It’s a brand-new year for the construction industry, yet the biggest issues facing contractors in 2022 will almost certainly be familiar ones. In this month’s feature story, we’ll take a closer look at the most common construction problems likely to occur in 2022—and learn how the right digital tools can help you work around them.
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In an ideal world, construction projects would flow from one phase to the next without bottlenecks, scheduling conflicts or delays. But as any contractor can tell you, most construction environments are anything but ideal. How serious is the problem? Studies show that half of all general contractors need to extend their scheduled project end dates due to delays. Unforeseen weather issues and shortages aside, data silos are often to blame, limiting collaboration among teams and complicating the hand-off process. Even worse, data that’s stuck in silos early in the construction process is likely to have a “snowball” effect on later phases of the project; as the volume of information grows and user demand increases, the impacts of inaccessible data multiply, and forward progress slows to a crawl.
Construction-specific applications are increasingly designed to integrate with other business software, eliminating data silos and streamlining the hand-off of vital information from one team to another. Not only is the hand-off process faster—usually accomplished with a single click of a mouse-- transferred data is far more accurate and reliable, so there’s no need to check, and recheck, your numbers in subsequent project phases. That cuts down on process bottlenecks and calculation errors that can lead to delays, keeping projects moving forward and timelines on track.
Construction project rework adds up to as much as $4.2 billion every year in the U.S. alone—and can be devastating to a contractor’s bottom line. What’s to blame? It’s often a failure of communication—and by extension, a lack of collaboration among project stakeholders. With so many documents to consider, it’s easy to see how problems can arise. By following the directive of one document, the onsite work performed may contradict what another document says, resulting in finished work that needs to be completed all over again. Rework due to uncoordinated project documents can be the fault of any party: the architect, owner or subs—but ultimately, it falls on the contractor to make things right once a mistake is made, sometimes on his or her dime.
An open web-based platform initiates information early in the construction process that can be accessed and shared by stakeholders as the project moves forward, a “single source of truth” that reflects updates, modifications and other changes with immediate, real-time accuracy. Conceptual Estimating tools are a valuable hedge against rework, too; by leveraging historical project data and applying the resulting compilations to current projects, contractors are better able to predict likely outcomes before site work actually takes place—and make informed decisions that help minimize the need for modifications.
As we’ve seen, rework and scheduling delays are major contributors to cost overruns, but too often, outdated tools are a problem, too—no match for the complexities of construction cost management. Generic spreadsheets are a case in point; using spreadsheets to generate, track and manage project data is notoriously prone to human error, plus, they’re difficult to update and nearly impossible to access by multiple teams simultaneously. Data quality can also be an issue, especially during the preconstruction phase. Without a reliable and trusted source of labor, material and equipment pricing, estimated building costs can easily be too low or too high.
Contractors willing to make the move from generic spreadsheets and point solutions to automated platforms that reside in the cloud are already benefiting from new levels of efficiency, connectivity and team collaboration—all of which can be expected to reduce costs. No less important to cost management is an integrated database, the heart of a construction-specific estimating platform that accurately calculates labor and material costs, compares pricing and determines the financial impact of change orders.