MarielleMarielle Price • 

Change orders — for good or for bad — are in integral part of construction. While you can’t prevent or control change work, you can control how much time change orders set you back. With change order management software like Fieldwire, the headache of updating a drawing or altering the scope of a contract is almost entirely removed. But before we dive deeper into that, let’s first explore the concept of a change order.

A change order, by definition, is “a written order by a project owner directing the contractor to change the contract amount, requirements, or schedule.” If (and when) work is added or removed from the original scope of a contract, a change order must be submitted to reflect that update.

Frustration caused by construction change orders is a common occurrence in this line of work — because as we all know change means time, and time is money. When change leads to project cost and schedule overruns — often caused by initial planning oversights, administrative inefficiencies, and human error — expensive rework is required and time and money is wasted. Leveraging change order management software not only reduces quantifiable waste on projects, but ensures all change orders are handled effectively on projects.

Fieldwire for effective change order management

Fieldwire has you covered when it comes to documenting your project’s particulars, including any unforeseen circumstances and change orders. Change orders, as you know, require records to legally determine the scope of work. With Fieldwire’s construction management platform, you can keep track of every detail - big or small - using Fieldwire tasks, which are used for documenting site observations and can include photos, forms, and files such as cut sheets, RFIs, submittals, or product data sheets. When the time comes to submit an official change order form, Fieldwire lets you instantly generate a fully-timestamped PDF report (a chronological history of all relevant tasks) to further justify contract changes.

Final - change order on macbook

Since construction change orders can often be contentious, it’s definitely a benefit to have a clear log of work, and Fieldwire makes that possible with minimal effort.

Adapting to change to prevent delay

Murphy’s Law, that “whatever can go wrong will go wrong,” likes to take root in a lot of construction projects. Whatever the cause may be, field teams must be properly equipped to efficiently adapt to change — be it a delay in getting approval to proceed with work, unstable soil conditions, or complications with an unmarked utility on-site. You have to be able to quickly respond to change for projects to progress without major delay. Fieldwire’s construction management app enables you to do so with push notifications that automatically alert jobsite teams of project updates, ensuring everyone is always aware of change orders as soon they arise. Having a notification system that delivers that knowledge to the people doing the actual work will protect your project from costly delays.

Fast-tracking construction change orders

With any ongoing project, there’s the risk of change orders coming in late; affecting project budgets and making people skeptical about the details. For example, the project manager is assembling the construction change order form, but it was the superintendent who dealt with the issue onsite, so some important details might slip through the cracks. There are a number of tricky obstacles in construction change order management; maintaining honest, consistent, and compliant processes just to name a few. Fieldwire’s construction management platform and app keeps a record of all project updates, comments, photos, and attachments — so the details you’re looking for stay organized together.

Task with RFI attached in iPad Pro frame 2018-11

Transferring data between teammates becomes instantaneous and reliable, and change order information is readily accessible. Additionally, when a change order template is planned before fieldwork starts, you can still organize all of the related documents in Fieldwire and access them at any time. Whether it’s an engineering change order, contractor change order, or any level of alteration along the way, you can manage the entire process — consistently — with Fieldwire

Remember, a change order in construction is almost inevitable, so make sure you and your team are always prepared for one (or several) at any time. When road bumps emerge and prevailing winds change on you, there’s no longer any reason to suffer delays. Fieldwire is specifically designed for efficient data sharing and cataloging details — so you’ll never misplace or lose sight of change orders again.

Jim rogersJim Rogers • 

Editor’s note: Fieldwire is proud to feature construction expert Jim Rogers on our blog. Jim has decades of experience in construction management and safety, and is an instructor for LinkedIn Learning — an online library of video courses taught by industry experts from across the globe. LinkedIn Learning is a great source for construction management education and content, and it’s included if you have a LinkedIn Premium account.

Jim enjoyed learning about Fieldwire so much that he created an online course on how to use Fieldwire to manage construction drawings and processes, that’s free for everyone during the month of December. He then created this blog post for our readers who are eager to learn more about QA/QC processes.

“Quality Assurance” and “Quality Control” are often times mistakenly used as interchangeable terms when discussing the broad issue of quality in construction; however, these two terms actually describe very different activities. Although both work towards the delivery of a final product that meets the project’s specifications and customer’s expectations, they arrive at the outcome in two very different ways.

