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Construction File Sharing – Tips on What to Avoid

The evolution of technology has brought many changes in the construction industry. Construction file sharing is now done electronically. Using cloud-based solutions for document storage, email, or digital collaboration tools.

These technology tools make document sharing easier and faster. But they also introduce issues that can translate in added cost and risk to a construction project. This article discusses some of the mistakes in construction file sharing that can be avoided.

1. The use of multiple file-sharing tools on one project

This issue itself can create a chain reaction that results in cost overruns, errors, re-work, and loss of profits.

Oftentimes the mechanical engineer uses DropBox to store and share files. The architect uses Newforma. The structural engineer uses Google Drive. The electrical engineer emails his files to the project manager. And the plumber saves everything on his personal computer. It’s clear where this is going and the list can go on and on.

What we end up with are many silos of data, little to no file control, and gaps in the history of the project.

How do we solve this? Get everyone working from the same system. Make project files and documentation available in a single, accessible, and controlled environment.

2. Lack of designated file gatekeeper

In the era of paper drawings, the document manager had the responsibility to manage all drawings, permits, change orders, and other documents. This person had a process for managing changes and making sure the master set at the construction trailer was always up to date.

Even with everyone working from the same file-sharing system, the document control manager is still needed in the digital era. This person acts as gatekeeper to keep documents up-to-date and takes control of the file-sharing process.

3. Unclear file-sharing process

We now have everyone working from the same system and a document control manager. But we still need a clear file-sharing process. The lack of guidelines around file-sharing creates an unnecessary gap between participants.

  • Compile a distribution list of project leads, contractors, and project status keepers.
  • Provide a description of the project structure you set up in your file-sharing or collaboration platform.
  • Explain where each contractor will upload their drawings.
  • Explain where the general information and project documentation is stored.
  • Set a file naming convention. Version control is critical to good file management. By enforcing a consistent file naming convention, you establish a clear history of project changes.

4. Unsuitable file controls in your file-sharing solution

When sharing construction files we have to make sure the right files reach the right people at the right time.

When selecting a file-sharing tool, look for one that allows you to control who views specific buckets or folders. A solution with different levels of control: administrators, collaborators, and viewers. One that shows the creator of documents and when they were uploaded or modified.

File controls are important in the file-sharing process to ensure that project participants have access to the right files, no documents are deleted or misplaced, and the history of the project remains intact.

5. Lack of notifications for file modifications, additions or changes in process

It is imperative that notifications are delivered to project participants appropriately. Notifications should be delivered in multiple formats – shown on the collaboration platform but sent by email too. There should be no option for a participant to choose not to receive notifications of project changes.

Why is it so important for notifications to be delivered? Because a change in the structure of the building should be communicated to all as soon as it happens, so all contractors adjust their work appropriately. Because a wall that was moved two feet to the south of the building at the owner’s request may impact the plumbing, electrical, fire protection designs, and more.

In conclusion, sharing construction documents has never been easier or faster, and more complex at the same time. To ensure the success of construction file sharing we need:

  • a single, accessible, and controlled environment
  • robust file controls and notifications
  • a well-defined sharing process

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