Are you still using paper reports, forms, and invoices?
Of course, it isn’t just that the construction industry has used paper for a long, long time; it’s that more and more paper is used for each project. More reporting requirements, more litigation, more transparency…everything has conspired to increase the number of file cabinets you need in your office.
Why eliminate paper in your construction company?
Well, as it says in the title, it does save money if you can stop using so much paper. The savings isn’t just in the paper itself, although that could substantial. (Some companies spend over $3,000 on paper over the course of a year.)
Paper takes up space. Files get larger; documents get duplicated, and you are required to store documents for years for legal and compliance reasons meaning more storage is required.
Paper documents are easily damaged, destroyed, and lost. Files and letters in the mail go missing, and you waste time looking for a specific piece of paper or resending a new copy of a lost letter. Litigation costs go up for the same reasons: lost time in gathering documentation, missing documentation makes it harder to prove your side of the case, and if you are the one being sued, a lost document could cost more in settlements.
Only one person can access a piece of paper at a time and sharing it can be difficult, even with someone in the same room, let along someone across the country.
Many handwritten documents are then entered into a computer, duplicating work and introducing a chance for error due to poor penmanship or misunderstood instructions.
Why do you need to keep track of documentation?
A short answer is that the government requires it, but there is more to it than that. A well-documented project is often a safer, more efficient, and more profitable project.
As construction litigation, reporting, and code enforcement increases, the amount of documentation does too.
However, just because you need documentation doesn’t mean it has to be on paper.
The benefits of digital documentation
Obviously, you need to buy less paper, keep fewer file cabinets, and rent less off-site document storage. But there is much more to it.
- Digitization has increased the ease of access and collaboration significantly. More than one person or group can access a single document. The document can be accessed anywhere on any device, regardless of geography.
- A document can more easily be searched when it is digital, and you can store more than just handwritten or typed reports.
- You can store images, photos, videos, blueprints, and a whole host of documentation that was unwieldy and difficult to keep and share.
- Information is shared in real time with no driving and fewer phone calls. The digitized documentation even makes it easier to manage a remote jobsite.
Entering the digital construction age
The industry has come into the high-tech age, somewhat slowly but steadily. As younger people join the team, you will have more requests for digital access rather than having to dig into a paper file.
Construction management and accounting software has been around awhile, but solution delivery has become extremely effective with the introduction of Software as a Service (SaaS), otherwise known a being in the cloud.
If you already use a software solution, you can ask your vendor if it has the same package available as SaaS. With SaaS you will need little IT support of your own, upgrades typically happen automatically, and everyone can access anything they need on any device from anywhere.
If you are just entering the digital age, you need to figure out your requirements before you shopping.
- Determine which daily processes you expect to digitize
- Analyze the information you need to gather and store
- Decide what level of access each member of the team will have to each document
- Select the device(s) you expect people to use to access the information
You have an opportunity now to look into your current information needs to see if you are missing pieces of the business puzzle. Do you have what you need to inform your strategic planning? Would you like to be able to date and time stamp entries?
Think about the reports and forms you use. It is possible to make filling out reports more efficient by pre-populating fields, adding drop-down menus, and lists to select from. It requires less data entry and no duplication of effort. You save the time of your workers and will not need extra data entry staff.
Everything can be made available in real time, and an entire group can see the documents at the same time.
Selecting a solution
If you have determined the data you want to capture, what reports you need, and how you will access the solution, you can start looking into vendors.
Find one with a good reputation for post-purchase service and support, up-time, and training (if needed). There are several websites you can use for research, including www.capterra.com to help you find the right software.
The software should be easy for everyone to use so you can have 100% adoption quickly. Ask for a field test with people from your staff and get their insight into each product you are considering.
Once you decide on a product, be prepared to put in the time up front to customize the solution to your business, learn how to use it effectively, and successfully implement the solution into your company.
SAY GOODBYE TO PAPER
You will probably never get rid of paper entirely, at least for the foreseeable future. But if your supers, subs, sales, and other employees go digital, you will have fewer pieces of paper being used, printed, or generated. Fewer files mean fewer file cabinets and less need for off-site storage.
The documents will be more easily found with the additional ability to search within a document. Unwieldy items such as blueprints will not longer clog up space either. Everything will be available for whoever needs it.
Best of all: No. More. Paper.