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Improving the RFI process

Improving the RFI process

by DAVE WAGNER, Newforma, Inc. | November 11, 2016

You’d be forgiven for thinking there are as many construction productivity studies as there are construction projects. It’s not surprising when you consider the statistics in Imagining construction’s digital future, a 2016 report from McKinsey & Company.

McKinsey finds overruns are the norm, with projects typically taking 20 percent longer to finish than scheduled, and finishing up to 80 percent over budget. With such a persistent problem, people spend a lot of time trying to find solutions.

The biggest losers are owners, who must endure the persistent challenge of low financial returns.

The McKinsey report’s most puzzling discovery asserts that construction productivity has declined in some markets. This, during a time that the industry has been bombarded with jobsite technologies aimed at making construction teams more efficient and productive. What’s up?

Managing change

We cannot escape change, and technology only increases its speed and volume. BIM, for example, allows design iterations to be explored and published in minutes. In the initial stages, this might be just lines in a model. When you move on to the actual construction drawings, the stakes are higher. You’re changing concrete that’s being poured or steel that’s being erected.

Enter the RFI process, and a major opportunity for efficiency from technology. RFIs are business as usual in an industry where drawings and related documents are rarely complete when construction begins.

If computer technology contributes to a quantum increase in RFIs, can it also empower us to manage them better? An efficient RFI process keeps all project team members on the same page and working from the latest iteration of the plans and spec. The consequences of teams working from out-of-date information are well documented in those many reports we alluded to above.

An efficient definition of efficiency

If you’re going to automate RFI management, you want to make it simple to do in the fewest possible clicks. Anything else defeats the purpose.

That view of efficiency is what drives the design of Newforma Project Cloud construction management software, which automates workflows related to RFI reviews and approvals, markups, and general communications. It’s a 100 percent web-based solution that can be set up and used in the same day. With all team members working from the same document and notified in real time when changes come through, no one – including the owner’s team – is left out of the loop. The system also logs every comment, redline and stamp for a complete project history.

Its streamlined process prevents mistakes in the first place. Its project record makes it easy for the different parties in a project to resolve differences. (One transparent RFI log, open to everyone, means fewer disputes.)

How streamlined RFIs play in real life

Mascaro Construction Company, who uses the Newforma Project Cloud, says the software is “incredibly useful in eliminating paperwork and improving turnaround time on RFIs and submittals" and slashes RFI turnaround time by 50 percent while pushing project information into the field as soon as updates occur. Doing so eliminates delays and removes the risk of tasks slipping through cracks.

Similarly, by cutting up to 40 percent from construction administration processing time, Lillibridge Healthcare Services, Inc. can “recapture as many as 10 hours a week to be on the site, answering questions and managing the project.”

Making owners happier

Project managers in these and other construction companies know that a single, easily accessible, authoritative source for working with RFIs and design documents in the field – regardless of location or device – goes a long way towards improving project efficiency and team productivity.

We might be some time from solving for all the challenges outlined in the McKinsey & Company report, but a more effective construction administration process, with prompt, well organized, thoroughly documented RFI responses, has an immediately measurable impact on avoiding delays; a fact that’s sure to be appreciated by the owner, as well as the rest of the project team.

To learn more about Newforma's work with other companies, click here.

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