While project owners are so focused on the build itself, general contractors and project managers know that what happens before and after the build are equally (if not, more) important.
It’s really all about how you plan, and construction companies that have a solid system for connecting a project’s full lifecycle, including pre and post construction, have the ultimate advantage.
“The success of the build itself hinges on proper planning beforehand,” says
Forrest Eleazer, partner and co-owner of Park Construction, a Clearwater, Florida-based custom home and commercial construction business that was founded in 2010.
"Construction is a chaotic process in general. If you don’t plan, you’re going to get lost in the chaos.”
The pre-construction phase involves creating a competitive bid, and setting an accurate schedule and budget. Eleazer says his company offers pre-construction agreement services, which help projects run optimally from beginning to end. At the end of a build, he says, there is usually a short amount of time to close out the project and turn it over to the owner.
“We try to jump on that post-construction early on in the construction process,” Eleazer says. “So at the end of the project it’s just a few crosses of T’s and dots on the I’s to be able to close out the project, as opposed to starting from scratch after completion.”
Park Construction uses software to track the full lifecycle of a build. Having all the data in one spot and always at their fingertips allows the company to consistently monitor budgets, timelines, and any other aspect of the project. This helps projects stay on time and on budget, so when the build is complete, all the data needed for a facility operations and maintenance manual is ready to go.
Time Is Money
The ability to connect pre and post construction, along with the actual build, maintains open lines of communication, mitigates risk, and keeps issues at bay. This is highly important in construction, where each project involves many moving parts and multiple people.
“When the first shovel hits the ground, things start moving really fast and can get chaotic,” Eleazer explains. “That’s where a lot of disconnects can happen. Construction is a chaotic process in general. If you don’t plan, you’re going to get lost in the chaos.”
During pre-construction and at various milestones during the project, he says project managers walk through the plans with the owner to ensure that everything meets their needs at every stage. This reduces the number of change orders during the build.
“If you can open the line of communication early in the job, before you start construction, you mitigate all these problems that tend to come up during construction—and, hopefully not have those cost and time overruns that often occur from those issues,” Eleazer explains.
The budget and schedule throughout a project’s lifecycle are at the center of what Park Construction continuously track through software. They also track the status of contracts and submittals, and identify milestones met and missed so that they can evaluate what they’re doing well and what needs improvement.
Being able to keep such a watchful eye on the schedule helps ensure that the project will not cost the company general conditions money on the back end, Eleazer says. Also, having an accurate project schedule from the beginning helps with hiring subcontractors and staff for the job. This is a big deal in Florida, he says, where, like many other parts of the country, finding labor can be tough.
“Construction is a hard business because you’re dealing with people’s two most important things: their time and their money,” Eleazer says. “You’re trying to manage it from your side, too. If you start losing time, you start losing money. There’s not a lot of room for error.”
Mining the Data
All of the data collected from pre-construction to post-construction is extremely valuable to both construction companies and project owners—especially when it’s housed in a single place. With so much focus on risk management and quality these days, Eleazer says having extensive documentation is essential if a “litigious situation” ever arises.
Companies can examine budget data to tighten margins and become more competitive, and actually creating bids is much easier because they are based on historical data. Workflows and follow-up contacts can also be tracked, leading to project efficiencies.
Having a single source linking pre and post construction has decreased the amount of daily phone calls, emails, and text messages that his team sends, Eleazer says. Because everyone can log into the system, some of the company’s project management tasks have been shifted onto superintendents, who now feel less dependent on the office staff, he explains.
In the post-construction phase, Eleazer says the closeout and operations manual process can start early because their system lets them create requests for closeout documents. So once the project ends and it’s time to compile everything for the owner, all the information is at their fingertips.
All of these tasks were previously tracked using Excel spreadsheets, which Eleazer says took hours to update. Now, daily tasks only take a few minutes.
Bringing Benefits to Owners
Construction companies that invest in software solutions to streamline and combine the pre and post construction processes bring many benefits to project owners.
Park Construction, heavily markets its system and process to potential clients, which, Eleazer says, bring a high level of communication, professionalism, and transparency to projects. He says the fact that owners can log into the system and see the budget, timeline, and other reports gives them a sense of comfort. This also boosts the company’s reputation and ability to attract repeat business.
“We push pre-construction with every potential client,” Eleazer says, explaining that owners are sometimes unsure about hiring contractors before the bid process, but the time and money saved outweighs the cost of the pre-construction services and the bid outcome.
Implementing a software system to track and connect pre and post construction takes initiative and is an investment for a construction business. But, Eleazer says, it’s worth it.
He says streamlining everything in a single source has created efficiencies for his company, allowing them to take on more work without adding new staff.
“But, you have to leverage it,” Eleazer emphasizes. “It’s a tool like anything else. A hammer doesn’t hit a nail without a guy swinging it. If you use it effectively, it can save you a lot of headache as an owner and make your company efficient enough to see an increase on your bottom line that’s exponential to what you spend on the product itself.”