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construction standardization guide

Construction Standardization: A Game Plan to Success

Standardization has become a bit of a buzzword in the business world, but there’s a good reason for the concept’s popularity. When many think about what standardization means, their first thoughts wander straight to Henry Ford’s assembly line in the early 1900s. His innovation changed the entire auto industry, reducing the staggering 12-hour build time of the Model T down to 2.5 hours. 

Construction projects are far from an assembly line. But, when you have one way of doing things, everyone knows what to do and when to do it. In a construction zone, that simplicity can make everything move more efficiently and allow everyone to be more productive. Our construction businesses depend on processes that are repeatable, replicable, and linear to be successful. If you can’t create a set of procedures that can be repeated, with results that can be measured, you simply won’t have a way to tell how well your team is performing– and each project will be making their own decisions, leading to poor data quality. By ensuring you build in processes that can easily be repeated and standardizing construction software so everyone can use it, you make it easier for your team to succeed and create a workflow that ensures your projects proceed as they should and complete on time. 

What makes standardization so crucial, and how can you make the most of the process? Our latest blog reveals secrets to standardization and construction project success.

What Is Construction Standardization?

One weakness of traditional management processes is the lack of standardization; there is no one set, single standard to refer to. Project managers are often chosen based on their previous experience—and end up keeping the same practices they used with previous projects, whether these procedures are truly applicable or not. This typical practice can lead to large amounts of variation in a company–sometimes every department or team ends up doing their own thing and the entire organization suffers. The first step is to admit when a process is broken. 

Lack of standardization makes it more difficult for teams to communicate; often they’re using different devices and software and relying on paper notes and memory to make things happen. Every additional device or single piece of software makes the data your team is working with less reliable and useful. Pulling every bit of information under one umbrella streamlines and simplifies the process because it requires each member of your team to communicate using the same format, the same language and the same tools. 

The idea that standardization of equipment and software is beneficial to construction companies is nothing new; companies were working towards standardization decades ago. As long ago as 1987, guides were extolling the benefits of standardization, “A standardized approach to the preparation of construction documents, including specifications, can aid owners, architect, engineers, and contractors.” Fast forward thirty years and standardization is still a crucial factor for projects. Construction software can make standardization simple and ensure you don’t run into the problems experienced by those organizations with too much software and too many policies and procedures.

The Benefits of Construction Standardization 

The benefits of such a drastic reduction in time can’t be overstated, but some can include: 

  • Increase in productivity from repeatability
  • Reduction in mistakes
  • Improvement in communication
  • Less burden on IT
  • Better availability and access to information
  • Scalability as your organization grows
  • Opportunities for continuous improvement

7 Steps to Construction Standardization with Software

The right construction software can help you set up the right standardization for your projects and business. When you begin to implement new construction software, you’ll consider the way your projects are set up, the people who work on them and the way you want information to flow through your business. Most important, you’ll spotlight those trouble zones that are wasting time and costing money and end up with a fair and impartial way to measure results.

Consider the following steps when you implement a standardized approach to your construction and projects needs:

Step 1: Consider Project Setup and Participants

Flexible construction software can be adapted to project specifications and different participants. Will you use the platform for all projects? 

By answering these key questions, you can plan how software can best benefit your company:

  • Which projects will you be using it on? We recommend switching all applicable projects to the standardized software to take full advantage of all the features.
  • Who creates projects? Knowing which team members can create and manage projects allows you to fully train your management group.
  • What are the expectations for the teams collaborating? Clearly defined goals and expectations written right into the project and accessible for everyone ensure the job flows smoothly. By setting expectations on who will collaborate on the software, you can write this requirement into project specifications at the very beginning to ensure that all team members are on board without additional costs after construction begins.
  • Which roles in a team will collaborate? Defining which teams and individuals need to work together ensures everyone is onboard from the start.

Step 2: Establish Field Technology Goals and Uses

Establish from the beginning what your company is hoping to accomplish with the project. Perhaps the goal is to reduce costly rework by keeping a single current record set. Maybe your aim is to increase the communication between owner, architect, and contractor. The goal may be to reduce reproductions or printing costs by going paperless.

Use these key questions to help identify your field tech goals:

  • What are your project goals?
  • How do you prioritize these goals?
  • How will you use the software?
  • Who will be responsible for administration of the software during each project phase?

