Every company who has signed a construction contract should know what a submittal is: physical document samples delivered to architects, engineers, or consultants before the work is done so that they can review the details and verify that the work being done meets specifications. These documents include shop drawings, material samples, product information, test data, and more. What most companies don’t know unless they’ve learned the hard way, is why submittals are so important.
When project plans are set and specifications created, the architects and engineers on the project have very specific requirements for how the job needs to be completed. Everyone in the construction industry should be familiar with the story of the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse of 1981 – a cautionary tale that resulted in the deadliest structural collapse in US History. In this instance, changes to the original design were not properly reviewed, and the added load resulting from the changes led to the fatal collapse. Proper submission and review of submittals displays the contractor’s understanding of the project plans and specs, and ensures that the project is executed as intended, and upholds your duty as construction professionals to design and build with integrity to protect the lives of those around you.
So how should submittals be handled? Larger jobs can have hundreds of individual submittals with back and forth communication on each – keeping up with them all is half the battle. The truth is that submittals are going to take some time no matter how you handle them, but there are ways to streamline the process and improve communication at the same time.
Your first step is to find a software like ConstructionOnline that can help you keep track of all your submittals. Physical document archives are archaic ways to handle submittals, as they are vulnerable to spills, stains, and other physical damage, not to mention they are easily misplaced. Even if you maintain an organized filing system and have your submittals in perfect condition, illegible handwriting can often lead to misinterpretations or lost time resulting from excess communication.
Even homebrewed digital solutions such as exchanging emails and saving files to online document storage creates more work than is needed. These methods require extra setup and manual attention if you want to organize them by project, status, or resources involved. ConstructionOnline keeps things simple by automatically filtering submittals by project and providing dashboards showing the status of each submittal on the project.
Once you have a software in place to handle your submittals, all you need is a proper workflow – or standard procedure – to handle the submittals on each project. Typically, a full submittal log can be created at the beginning of each project based on the specifications and project log. By creating the entries and establishing due dates, you not only have full visibility on the information required, but you also set clear expectations for all parties involved on when the information is due by to keep the job on schedule. When everyone on the job is communicating and the requirements are clear, it not only protects the client but it protects you and your business as well.
For more information on how ConstructionOnline can relieve the headache of submittals and other project communication, check out our YouTube channel!
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