How Much is Poor Construction Document Management Costing You? 

improve construction document management

In the last 20 years, the number of buildings in the world that are at least 200 meters tall has increased by nearly 500%. As teams get larger and construction projects become more complex, proper document management needs to be an integral part of your workflow. Poor document management is detrimental to a project and can lead to delays, budget overruns, and rework.  

For most of us, construction document management is an unavoidable and necessary part of the job. That being said, many companies struggle to maintain control over the massive amounts of project documents. From architectural plans to markups to RFIs, one mistake in a single document can lead to costly mistakes in execution.   

The Impact of Poor Document Control 

Construction firms that are lacking in document control practices tend to experience a wide range of issues as files go missing, fail to get updated across the entire team, or end up in the wrong hands. Companies experiencing any of the following seven issues regularly should seriously consider utilizing a construction project document control system to improve workflow across the board. 

1. High Rate of Rework

According to an Autodesk and FMI report, "bad data," or data that is inaccurate, incomplete, inaccessible, inconsistent or untimely, may have cost the global construction industry $1.85 trillion in 2020. A large number of rework requests are generated due to a lack of version control on drawings and plans. When the workers assembling the structure are working from an old set of plans that don’t reflect the latest change orders, rework is practically inevitable. 

2. Wasted Labor Time

A substantial amount of valuable labor is wasted each year on trying to find specific files within an uncategorized assortment of hundreds or thousands of documents. Construction teams need quick responses when it comes to project changes and for any request for information (RFI) that pops up during construction. Without a sophisticated document control system, it’s cumbersome to manage changes and respond efficiently.  

Even more concerning, bad data and information is being used to make real decisions in construction creating a big cost impact. According to the same FMI survey, decisions made using “bad data” are estimated to have cost the industry $88.69 billion in rework alone annually.

3. Siloed Data and Information

Many construction companies that attempt to use free or low-cost storage options that aren’t designed specifically for document control may end up spreading their files over multiple services – creating siloed information. Document control options vary between services, making it all too easy for accounts to trigger a security breach. These third-party services almost always impose a storage limit, even for paid accounts, and only accept certain types of files. Some storage accounts are even forgotten entirely after a project wraps up, resulting in a loss of documents that are then needed when there’s an issue with the structure.   

4. Communication Delays

Communication delays caused by document control issues are all too common on jobsites today. When a team member or subcontractor needs to request access to essential documents rather than having access from the beginning, delays of hours or even days can throw a project off its original timeline. Beyond that, incompatible files and a lack of access on existing mobile devices can also slow down communication over plan change orders and RFIs.   

5. Slow Response to Change Orders

With construction projects generating an average of 56 change orders each over the course of design and building, there’s no way that manual processes can keep up with the requests. A delay of even a few hours in pushing out changes to crucial project documents after a change decision can result in wasted materials and labor.   

6. Security Leaks

The construction industry may not be targeted for hacking attempts as often as healthcare and retail companies, but there have been plenty of serious data leaks in the past few years within the industry. reported that nearly one out of every six construction companies experienced a ransomware attack in recent years.

Poor document control practices represent a weak point for access to sensitive data. Unsafe practices, like using common login details shared between team members, can lead to unauthorized access when a single device or account is breached. Individual user accounts with permission controls are a safer and more efficient way to protect sensitive data.

7. Unfinished Closeout Packages

Closeout packages should include the latest versions of all drawings and files related to the layout, construction, and internal systems of a structure. Unfortunately, handover packages often contain only a portion of the data they should, or they rely on outdated and incorrect documents. The owners and operators of the finished building often find themselves paying for independent surveying and inspection work to collect accurate information about their own structures.  

How to Improve Construction Document Control 

The good news is that when done right, document management can make the difference between project success and failure. Managing all documents in an efficient, organized way is as much a part of a well-functioning construction business as winning new work.   

According to Consepsys, its purpose “is to enforce controlled processes and practices for the creation, review, modification, issuance, distribution, and accessibility of documents.” Moreover, good document control “ensures that documentation available at official points of use within an organization is trusted by its users and contains up-to-date, reliable, checked, and formally approved information.”  

This means documents and information should fit the following criteria:  

  • Ensure that your documents are managed, organized, and easily searchable  
  • Include everything from designs, RFIs, specifications, design models, punchlists, contracts, and more  
  • Store documents somewhere accessible and secure to every worker and stakeholder – cloud-based tools are ideal  
  • Make sure access is open throughout the entire construction lifecycle – starting in design and through closeout – so owners, renovators, and operations and management can utilize it later  

It’s crucial that you have one construction document control system to centralize your project documents. Moreover, using robust digital tools for construction document management can lead to better outcomes on projects, including an increase in project productivity and collaboration, fewer errors and rework, and less risk. 

The Benefits of Better Construction Document Control  

Implementing construction software into your workflow enables data-driven decision making, creating transparency that keeps project owners informed. With technology that connects processes and workflows across the construction lifecycle, practicing good document management is one step closer. 

