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How digital workflows can help construction firms compete more successfully

In this article Matthew Coad, executive general manager – solutions, Upstream speaks exclusively to Inside Construction about how construction companies can be more efficient during this construction boom.

Supply and demand for building and construction continues to boom. According to BCI Economics, the total construction projects market will show steady growth of 8.2 per cent in the upcoming financial year 2018/19.

To meet this demand and compete effectively, construction companies need to ensure they’re operating as efficiently as possible. This includes eliminating time-wasting procedures, ensuring compliance is always up to date and verifiable, and managing job allocations for optimum efficiency.

While the construction industry is technologically-advanced in many ways, managing day-to-day operations in the sector is still heavily driven by paper-based documentation. This introduces risk to construction businesses who can’t streamline their operations while they’re dealing with paper-based processes.

The solution is to automate document workflows to better manage project documentation and compliance, job allocation, field transactions, and certification and training. Digitising these processes and automating them where possible means construction companies can spend more time on building and less time on admin tasks.

Many construction companies complete regulation and compliance paperwork manually with the onus on the project manager and the OH&S team to follow up and act, according to compliance requirements. In practice, this often means filling out paperwork on site, then taking that paperwork back to the office to action and then store and archive it.

Because the process is manual, it’s error-prone. Paperwork can get lost, people can forget to follow up, and there is always a delay in communicating information to the people who need it.

Construction firms need a solution that lets them capture and enter data on site, so that it’s immediately in the organisation’s system and available to everyone. Importantly, they then need to attach a workflow to that data so that, within minutes of the form being filled in, alerts and notifications are sent to the right people, triggering them to act before certain deadlines to make sure all compliance-related actions have been completed.

This real-time data capture and storage in a document management system eliminates the risk of paper-based forms being lost or damaged. It also eliminates the time required to type in the details on the handwritten form, since the information is entered directly into the system in the first place.

Workflows are also useful when it comes to managing job allocations. Many construction firms rely on complex spreadsheets to track which employees are certified or licensed for which equipment and, therefore, which jobs they can work on. That can also be affected by mandatory rest times, site inductions, or other OH&S concerns.

Managing all of this manually is extremely time consuming. It can also mean that employees turn up at a job site with a piece of equipment, only to be told they can’t work that day because of a compliance issue that should have been addressed. This can be as basic as the employee not having completed a site induction or their license having expired.

Using a document management and workflow solution, construction firms can streamline this process and avoid errors and inconveniences. Instead of spreadsheets, the system can automatically track all the details of each employee’s certification and license status, matching them with the equipment and jobs they’re qualified to work on. It can trigger automatic reminders to renew licences and certifications well in advance of expiry.

When a job is created and people are allocated to it, the system automatically verifies that everything is up to date. If the person needs to renew a license or certification, or go through a site induction, the system flags it in advance so any issues can be rectified before the job begins. No one can be allocated to a job until their certifications, licenses, and other compliance requirements are up to date.

Technology like this can help a construction firm operate with confidence that the resources they’ve allocated to a project are the right ones and that there will be no compliance issues.

Just as importantly, the right document and workflow solution can help give people access to all the information related to a job when they need it, regardless of whether they’re in the office, at a building site, or travelling. Using any device with an internet connection, they can see all the information they need to keep jobs on track and foresee any issues before they derail a project as well make the information offline on any device. Regardless of whether that information is in an email, a document, or some other format, it’s all stored in a central repository and linked together according to the project it relates to.

Ultimately, this type of technology streamlines processes, eliminates errors, and lets the business operate more efficiently and effectively. By providing better service to customers and winning more projects, construction firms can take advantage of the current boom to grow.

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