One of the biggest struggles our general contractor (GC) clients, and even our architecture and engineering clients, have is getting subcontractors into the digital age.
Many A/E/C (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) companies have heavily invested in construction software, infrastructure, and training to go digital, so it is difficult working with any team member that relies on paper plans. Also, because of the rapid speed of change in the construction industry, most paper plans are out of date before they get to the jobsite. That is just one of the many reasons why so many construction companies have moved to construction management applications like Procore, Viewpoint, and Bluebeam.
To get maximum buy-in from subs and your own team, keep in mind when deploying new software to roll it out on a project-by-project basis instead of forcing all projects to start on a certain date (if possible). Forcing all projects to start at once will cause surprises, which will affect production schedules and quality for your team and the subcontractors. Also, a surprise change mid-project can create animosity and sets the software up to fail.
10 Ways to Get Your Subcontractors to Use Construction Software
- Empathize with Them – First off, remember subcontractors work with multiple construction companies, architects, and engineers, each with their own construction management software, and the sub is probably overwhelmed, so they delay transitioning to digital.
- Explain the Benefits of Digital – Give them some insight on why your construction company went digital – real-time data, revision history, speed to deployment, and securing confidential data.
- Explain the ROI – Tell them the cost benefits of the digital life with personal examples – less paper, emails instead of expensive couriers, fewer mistakes and rework, fewer meetings, more productivity, tighter cost controls, etc.
- Start Them Off Slowly – Encourage your subs to dip their toes in the water by using tablets with programs like Bluebeam Studio (only $10 on iPad) and AUTOCAD to access BIM files for 3D walkthroughs.
- Train Them on It – Don’t just tell your subcontractors what construction software you’re using for the project, have an orientation and continually train them on it. This cements the relationship, makes them more productive, prevents problems, and makes the job more profitable all around. Add a software tip to daily briefings.
- Walk the Walk – The worst thing you can do is tell subs to use apps and then not use it yourself. Utilize the app in job huddles, write and share agendas digitally, and do toolbox talks digitally.
- Show Them Where They Save Money – Note the benefits while on the job, such as changes to schedules and plans that would have caused rework if waiting on paper plans. Collision detections is another huge cost savings for the subs, general contractor, and client as this feature detects potential errors like pipes running through air ducts, which would require a work change order that stalls the project. Using a mobile device, subs can easily check weather forecasts to schedule work properly.
- Communicate with Clients & Design Teams Digitally – Programs like Submittal allow you to easily coordinate RFI (Request For Information), work change orders, and other communications with the architecture and engineering team digitally. You can also track client approvals on work change orders and get them in real-time instead of waiting on a client to sign a piece of paper weeks later.
- Only Share Info Digitally – From the start, have your estimating team share the plans and specs digitally with potential subs and vendors. Some of our construction clients use iSqFt to share this information efficiently.
- Require Software Usage – In the bid qualifications, create a requirement that subcontractors must use your company’s preferred software and application(s). (As I mentioned earlier, don’t surprise subs with the qualification either, especially the ones you’ve worked with for decades.)
The construction industry is currently undergoing a huge digital transformation. We’ve seen the construction industry as a whole go from laggards in terms on technology usage to pioneers creating new tools, applications, and uses for technology as well as embracing cutting edge technology like 3D printing and virtual reality. Be patient with your “old school” subcontractors, and blend their traditional ways with technology to deliver a better experience and quality project.
A good IT firm can guide you on choosing which construction software is best for your company and ensuring your IT infrastructure (workstations, tablets, and network) and construction jobsites can maximize your investment in construction software.