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Going Paperless In Construction

We have introduced the rapidly increasing pressure to change how organizations work in the “Going Paperless Introduction” article. Now it is time to partner with experts across Withum to dive deeper into challenges that can be overcome in the Construction Industry.

Successful organizations in the Construction industry have mastered the handshake, the back-of-napkin estimate, and the expertise of owners and/or a small group of individuals to create estimates and ensure that the organization’s margins are sustainable. Working with Withum clients, we have found that moving from paper to digital in these four areas (there are definitely more) has created administrative efficiencies and provided better insight into actual project performance.

Time Recording & Reporting

Whether your business is 5 or 3,000 people, a consistent theme in the construction industry is the importance of timesheets in running the business. Individuals understand the importance but hesitatingly make it a consistent effort of their everyday work. Timesheets are written on-site, gathered, or placed in a pile, and often lost. Even when filled out, there is traditionally a lot of back-and-forth between the field and the finance team, causing additional hours of effort on both sides to rectify.

Provide a tablet, a phone or web interface to users in the field and this data can be directly entered into an accounting/ERP system for a more automated process. This reduces the amount of time spent by all parties and allows for a much more accurate reporting on the health of projects. In addition, it provides an input into the true cost of the project, creates better expectations, and estimates in the future.

Accounts Payable/Receivable

Over the last decade, more construction organizations are utilizing the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for clear communication between all of the parties and the customer. However, there is still a lot of printing, mailing, and scanning involved in this process. This paper-based process continues to create back-and-forth conversations on phone or e-mail, add time to the billing process and distract business owners with chasing signatures.

Amazingly, many governments have been early adopters of complete digital websites that deliver forms, status information and direct payment. Whether using current software or investing in a new solution, digitizing Accounts Payable/Receivable can streamline approvals, create improved visibility into project risk, and easily respond to client and/or tax controversies. Digital forms not only create faster billing and faster collections but also provide access to business financials in real-time.

Estimation/Bidding

You know better than anyone how many variables can affect an estimate on a project. For example, the type of soil, depth of a pipe installation, ground conditions and of course timing to mention only a few. When using a napkin, or a paper form, it is not easy to keep up with these variables and change the estimate. An additional piece is what role your organization plays within the project. Are you a general contractor today and a vendor on another opportunity?

Moving to a digital presence allows organizations to create a reusable process and stop relying on those few individuals who get phone calls and e-mails to assist in building every estimate. Receive the requirements in a form, review with internal experts and external vendors, decide to bid or not, respond and adapt all in one location. This ensures clear communication of all parties, up-to-date information, and a repeatable process to win more work.

Data Processing

Many organizations have paper, or static, forms that are filled out and then the information is either stored in a physical folder or re-typed into a separate system. This can create errors in timekeeping, estimating, and/or project performance tracking. The health of the organization then relies on the shoulders of a few people who “know” the data. This can slow down the ability to make decisions and follow state/federal requirements for reporting and/or taxes.

Whether it is centralizing data into a single system, or replacing the labor of date re-entry, digitizing your business allows many people to see how the business is performing overall, how a project is going and the true cost when it is done. Integrate your bank, payroll, and accounting systems, swapping human effort with automation, and you can create efficiencies to stay competitive in the new world of working.

Author: Stephen Antenucci, Senior Manager | santenucci@withum.com

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