Construction file sharing is mainly done electronically now. The evolution of technology has brought many changes in the construction industry. With cloud-based solutions for document storage, availability of email on mobile devices, and digital collaboration tools, we now share construction files electronically.
While these technology tools have made construction file sharing easier and faster for the building industry, they’ve also introduced new issues that can translate in added cost and risk to a construction project. This article discusses some of the mistakes in construction file sharing that can be avoided.
- The use of multiple file-sharing tools on one project
- Lack of designated file gatekeeper
- Unclear file-sharing process
- Unsuitable file controls in your file-sharing solution
- Lack of notifications for file modifications, additions or changes in process
1. The use of multiple file-sharing tools on one project
This issue itself can create a cascade of other issues, a chain reaction that results in cost overruns, errors, re-work, and loss of profits.
Oftentimes the mechanical engineer uses DropBox to store and share files, the architect uses Newforma, the structural engineer uses Google Drive, the electrical engineer emails his files to the project manager, and the plumber saves everything on his personal computer. It’s clear where this is going and the list can go on and on.
What we end up with are multiple silos of data, little to no file control, and gaps in the history of the project.
How do we solve this? Get everyone working from the same system. Make all project files and documentation available in a single, accessible, and controlled environment.
2. Lack of designated file gatekeeper
In the era of paper drawings, the document manager on a project had the responsibility to manage all drawings, permits, change orders, and other documents. This person had a well-defined process for managing changes and making sure the master set at the construction trailer was always up to date.
Even with everyone working from the same file-sharing system, the document control manager is still needed in the digital era. This person acts as gatekeeper to keep documents up-to-date and takes control of the file-sharing process.
3. Unclear file-sharing process
We now have everyone working from the same system and a document control manager. But we still need a clear file-sharing process. The lack of guidelines around file-sharing, who should receive updates, or who should give updates creates an unnecessary gap between participants.
- Compile a distribution list of project leads, contractors, who will provide updates, and who should receive updates.
- Provide a description of the project structure you set up in your file-sharing or collaboration platform – explain where each contractor will upload their drawings, where is the general information and project documentation stored so everyone can access it.
- Set a file naming convention. Version control is critical to good file management. By enforcing a consistent file naming convention, you establish a clear history of project changes.
4. Unsuitable file controls in your file-sharing solution
When sharing construction files we have to make sure the right files reach the right people at the right time. It happens so often that a document gets deleted or changed when it shouldn’t be.
When selecting a file-sharing tool, look for one that allows you to control who views specific buckets or folders, who are the administrators of the project, collaborators, and viewers. One that shows the creator of documents and when they were uploaded or modified.
File controls are important in the file-sharing process to ensure that project participants have access to the right files, no documents are deleted or misplaced, and the history of the project remains intact.
5. Lack of notifications for file modifications, additions or changes in process
With electronic file sharing it is imperative that notifications are delivered to project participants appropriately. Notifications should be delivered in multiple formats – shown on the collaboration platform but preferably by email too. There should be no option for a participant to choose not to be notified of project changes if the project manager establishes that everyone is to receive notifications. Some even argue that notifications delivery options should not be offered – such as receive one email a day with all changes.
Why is it so important for notifications to be delivered? Because a change in the structure of the building should be communicated to all as soon as it happens, so all contractors adjust their work appropriately. Because a wall that was moved two feet to the south of the building at the owner’s request may impact the plumbing, electrical, fire protection designs, and more.
In conclusion, with the evolution of technology, sharing construction documents has never been easier or faster, and more complex at the same time. Using a single accessible and controlled environment with robust file controls and notifications and having a well defined sharing process ensure the success of file sharing in the building industry.