Quality Assurance (QA), refers to the implementation of proactive processes that aim to prevent defects. Quality Control (QC) simply refers to the process of inspecting the product to identify and correct defects. As a tool, QC can be thought of as a corrective tool, typically carried out by a specific group of individuals on a job site; the inspectors and project engineers who walk and document items that need corrective action. QA is a management tool that can incorporate everyone on the team through planned and systematic activities that aim to prevent defects before they occur.

In construction, we have QC down. We have building inspectors, third-party inspectors, testing labs, and an army of people walking the job site to identify any required corrective action, which may take the form of a dreaded punch list that is often generated in the final stages of a project as the pace becomes frenzied and we all work to finish, fix, and ultimately, hand over to operations and maintenance.

QA QC Task in iPad Pro frame 2018-11

I think we are good at QC in construction. We tend to find our problems early and get them fixed so the client is happy and satisfied with the project. The real problem in construction is not that we hand over defective projects, it’s that before handoff we find so much that needs to be fixed! This is the rework problem that we see cited so often in the media and in the numerous studies out there that identify rework as a big issue in construction, and a major contributor to our industry’s productivity problem.

If there is any doubt, there are many studies out there that back this statement. Many reports, including this PDF from XL Catlin, put the total cost of construction at about five percent of total construction costs. One widely cited study by the Navigant Construction Forum states:

“Average rework on projects can cost between 7.25% and 10.89% of total construction cost (when both direct and indirect costs are included) and can cause an increase in the schedule (project delay) of approximately 9.8% of the planned project time.”

Where the goal of QC is to find any defects so they can be corrected before owner handoff, the goal of QA is to prevent these defects in the first place. Yes, we do QA in construction. We certainly do it in the supply chain at the materials level where quality assurance programs are in place to ensure that the materials and components we use in the course of building a project are free from defects. In general, though, we do not do as good a job focusing on QA as we do focusing on QC, and that’s partly because many people in the industry don’t understand the difference.

If the goal of QA is to prevent problems in the first place, then one of the major objectives of a construction quality assurance program is to eliminate the rework that is so prevalent in the industry. One of the major causes of rework in construction is workers in the field not having the information they need to do the job correctly the first time. Plan changes, updates, clarifications, and submittals that occur throughout the building phase of a project create a constant challenge in terms of ensuring that the latest information gets in the hands of the people that need it in a timely manner. The conditions that we are presented with simply overtax our currently used processes. These conditions are not going to change, so it’s time to look at changing the processes used to manage them.

Many of the processes in the AEC industry are outdated, manual, and paper-based processes. We need to rethink many of these processes, and in many cases, we need to ditch the old ways altogether in favor of new, digital workflows that are enabled by the tools and technology that is now available.

iPhones

Anytime I discuss digital workflows, I point to the RFI process. The Request for Information, or RFI, process on most construction projects is the ongoing, often a daily routine of asking a question and getting an answer about something on the construction drawings. It is an important process. So much so that we have a very formal method of asking these questions using an RFI Form that, for every question, captures who is asking, exactly when they asked, who reviewed it, and of course, the form that documents the official answer.

It’s good stuff, it’s necessary, but it doesn’t work. The time it takes from asking a question, even a basic one, to the time it takes to get an answer, is staggering. As that process unfolds, the only person that really knows about the pending question is the person that asked it. Even worse, when the question does finally get answered, the only person who really sees the answer in a timely fashion is, again, the person who asked it. Yes, the general contractor will typically send copies of the answered RFI to all the trades on the job, but this is ineffective at best. After all, if I didn’t have the same question in the first place, then what interest is it to me and my work? And who has time to sort through all those Q&A’s as they come into the office to figure out what pertains to us? None of this even begins to address how this information actually makes it into the hands of the crew in the field that are actually doing the work.

So, things get built wrong, we rely on the QC process to find those things, and then we fix them. That’s why that process and those RFI forms are so important. Because now we have to go back and figure out who is paying for the rework, and we need the data captured on those forms, so blame can be properly placed. This process needs to go away! There is no reason for it anymore, other than it has become so ingrained into the way we build that it’s tough to let go.

Digitizing this paper process is not much help either. Instead, we need to leverage the digital tools that we have available right now to create an entirely new digital workflow. One that is simple and effective. One that looks something like this:

Paper drawings in the field are completely replaced by digital drawings. Questions that arise are easily asked directly on the digital drawing that is being shared and viewed by everyone. Now everyone, from the field to the office, from the construction team to the design team, can see a question has been asked. The question is assigned to the appropriate party who provides the answer. Not in a letter or an email, but directly on the digital drawing. Now everyone sees the question, and the answer, and they are forced to see it right on the construction drawing that they’re referencing in the field.

