Subcontracting is a time-honored tradition. Even back in the Middle Ages, large endeavors were broken down into skill-specific projects and contracted out to the guilds. The masons, architects, blacksmiths, and painters then managed their little corners of construction, freeing the overseer to do their thing.
Today, little is different. Large projects still get chunked out and handed off to knowledgeable subcontractors who, in their turn, hire their own workers with the confidence that they can do the job right.
Specialty contractors do face significant challenges, though. They must coordinate some of the most complex aspects of the built environment, with ever up-to-date documents, or face the consequences. Plus, the risk in construction is increasing. Subcontractors are always on the defensive when it comes to rework, which they must mitigate and reduce as much as possible. Though most professionals find their work fulfilling, the work is far from simple.
Thankfully, an increase in technology is helping to streamline the lives of subcontractors. Many of these technologies are straightforward and easy to deploy and integrate with other solutions, disputing widespread concern that digital transformation must necessarily be complicated.
Today, we’re celebrating five game changing types of technology and software for subcontractors with a look at specific examples that get the job done faster.
1: Collaboration Software
Collaboration is always vital, but it takes on a particular relevance in construction. Every project has thousands of moving parts; from documents and processes to individual team members. In an ideal world, all these different elements should work together seamlessly. But, in reality, disconnects are common.
Collaboration software helps to preempt that risk of disconnect. Using collaborative software means that:
- Everyone can access plans from anywhere
- Teams can pool their knowledge and resources for everyone’s benefit
- All stakeholders and workers can prioritize shared goals and milestones
- Timelines and budgets become group concerns rather than personal hurdles
- Transparency increases everybody’s trust in the process, from owners to laborers
For instance, collaboration tools like Autodesk Build connect essential field and project management workflows and creates a single source of truth for documentation and communication.
Autodesk Construction Cloud Connect (ACC Connect) allows project stakeholders to build custom workflows between Autodesk Construction Cloud and hundreds of systems. For example, ACC Connect automates notifications in collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams when an Issue is generated, a Form has been submitted, or other various actions take place in Autodesk Build.
2: Change Management Software
One of the best ways to stay on top of change orders is through integrated communications. If you can handle them proactively, keeping teams and stakeholders informed of every update, then you can adapt to the necessity of change much faster. When everyone works together on one platform and with access to the same information, your workflows are less likely to go astray, and your budget and timeline can remain intact.
Change management software for subcontractors that does this well will have a few characteristics in common. It should help you:
- Track change order requests as well as process time and materials tickets
- Document work in the field with written collateral and photos
- Transform information into change order requests
- Price and share estimates
- Share information with customers and other team members easily and digitally
- Forecast more effectively in the future
Extracker’s mission is to create financial transparency between commercial construction companies. Their first-of-its-kind change order communication Platform helps all construction industry stakeholders get change orders processed and closed faster, dramatically reduce risk, improve efficiency and increase transparency.
3: Resource Management Tools
On any construction project, tracking the resources at your disposal is an absolutely critical step to the success of the project. Specialty contractors don’t have money or time to spare, and every dollar that gets misallocated is a dollar that you don’t see. Every piece of lumber that disappears into the ether is a board you have to replace. Every worker who leaves is a worker you have to find somewhere else. When combined with materials and labor shortages, it becomes even more critical to stay on top of resource management.
The right software can help you do that. High-quality, fully researched and well-integrated apps should allow you to:
- Track where all resources are at all times
- Accurately allocate resources to different tasks in the most effective way possible
- Make the most of your personnel, even with shortages
- Stop overspending on materials
- Complete material requests and purchases quickly and easily
PeerAssist can help. The contactless time and material tracking app helps subcontractors account for all labor and material used on the out-of-scope work and submit it to the general contractor for timely approval.
4: Project Management Software
Project management software is similar to productivity tracking software in that it allows detailed tracking, documentation and reporting. However, project management tools diverge in that they focus on project progress, rather than progress along a sub process, like fabrication or installation. With these tools, you can monitor and track every stage of a project’s life cycle from simple task management to completions, dependencies, and roadblocks in a unified and holistic context.
Ultimately, success means tracking your projects on more than one level. Autodesk Build, for example, can be integrated with trade-specific project management software created specifically for self-performing contractors such as eSUB. The software helps subcontractors standardize their project management process with solutions for specific trades such as concrete, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and more.
5: Model-Centric Tools
BIM workflows in the field are becoming increasingly important, especially when models are put in the hands of the installers. That means, when they run into trouble, they can return to the original design intent and see how best to work around the issue. This reduces the amount by which contractors stray from the plan and answers the question, at all points, of whether goals are being met.
From estimate to install, you need apps for planning and tracking workflows to ensure you’re sticking close to the intent of your project. This will help your productivity skyrocket, from the field to the fabrication shop.
STRATUS from GTP Services is a fully customizable, model-centric procurement, planning and logistics platform. STRATUS offers an easy and intuitive way to create spool packages, order from your BOMs, schedule deliveries, view and track key deliverables, drive tools, and track installation progress, which connects your VDC, shop floor and field teams, making them significantly more efficient.
Construction: An Industry of Innovation, an Evolutionary Turning Point
While the ideals and values of a good building might have started in the Middle Ages, your technology shouldn’t stay there.
Construction is changing, and you’ve got to adapt along with it. Right now, that means adopting important technologies that keep you in the loop at every stage of the project journey. The truth is, these innovations don’t just save time and money on individual jobs. They unlock massive, long-term profit potential for specialty contractors of all stripes. They make complex processes and data easily available, they allow for efficient scaling of your business and they make you look good to customers.