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Why Project Owners Need a Construction Document Control Manager

Effective document management is of vital importance during a construction project. If you are a property owner about to embark on a building project, you should start thinking about developing a system to manage the documents. You’ll also want to identify who will be in charge of it. Leaving this important function up to chance can lead to project delays, budget overruns, and the increased chance of claims on the project.

Here are seven reasons you should have a document control manager to assist you with your project:

Projects, even small ones, create a lot of documents

It can be hard to believe, but even in today’s “paperless” environment, construction projects still create a lot of paperwork. It may not all be printed, but there are a lot of documents, nonetheless.

Here are just some of the documents that are created during a construction project:

  • Architectural plans
  • Specifications
  • Consultant reports
  • Estimates
  • Contracts
  • Change orders
  • Permits
  • Invoices
  • Insurance certification
  • Requests for information (RFIs)
  • Submittals

Keeping track of all these documents can be difficult. Having someone who is familiar with them, what they mean, how they are used, and how long they need to be kept is key to project progress and completion. A construction manager or document control manager will provide structure and advice on how and where to store these valuable documents.

Documents need to be accessible to everyone on the project

Access to documents is key during a project. Documents need to be available at a moment’s notice and accessible by all team members. Waiting for someone to find, and then send, a document can delay progress and cost you money. A document control manager can recommend the best system for the project.

Cloud storage offers the best solution for keeping documents available, as all that is required to view them is an internet connection. You can store the documents in a drive hosted by one of the many providers of this service, organizing the files in folders based on the type of document. This is an easy way to organize things, and will work for short, simple projects.

If you have a more complicated project or are dealing with issues such as review processes and version control, then it may be best to invest in construction document management software. These systems provide controls and track who’s reviewed each document, so you always know what’s going on and where a file is.

Documents often go through several revisions

There aren’t many documents in a construction project that aren’t subject to revisions. Plans often go through multiple iterations before the final set is issued. Tracking the changes, and the dates of those changes, can be difficult when a set of plans has lots of drawings and lots of revisions.

Other documents, like submittals, need to be tracked through the review process. All team members need to know which version of the product data has been reviewed and approved by the architect so they know which products will be supplied. Without version control and annotated file names, there is no way to know which file is the most current or which one has been approved for use on the project.

Document control managers track the most recent versions of plans and other documents and know which submittals have been approved and by whom. It is important to keep track of these changes, as the most recent set of documents is the only one that is valid.

Documents must be distributed in a timely manner

Sometimes work grinds to a halt on a project waiting for an answer to a question. If workers have to wait for responses to flow through the chain of communication, it can cause additional delays and cost everyone money.

Construction documents need to be distributed to multiple team members quickly so they can continue the work they’re doing and not hold up the entire project. Making sure the right people receive information is important, as there are many layers of supervision on a project. Document control managers know who the key contacts are at each company and make sure they are notified as soon as a revision or response is available.

Time lost looking for a document can’t be gained back

If you’ve ever tried looking for a file you thought you had on your hard drive, you know how long it can take to find things. With multiple folders and locations to look through, your search can take hours, especially if you don’t remember the name of the file.

Now imagine looking through hundreds of files, representing different types of documents, and its like finding a needle in multiple haystacks. If your documents aren’t organized and indexed, your team will spend lots of time looking and not much time building.

By creating an organized system for filing documents, and indexing them by key words, a document manager can leverage their system to find things quickly.

The review process can be complicated

Many documents on a construction project have to go through several rounds of review before they are approved for use. Submittals and contracts are two that come to mind. Both are important for work to continue, and both can get stuck if someone doesn’t review them in a timely manner. Time lost on the project can cost everyone on the team money.

A document manager tracks who is responsible for reviewing each document and knows where the document is in the review process. If they’re really good, they’ll send reminders to team members when they have outstanding documents to review. Having someone overseeing the entire review process, and providing regular updates to the team, will keep the project on track and help avoid unnecessary delays.

Many documents are still needed long after construction is complete

The statute of limitations for construction defect claims is ten years after completion in many states. This means that construction project documents need to be kept, in some form, for at least that long. Whether it’s in electronic form, or good old-fashioned paper, having a secure way to store records is important.

Document managers will provide a system or a physical storage location that will keep your documents safe for the required length of time. If files are saved electronically, it is best to have them backed up in multiple locations, so if one is compromised or gets destroyed, there are others to fall back on. Paper documents should be stored in fireproof containers with proper security to keep them safe.

Select a document control manager

When selecting team members for your next project, be sure to include a document control manager. It doesn’t have to be a separate company or even a specific person that fulfills this role. Often construction managers provide this service for their clients as part of their contract.

If you’re already engaged in a project, ask your team members and consultants what they do for document preservation. Make sure the project team has a plan for saving and storing all the construction documents after the project is complete, and that you have access and know how to retrieve them should you need to do so.

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