Plans with mark-ups in iPad Pro frame 2018-11

The implications and potential benefits are staggering. Delivery of information is instant and automatic. Questions and answers live directly on the drawings; the set of instructions being referenced by everyone. Field crews may see answers to questions that their office counterparts didn’t even know to ask. A tradesperson may see an answer to a question that is entirely different from the way they may have interpreted it. People stop asking the same question over and over because they can see the question has been asked. And in the field, they can see a pending question that may affect the way they are about to build before they build it wrong.

This is one simple example. There are many more. Adopting entirely new digital workflows with an eye towards quality assurance and elimination of rework is vital to our industry if we are going to improve construction’s much-discussed productivity problem.

If you want to learn more about how Fieldwire can help with the quality assurance process, you can take my course on LinkedIn Learning or just signup for a free Fieldwire account today.

HeadshotTara Callinan • 

Sustainable construction management means far more than building environmentally-friendly structures. It is the combination of sustainable construction practices and sustainable building materials in order to reduce waste and environmental impact. With construction and demolition materials — concrete, wood, asphalt — piling up quicker than they can be cleared, there is mounting pressure on the construction industry to recycle and repurpose waste. By 2025, the volume of construction waste generated each year is expected to double to 2.2 billion tons, according to Construction & Demolition Recycling. To reduce this number quickly and effectively, follow sustainable construction management methods and invest in sustainable construction materials and software.

To become more sustainable before your next construction project, follow the four steps below and avoid the eight wastes in construction.

1. Use alternatives for sustainable construction materials

When it comes to reducing waste in construction, a quick solution is using an alternative to traditional concrete. Concrete accounts for half of all construction waste generated each year; more than 500 million tons worldwide! Green building materials like bamboo, recycled plastic, ferrock, and even hempcrete are all alternatives to using concrete and are four sustainable construction materials you can use on your next project.

Thoughtful selection of sustainable building materials should occur at the beginning of each project. Choosing to use 100 percent recycled plastic on projects is definitely worth the investment, as structures made from this sustainable material can last more than 50 years — up to 20 years more than traditional structures made with concrete or wood.

While incorporating just one sustainable building material into a building does not make it entirely eco-friendly, it does go along way in reducing environmental impacts caused by construction. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) reports that the construction industry accounts for 40 percent of worldwide energy use, so it’s important that we play our own small part in creating a better, more sustainable future together.

sustainability

2. Implement Just-In-Time production for more sustainable construction projects

Sustainable construction material management and demolition — such as with concrete, which happens to be the top contributor to construction waste— can also be improved with Just-In-Time (JIT) production. As the name suggests, and according to Lean Manufacturing Tools, JIT is a sustainable construction management practice that calls for the production of what the customer wants, when they want it, and in the exact quantities requested. Instead of ordering large stocks of what you think the job may require, you only order exactly what you need, when the job requires it or the customer asks. This method eliminates waste for sustainable construction management by removing overproduction from the project lifecycle. As a result, the cost of storing excess material is kept to a bare minimum, free storage space is better utilized onsite, and fewer materials are dumped at the end of a job.

3. Integrate alternative sustainable construction methods

Similarly to how JIT production can improve sustainability by reducing waste, prefabricated (or prefab) construction materials and methods are highly sustainable. Also known as offsite construction, prefab construction is the practice of assembling parts of a structure in a manufacturing site and transporting them to a different location. Prefab construction is more sustainable and efficient than traditional construction methods due to factory-based manufacturing and assembly processes and affordable running costs. In fact, it takes up to 67 percent less energy to manufacture a prefab building than it does to build a conventional structure, according to Clearview Modular Buildings. And the same study shows that when lifecycle costs are factored in, prefab buildings deliver a lifetime energy saving of up to 90 percent! Prefab structures are undoubtedly sustainable (or green) materials as they can be recycled time and time again; easily repurposed to reduce waste and environmental impact.

prefab building

4. Be more sustainable; ditch the paper blueprints, drawings, and specs

While a few reams of paper may not feel like a big waste when compared to a dump-truck filled with construction debris, it’s not just about the paper — it’s about reducing rework and other construction waste. Sustainable construction companies require construction management software to replace paper plans and files. Investing in technology that eliminates paper plans and files saves valuable time and money, not to mention the positive impact on the environment. For example, Graham Construction, a billion-dollar General Contractor in Canada, implemented Fieldwire’s sustainable construction management software and saved $35,000 in printing costs on a single jobsite. Fieldwire automatically notifies Graham employees of updates in real-time to ensure everyone is always working from the right set of plans. This not only makes Graham more efficient onsite but far more sustainable because they’re reducing paper waste.

ditch the paper

Without construction management software, wasteful mistakes are a lot more likely. For example, if a concrete subcontractor is not informed of a change and consequently working from an outdated plan, he or she may perform a slab pour in the incorrect location; a costly mistake that increases construction and demolition waste and delays project progress.

