Is It Time to Improve Your Company’s Construction Workflows?

June 4, 2021
Tarry Schabel

As I have mentioned in previous installments of this blog, the last 18 months have shined a bright light on construction companies and how they do business. From preconstruction to close-out, a lot of companies are taking a step back to see how they can improve, not just in the extraordinary circumstances of the past year but moving forward into the “new normal.”

Bottomline: efficient and responsive workflows have become even more critically important.

So, first and foremost, what is a construction workflow?

Workflows are abundant in the construction industry and vary depending upon what your company does specifically. But, in a nutshell, workflows are the coordination of tasks between people in an organization. They include the passing of data and information, and the action that is required based on that data. They also usually follow a hierarchy of approvals and privileges based upon job description. But the goal is that they are optimized to maximize profits within the organization. Examples could include the accounts payable process, payroll processing, the submittal process, RFIs and close-out. The workflow is basically, “how do we get from point A to point B?”

But, as simple as those sound, a lot of companies have found a lot of ways to improve on these processes.  When looking closely, there are usually a lot of inefficiencies, redundancies, and opportunities to improve the quality of work. All of these can lead to completing work in a timelier manner, using fewer resources, and resulting in happier customers, and ultimately more profit.

Where are the problems?

While every business is different, the workflow problems are usually very similar. In fact, they almost always fall into one of three areas.

  • Communication: As mentioned above, one of the main parts of a construction workflow is the passing of data and information. Without a smooth and efficient means of data transmission and communication, whether in the field or back office, your workflow will not be optimized.
  • Data Management: If your data is not in a centralized, accessible location, silos are created within your business and workflows become redundant. Not only is this inefficient, but it can lead to missing, incomplete, or incorrect information being communicated through the workflow.
  • Visibility: When workflows are “enclosed”, it is difficult to keep track of where you are in the process. To ensure that your team is on the same page, they need transparency into the workflow and the progression of events.

Stop for a moment and think about your company’s many workflows. Can you think of places where there are breakdowns in any of these areas? The good news is that these breakdowns can be fixed.

So how do we fix these workflows?

To succeed in correcting workflow issues, you need to focus on four main areas and there is a simple acronym that can help you remember:        CASE – Collaborate, Automate, Standardize and Eliminate. Let’s have a look at each area.

Collaborate: Hopefully, there is a reason you have hired the people that you have hired. Because they are good at what they do and are critical thinkers when it comes to solving problems and completing tasks. A great quote I always remember is from Lee Iacocca. “I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.”

The problem a lot of companies face is that whether this is true or not is of no consequence if those employees cannot collaborate with each other to improve processes. Employees must be empowered through collaboration.  There are lot of available tools to help employees collaborate across companies and improve workflows.

Automate: Administration of workflows is a huge drain on company profit. Reducing data entry, approval pathing and general clerical work not only makes your workflows more efficient, but also more accurate. What if your staff could do their work in half the time? What if something that takes two people could be done with just one? There are a wide range of workflow automation tools in the construction industry to accomplish this reduction in manpower.

Standardize: Very often, as companies grow and expand, they also become more and more compartmentalized and siloed. Your project managers use different software than your back office. Your sales guys use different software than your estimators. And all their data is kept in different places in different forms. The more “common” your platforms are and standardized your process, the less redundancy and potential for error. In addition, the data being kept in a common data platform makes it easier to access and utilize, which reduces manpower.

Eliminate: This one is a bit “all encompassing” and really applies to the three previous letters in the acronym (but let’s face it. CASE is a lot better than CAS). To improve on workflows requires eliminating a lot of things. Eliminate redundancy, eliminate excess manpower, eliminate human error, eliminate inefficiency, eliminate silos, eliminate compartmentalization. There is a laundry list of things to eliminate to improve your workflows and make your company more efficient.

At Aktion Associates, we understand your workflows and understand how to optimize them, because we’ve done it for years. We utilize a consultative approach to your software and IT needs. We offer multiple solutions for most of your workflow issues. We work to understand your business first and suggest a solution based on what will make your business better.

Contact us today for a system review and see if we can make some suggestions to improve your workflows.