designed specifically for the industry, improved workflows and team-wide access are increasing efficiency. Drawing management is one of the areas most affected by new technology, and the results are tremendous.

But what is drawing management, and why is it important? And what can it offer the construction industry and your company? Keep reading to find out.

What is construction drawing management?

In today’s world of information at our fingertips, people outside of the construction industry might be shocked if they saw the stacks of paper plans still plaguing some projects. Sure, the architect or designer has these docs on their computer and local server, but everyone else might be working from a set of paper drawings. And, as revisions come in, those paper drawings don’t update themselves.

That’s the issue that construction drawing management aims to solve. Drawing management, when done correctly, is a central database of drawings that everyone involved in the process can access. They’re most effective when cloud-based, allowing anyone in the field or office to access the latest drawing at a moment’s notice.

Why is drawing management important?

Having instantaneous access to project drawings is obviously a benefit, as anyone can look at the same drawing, regardless of their role and location. However, there is more to it than that.

Drawing management offers clarity

Imagine a scenario where a question pops up on the job site. Maybe it’s an issue with a material, or the scope of work doesn’t jive perfectly with the conditions at the site. In the past, the designer would have to go to the site or wait for the PM to upload tons of pictures to an email. With a drawing management system, the process is streamlined.

Now, the PM can access the drawings from the tablet while the designer pulls them up on their computer screen. While on the phone, the two can look at the same drawing, manipulate, and make notes, mark-ups, or revisions in real-time.

Drawing management offers real-time revisions

Too often have site personnel worked off an older version of the drawings only to find out things changed and their work was incorrect. This causes delays and waste, both of which are the enemies of progress and profits. Sure, you can blame the crew or the management team, but that doesn’t change the problem at hand.

Project drawing management alleviates this issue by allowing for real-time revisions and updates. As the team on-site accesses the drawings, they’ll have the most updated version at their fingertips.

Drawing management centralizes storage

Document storage can be a hassle. Between storing drawings on different drives, sending revisions through email, and granting access to everyone who needs it, finding a document at the moment you need it isn’t easy.

With a drawing management system, you can store those documents in one place. And with automation, a drawing management system will ensure these documents are sorted properly and easy to find. Maybe even best of all, some drawing management systems offer unlimited storage, preventing your company from running out of the ever-more-expensive digital space.

Drawing management integrates with other processes

Once you have an established drawing management system, it should integrate with the other processes your company uses. For example, an RFI can be accompanied by a tag that takes the team directly to the drawing in question. Also, the team can tag change orders to drawings, allowing anyone reviewing the change a better overview.

Integrating drawing a management system with these processes offers a clearer scope, streamlines approvals, and allows the team to stay on the same page. 

Drawing management can be critical to your business’s growth

“Streamline,” “automate,” and “centralize” tend to be buzzwords circling around drawing management, but they truly are keys to your business’s growth. By implementing a drawing management system, you’re enabling your team to work faster and smarter while also focusing on the most important tasks.

Change the game with drawing management systems

Moving to a drawing management system is obviously critical to growing and getting a leg up on the competition. But not all systems are the same; some have more to offer than others.

Look for a drawing management system that offers unlimited storage and operates on a reliable cloud. Also, be sure it has all the features you need from a system in order to integrate with your chosen construction management software. Or, better yet, choose a system that rolls everything into one easy-to-use application, like Premier Construction Software.

Premier Construction Software is a true cloud, all-in-one accounting, job cost, project, document, and drawing management solution designed to meet the needs of GCs, Developers, Design-Build, and Homebuilders. Trusted by thousands of companies, Premier partners with forward-thinking, progressive construction companies to provide a fully integrated solution for office and field staff operating on Mac, PC, and any mobile device. Premier operates in North America as well as Australia, providing a true cloud solution that meets the needs of both markets today.

Check out Premier Construction Software’s drawing management system to see if it fits your company’s strategies and goals. Schedule a demo by contacting us today.

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

Is Manual Data Entry Costing Your Business? Why Automation is the Solution

If you think that investing in software to automate your systems will cost you more money than doing everything manually, you’re not alone. Many businesses operate under the assumption that paying for automation is more expensive than paying people to do things. The truth is there are hidden costs to doing things by hand, and those costs can significantly affect your bottom line.

We’re going to look at the hidden costs you may not realize you’re incurring by doing your data entry manually. The magnitude of some may surprise you.

1. Increased error rate

Workers entering data manually, without verification, can have an error rate as high as 4%. That means for every 50 entries, two are wrong. In an experiment in 2009, it was shown that data entry workers made up to 10.23 errors when entering data from thirty spreadsheets. This is the nature of human data entry.

When errors involve money, the stakes are high. These errors could lead to over-and underpayments, over-and undercharging customers, disruptions to the accounting and auditing processes, and may lead to financial trouble. Data entry errors have cost companies millions of dollars.

2. It takes time

Manual data entry takes time. The average typist can perform 10,000 to 15,000 keystrokes per hour. Depending on the amount of data and its form, it can take even the fastest typist hours to perform data entry. If the data requires comprehension or analysis before entry, this slows down the process even more.

It could take a competent operator between 8 and 10 minutes to enter 400 units of data. This may not seem like much, but if the volume of data is high, it can cost your company valuable time that could be spent on other workflows, like analyzing the data.

3. Can’t focus on important business tasks

With so much time spent ensuring that the data entered is correct and finding and fixing errors, there is no time left to work on the business. Managers spend their time ensuring that the data they’re reporting is accurate and less time actually analyzing that data. A survey found that 37% of manufacturing professionals don’t trust the reliability of manually entered data when making strategic decisions. If you can’t trust the data you’re getting from your team, how can you grow your business or take on additional work?

4. Inhibits business growth

When management receives data, it often makes decisions based on that information, whether it’s correct or not. These decisions may inhibit the growth of the business. For example, a costly mistake can lead managers to believe a project is over budget when it’s not. They then make moves to cut company spending to protect the company, when instead, they should be investing in future growth.

5. Hidden costs

Most companies think automation costs more than entering data by hand. The truth is there are hidden costs to entering data manually. There’s the obvious labor to enter the data, then more labor to check for mistakes, and more labor to fix the mistakes. At each level, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to detect and correct mistakes.

It has been shown that incorrect data can cost companies up to 30% or more of their revenue. In particular, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report stated that the direct and indirect costs of manual paper invoice processing are $2.7 trillion for businesses around the world. The hidden costs of manual data entry can be enough to make or break your business.

6. It’s boring

Continually spending days or hours doing mindless data entry can lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover. When workers spend hours keying in the same information, they are bound to lose focus, which increases errors and leads to frustration. Data entry work is repetitive and tedious. 55% of employees in a survey cited the collection, uploading, and synching of data as the least productive part of manual data entry. When employees don’t feel productive, their morale lowers and they are then more prone to make mistakes.

Automation is the solution

How can companies save themselves the time and money that is lost through manual data entry processes? Automating as much as possible is one way to recoup these costs. By using machine learning and automation, the software can automate much of the data entry process, leading to fewer mistakes and speeding up the process.

Premier Software uses AI, machine learning, and automation to speed up invoice entry and other repetitive tasks, so you can spend time working on your business and less time entering data. For a demo of how our automation works to save you time and money, schedule one 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

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.