Transitioning to a paperless construction company, being less wasteful of project materials, and experimenting with more sustainable construction methods is going to help you reduce waste — not only for the benefit of your company and customers but for the benefit of the environment. Take the first step towards sustainability and ditch the paper with Fieldwire; request your free demo today!

StephaneStéphane Denerolle • 

The construction industry is responsible for the creation of remarkable achievements, but unfortunately, it can also be responsible for generating inefficiency and waste. Studies show that more than 50 percent of the time spent on construction in the United States is wasted on unproductive activities; anything that can be eliminated without diminishing the value of work for a customer.

The Seven Wastes in construction (or seven mudas of lean construction or lean manufacturing), according to Lean literature, are outlined below, along with simple ways to avoid them and an eighth waste that’s emerging in the construction industry:

eight wastes in construction

1) Transportation

The unnecessary movement of materials or equipment. This can involve movement from one jobsite to another, or from a yard to a material laydown area and then again to the actual work area. While this type of waste cannot be eliminated entirely, transportation can be minimized as it not only adds time to the whole construction process but exposes the material to handling damage.

2) Inventory

When overproduction results in excess waste. This includes material being stored on-site or at the fabrication yard, work in progress, and unused tools or parts. While having some inventory on hand is necessary to keep the project moving, these materials should be minimized as much as possible as they tend to require a fair bit of handling (effort) and storage space.

3) Motion

Extra steps taken by people to accomplish their work as a result of inefficient processes. This includes time spent looking for a tool or file, as well as walking extra yards due to a poorly designed work area. With 70 percent of a craftspersons day wasted on field coordination, it’s important you leverage construction management technology to reduce this number dramatically.

4) Waiting

When crews are left waiting for the delivery of material or equipment, or for the completion of a preceding activity. This also applies to anyone on the project waiting for information, such as field personnel waiting for a plan or an RFI, a scheduler waiting for progress updates, or payroll waiting for time sheets. Having real-time access to this information in the field — from any device or location — will help crews reduce this type of waste.

5) Overproduction

The process of fabricating material too soon or ordering extra material because of poor quality, rather than producing and delivering the right amount of material at the time it is needed. Yes, manufacturing or ordering too much material causes waste, but so does having inventory arrive onsite before it is needed. When this happens, you’ll need to store it on an often over-crowded site, and if your plans change, you’ll need to change specifically what you’re using too.

6) Over-Processing

Refers to the unnecessary steps taken in the project value chain, such as transforming or double-handling material. This also relates to coordination and administrative workflows on a construction project that leads to double data entry, such as multiple signatures on forms, organizing field notes into a report, redundant daily logs, and forwarding emails with drawings and RFIs. Eliminating paperwork and having one place to communicate from will ensure jobsite teams are always on the same page and information isn’t lost in various paper files.

7) Defects

Incorrect work that needs to be repaired, replaced, or redone. This includes damaged material, rework, or punch list items. For example, a flooring material not installed per specifications or a finished wall damaged by the electrical contractor would fall under the category of Defects. Having a historical record of all site issues and one place to track punch items on-the-fly will help you minimize the prevalence of defects.

8) Skills and Underutilized Talent

Failing to make use of people’s skills, creativity, or knowledge on the project is an additional waste commonly found in the industry. This is not one of the traditional Seven Wastes (or seven mudas) found in Lean literature, but it is accepted as an additional waste commonly found in the industry, and turns the common mnemonic from “TIM WOOD” to “TIM WOODS”. Your people are your greatest asset, so they should be empowered with the tools they need to thrive. Using construction management software is one way of doing so.

McKinsey reports that investment in construction technology has doubled, with companies garnering $10 billion in investment between 2011 and 2017. But while the investment is there, the adoption is not; only 20 percent of construction companies have a fully integrated project management system, according to KPMG. Meaning the majority of construction companies are not operating as efficiently as they could be, and, in turn, are wasting valuable time each week.

We hope this post which has been updated from a previous version for accuracy and comprehensiveness, will give you some ideas on how to be less wasteful and more productive on your next construction project. If you have any comments or questions about the content of this blog post, please let us know by emailing us at support@fieldwire.com.

