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How MEP Contractors Can Avoid Project Management Challenges and Pitfalls

The construction industry is filled with challenges, and construction project management presents additional problems to solve every day.

Here are just a few challenges construction project headaches:

  • Low profit margins 

  • Physical and mental strain on construction labor 

  • Manual and disconnected workflows 

  • Material delays and shortages (When, for example, raw inputs are up 30% in cost, but bid prices are only increasing by 13%)

  • Material pricing uncertainty 

  • Pressure to balance productivity with a high standard of quality

All of these project management challenges contribute to one key theme: managing and minimizing overall risk. Let’s dive deeper into one of those challenges in particular: manual and disconnected workflows.

How Manual and Disconnected Workflows Impact Project Managers

We all recognize that construction creates a ton of data at every stage. At the end of the day, project managers are often responsible for organizing and maintaining most of that information. That’s a high order, given the day-to-day responsibilities of a project manager, made even harder with all the different technology tools used across teams.

Project managers need visibility to information created by every team: estimating, design/VDC, accounting; and, of course, all the data and documents created throughout the project, like RFIs, submittals, and change orders. 

What is the impact of these manual processes on your operations teams? 

Disconnected technology has downstream impacts across a project, from team efficiency to compounding stress on project managers. What higher-value tasks are project managers missing out on due to the countless hours of chasing and organizing information?

One of those high-value tasks may be documenting project correspondence that can protect your business from costly litigations.

The Cost of Manual And Disconnected Workflows

Simplifying documents is a win-win: gain efficiency and protect your business from costly disputes. Project managers are the first line of defense for construction disputes, but this is far from the only thing project managers are responsible for.

So what are some of the most common causes of construction disputes? According to Arcadis, they are

  1. Miscommunication: poorly drafted, incomplete or unsubstantiated claims by one party or another. 

  2. Errors or items missing from the original contract

  3. The owner, general contractor, or subcontractors fail to comply with their contractual obligations or owner-directed changes. 

What do all of these things have in common? 

You guessed it: paperwork. Contracts, changes, or poorly documented claims - all lead back to paperwork. In other words, manual and disconnected workflows.

These disputes create a significant cost burden for the construction industry. According to the aforementioned Arcadis study, from 2019 to 2020, the value of disputes in North America rose from $18.8 million to $37.9 million. The data isn’t out from 2021 to 2022, but if this trend continues it speaks to a serious issue in the industry.

Now, let’s compare that to the length of these construction disputes; how long do they take to resolve? While the cost of disputes doubled, the length of the dispute dropped by three weeks. Meaning that contractors have less time to protect themselves from more expensive disputes.

How Do You Organize Your Project Management Data?

Putting all this together, we’ve established that 1.) paperwork is a root cause of construction disputes, 2.) the cost of disputes is going up, and 3.) firms have less time to resolve these disputes. 

Project records are the key ingredient in the dispute resolution recipe. Most likely, your project records are kept in one of these places: 

  • Shared servers or some other online storage

  • An individual’s computer, cell phone, or the email (if they haven’t left the company)

  • A pile of papers on someone’s desk

  • Another contractor’s project management system

If project documents could be in any or all of these places … what happens when disputes arise? 

With records spread across different locations, it is difficult to put together the full picture of what happened and when. To defend your teams, do you want to be gathering proof points across different sources, maybe relying on partial data, or worse, pulling records from a system that your organization doesn’t own?

With data spread across locations, you’re opening up your organization to a greater risk of financial loss from construction disputes. 

While you will likely have to keep uploading these documents into a general contractor’s system, the risk of only keeping records in someone else’s system is huge, you’re opening up your business to a greater risk of construction disputes.

How Project Management Solutions Protect You From Disputes

A recurring theme is that construction management comes down to minimizing and managing risk. What does this mean for risk for your organization?

The number one tool to protect your business is to manage projects from your own system of record. This will look different for every organization depending on how your teams work, but the benefits are the same:

  • Centralized and standardized document storage and maintenance 

  • Owning your own records to defend your work

  • Greater transparency to the information your teams need

Teams who contribute to project success also create data that a project manager will need or need input from a  project manager–it’s a constant push and pull of data.

In the new world of project management, technologies need to be connected - not just for successful project delivery but also to track and protect against any disputes. With all of your project data in one place, your project managers have greater visibility to where documents are and the status of key documents like change orders. 

So what should you be looking for in a solution? As an MEP contractor, these are some common areas that your organization will likely be looking for in a solution: 

  • Simplifying your tech stack and eliminate duplication of software tools

  • Connect your teams 

  • MEP-specific functionalities. Look for a solution that reflects the workflows your teams use every day.

Need a recommendation? We’d thought you’d never ask. We’re excited to introduce Trimble’s construction project management solution designed for MEP contractors: ProjectSight.

Interested in learning more about ProjectSight and how it can help your organization? Request a demo today!