Step 3: Assign Responsibilities and Permissions

Flexible construction software allows you to select responsible team members and permissions for each step of your project. Answer these questions while you set up your software accounts: 

  • Who is responsible for uploading and distributing project documentation?
  • What permissions need to be established?
  • What details need to be established for specific types of data?
  • Who needs to access the documents and plans related to this project?
  • Who is ultimately responsible for the success of the project and has the final say in conflict or when differences of opinion arise?

Step 4: Develop Workflows

Establish the workflows for the requisite reports and documents to make sure everything is completed on time and accurately. How will design changes make their way from the design and planning team, to the field team and to the persons ultimately responsible for completing the work? Knowing how you want information to flow through your system helps improve communication and ensures you are using your software to its fullest potential.

At this step, you’ll consider which workflows need to be developed and decide how information should be shared and accessible to your team. Inviting people from all levels to contribute to the conversation is crucial. A process that makes sense to you while you are sitting at your desk may not work as you anticipate in the field. Input from the supervisors you depend on and trust in the field is very valuable at this stage.

Gathering team input helps in another way as well. When you roll out new technology to replace the disparate mess of programs and solutions your team has been using, it will be easier to get everyone to buy-in if your people at every level have had a say in the processes you’ve chosen.

Step 5: Standardize Tools and Workflows

By standardizing the tools and workflows you use, different teams from within your organization will use your software the same way when it comes to submitting reports and managing documents. The field reports will be handled in the same way by every member of your organization, even by different members of different teams.

Even budgeting decisions can be routed and handled the same way by different people in different departments. Standardizing your forms, tools and even your workflow helps improve communication and reduce errors since everyone knows where to look for the details they need.

The tools you use for each part of your workflow can be customized; here are the key questions to ask when you are standardizing tools and workflows for your team:

  • What standards need to be developed for each feature?
  • Will this feature be used as a standard? 
  • Who is involved in each workflow and
  • What are their responsibilities?
  • Will we have a custom company standard for this feature?
  • Does this feature require a custom workflow to be established?
  • Do we need to set up any technology integrations? 

Step 6: Align Hardware and Software Requirements

Making sure the hardware and the software are compatible and meet the needs of the company is an important step in standardization. Standardizing your hardware ensures that your team members don’t have to learn to use a new gadget every time they start a new project or take over an existing one. Anyone on any team can work with your hardware and software once you standardize, because they will naturally and intuitively know where everything is.

Here are the important questions to consider as you align the hardware and software requirements:

  • What are your hardware standards?
  • Will you allow BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)?
  • Can you retain some pieces or does your existing lineup of hardware need to be replaced?
  • Do you need detailed requirements for tables and hardware?
  • How can you ensure the software is utilized and updated?

Step 7: Establish Project Deliverables and Metrics

How will you measure success? You won’t be able to tell how well you’re doing unless you have a way to compare your current effort to your previous ones. Accurate measurement also helps you determine how well different teams are handling projects and tasks; when you have standardized measurements to compare your team’s results to, you’ll know which groups need more help and training and which ones to deploy to work on your most important incoming projects. For example, if your goal was to reduce rework by 50% by keeping everyone on a single, current set, did you accomplish this?

Knowing how to measure the different internal aspects of each project can also help you identify trouble areas and help you continually improve your approach. The more you grow, the more complex your needs become, so standardizing and mastering specific, repeatable, scalable processes can help as you scale things up and take on more complex work and time-consuming tasks. When you have 100, 200, 500, 1,000 users, scalability through repeatable processes is the ultimate goal with standardizing on any software.

Consider these important questions as you establish project deliverables and metrics:

  • How will you deliver your project turnover package?
  • What facility operations data will be uploaded as part of the closeout deliverable?
  • Do you have standards developed for digital closeout manuals?
  • How will your operations team involvement be coordinated?
  • What metrics should you use to track your goals?

After each project, take the time to assess your performance. You’ll be able to spot areas that could be improved in future projects and provide your team with the feedback they need to succeed.

The Next Generation of Standardized Construction

Standardizing construction begins from the top down. Construction companies must take a broad view of systems and processes, bringing in the top technology and integrating it into their projects and operations. Next generation construction companies will create a consolidated technology infrastructure, through which operations will be able to quickly move projects from the beginning to end. 

Standardizing your technology throughout your construction operations will minimize potential business disruption. Through adopting advanced, standardized technology, your business can streamline its processes, reducing both inefficiencies and redundancies. Construction companies can become more competitive and improve their overall ROI by investing in technology that makes project standardization easy. 

Grace Ellis

Grace Ellis

Editor in Chief, Autodesk Construction Cloud Blog