HeadshotTara Callinan • 

Construction project cost overruns have become so common that they are basically expected in the industry—largely due to over-budget and over-schedule construction projects. In fact, worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company estimated in 2016 that large construction projects are typically completed 80 percent over budget and take 20 percent longer than originally scheduled.

SVGZ Insights CDP Imagining constructions digital future ex1

Cost and schedule overruns can be attributed to factors such as the labor shortage in construction, but also the result of the industries overarching inefficiency and lagging productivity. Here are four specific reasons why construction projects run over-budget and over-schedule as well as how to deal with project cost overruns.

Initial Planning Oversights

With so much going on, it is tempting as a project owner to want to rush the initial planning so general contractors and specialty contractors can get to the real work. However, that first step is the foundation for the next several months (or years) of hard work. It’s extremely important to make sure even the smallest of details are carefully thought through so that everyone can do their part knowing exactly what is expected of them. Following Lean Construction methods, such as pull planning for scheduling, will keep workers accountable and projects moving as each task is dependent on another.

Instead of being focused on efficiency, however, craftspeople are focussed on savings due to the competitive nature of the bidding process creating pressure for delivering projects at lower prices. This deprioritizes time spent on important parts of the pre-planning process such as detail drawings and plan-checking, elevating the likelihood of mistakes. According to Construction Business Owner, a mistake discovered in the middle of a project could cost about 30 percent of the original project price to fix, and that increases to 80 percent when problems are discovered once the work is complete.

The takeaway? Be patient during the pre-construction phase. It’s better to ensure everything is planned out as much as possible so there are fewer mistakes. Once the budget of a project has been finalized, check it several times to make sure everything is accounted for.

Administration Inefficiencies

It’s no secret that labor inefficiency is a serious, common issue in construction. This is not primarily due to the industry’s labor shortage, but craftspeople not knowing what they are supposed to be doing. Another reason for labor inefficiency is that historically, all the paperwork, blueprints, and updates have been recorded using pen and paper and passed around manually or communicated in phone calls. A system like this is ripe with potential mistakes.

Task management software like Fieldwire can help combat this inefficiency and make sure construction project owners are aware of—and have records of—everything happening onsite. From an iPhone, Android, iPad, or laptop, workers both on and off the field can view their plans offline and make changes to them from any device.

This ensures that everyone working on the project—general contractors, specialty contractors, designers, and project owners—receives the most up-to-date information in a timely manner. This matters most because time is money, and the average craftsperson currently spends only 30 percent of their day on “wrench time” doing the actual work in the field. The rest is spent on redundant tasks such as data entry, paperwork, and waiting for equipment; all of which contribute to cost overruns but can be avoided entirely with field management software.

The Craftsperson Day

Unexpected Uncontrollable Complications

It doesn’t matter how much time and energy is invested into mapping out each detail of a project; setbacks are inevitable. The most frustrating part is that these complications could have nothing to do with human error. Instead, they could be the result of bad weather, unexpected factors in the environment, or even just a part or tool randomly malfunctioning or breaking down.

While these unexpected complications are — well — unexpected, they still need to be considered during the planning portion of the construction project. As the project owner, make sure general contractors have a contingency plan in place for scenarios such as bad weather. That includes buffering the contract and schedule a little to allow for any issues. It also means having the right equipment on hand—such as water pumps or large tarps— in case of a disaster.

Try to be patient with any changes to the schedule in order to accommodate factors such as bad weather. It’s better to reschedule than to have work done in impossible conditions when mistakes and injuries are much more likely to happen.

Expensive Human Errors

While everyone on and off the field has extensive training, mistakes still happen; we’re human after all. But some mistakes are more costly than others. A mistake in budgeting could immediately throw the entire project off course. A safety incident in the field results in reverberating consequences throughout the project. An oversight discovered after construction often becomes extremely expensive. All of these are likely to result in construction cost overrun.

Fieldwire helps cut down on opportunities for miscommunication, which decreases the likelihood of mistakes. However, if one is made, Fieldwire can assist with its powerful issue tracking. Workers onsite can report issues—including photos, annotations, and comments—within Fieldwire’s construction management software and communicate them to the office team.

Construction cost overrun has become such an issue that KPMG reported that only 31 percent of project owners surveyed came within 10 percent of their original budget in the past three years. However, better preparation in the pre-construction phase, effective field management software, contingency plans, and quick recording of mistakes will help decrease the likelihood of your next project going over-budget or over-schedule.

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