Speed-of-Light Efficiency 

Right off the bat, better construction document control gives you the ability to make sure your team is always working off the most up-to-date information. It should go without saying that working off the wrong data, documents, and models wastes time, material, and working hours.   

In the past, plans were stored in a giant stack in the job trailer, and every time a change was issued, someone had to make sure the central files were updated and that everyone knew about the change. Today, technology that digitizes construction documents and streamlines the process of managing them makes it easier to keep up-to-date with the most current version, helping to eliminate paper, and enabling anytime, anywhere collaboration for project stakeholders. By going digital, the document management process is automated with updates from the field, saving time, money, and potential headaches.  

Fewer Mistakes, Better Communication 

Previously, markups were tracked from handwritten notes – which had the potential to be illegible, get wet, or stained. If the markups made it back to the trailer (safely), someone had to manually update and push information to the respective project stakeholder to be fixed. Even with new and improved ways of utilizing technology to ensure plans are updated, it’s still possible to make mistakes without the right system of checks and balances in place.   

Fortunately, modern construction software can alleviate a lot of the pain by creating a unified set of plans that everyone can access and update from their mobile devices, tablets, and laptops. This ensures that wherever your project team is – on or off the jobsite – they have the latest documents and models to work from.   

Furthermore, digital solutions can create a seamless experience in tracking markups, RFIs, and issues. Thus, improving construction document control also creates an opportunity to enhance communication, making it more fluid in both directions: out to the field and back to the office. With construction software that connects data across the lifecycle – from design through operations – firms can empower project teams to work collaboratively in real -time. Cloud-based document management software makes the latest data immediately available to everyone on the job – without time-consuming uploading and downloading. 

Easier Reporting, Faster Solutions 

It’s a rare day when someone on a jobsite doesn’t run into an issue or need an answer that isn’t in the plans. Whether it’s an unexpected obstacle to construction, a discrepancy between the plan and the reality, or a conflict between one aspect of the design and another, issues and RFIs are a part of the package, and so is managing them. Before digital solutions, just like markups, issues had to be written up manually, carried by hand to the job trailer, then delivered to the designers and the owner. Once a decision was made, it was then communicated back to the contractor, who was likely waiting in the field.  

Manual documentation leads to missed communication and additional problems like delays. Depending on the size of the issue, communication missteps can put a project on hold until the issue is resolved, leading to countless hours of lost productivity.  

Cloud-based, construction document management makes the process much smoother by providing an easy way to record issues directly into the model, notifying the right people immediately. This facilitates communication and ensures that everyone is working off the same issues and solutions, in real-time, both back at the office and in the field. Ultimately, this saves time and shortens the turnaround on issue resolution. 

Data-Driven Decisions  

Taking the guesswork out and making decisions based on concrete information boosts confidence and efficiency. Construction management applications give us a view into our projects as we’ve never had before by providing analytics on efficiency, performance, and scheduling. Access to analytics leads to better decision-making, often avoiding hidden speed bumps on the project.   

Another benefit of cloud-based construction technology is that when project data lives in a central repository, it gives project managers the power to assign and control access to the data, removing silos. This means that general contractors can assign issues directly to subcontractors and are able to report back to the office instantly when solutions are implemented.  

Transparency for Better Client Relationships 

 An owner’s enthusiasm can often drive curiosity for in-depth details of how work is progressing. While they certainly need to be kept up-to-date on project status, they aren’t always accustomed to the way projects can seem to move at their own pace. When they call for a detailed update on the progress of a project, it often means that someone is tasked to find and compile the relevant documents, models, files, and reports, then take the time to meet with the owner to review everything. Software tools now make this a breeze, giving clients and stakeholders clarity and complete visibility on a project from start to finish.  

 Purpose-built construction applications, which make all project information – including 2D drawings, 3D models, and other files, available in real-time to owners and other stakeholders, manage this part of the process without taking valuable time away from your team. Cloud-based solutions make sure that there is one source of truth, and everyone has the information they need to do their jobs with confidence, which means project owners will have confidence in the quality of the final product at the time of handover.  

Don’t Let Poor Document Control Cost Your Business 

 Paperwork may soon be an antiquated term, but documents are still going to be a necessary part of construction for the foreseeable future. Just as BIM in construction has enhanced our approach to building, advances in document management will enable improvements in how we collect, store, and process critical project data to improve workflows. Better control over construction document management leads to more informed decision making, driving efficiency, quality, and transparency while hitting schedule goals with greater accuracy and confidence.  

You’ve got to where you are because you love what you do, and you’re good at it. You know how to put together a team, where to find the right materials, and do what it takes to get a project off the ground. Now, with the latest technologies, you can reduce the amount of time and resources you spend on document management, with some added benefits along the way, and get back to what you love best: building.

Autodesk Docs can streamline document management, providing construction teams with easy access to all project information from any device, and enabling seamless collaboration within teams. Learn more here 

Lauren Ginsberg

Construction Content Marketing Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions