Friday, October 21, 2011

Reducing Costs with Electronic Submittals

In my last post on electronic submittals, I wrote about a process that one construction expert called tedious, time consuming, and redundant. In the second of my 3-part series, today I look at the cost savings of an electronic submittal process.

The first and most immediate return on an investment in electronic submittals is a reduction in the cost of distributing submittals. Multiple parties need to receive submittals, including subcontractors, the general contractor, the architect, structural engineers, consultants, and the owner. With a few assumptions, it is easy to see how the cost savings adds up.

Consider that each spec subsection requiring a product data submittal has, on average, eight items. Each item in the submittal has two to three pages of product data and often installation details as well. That adds up to 17 to 25 pages per submittal, including the cover page. Project specs can require as many as eight copies of each submittal. With multiple copies, each spec section can generate as many as 200 pages. Submittals also go through a review process, so there are often iterations that need to go back and forth between an architect and the general contractor or subcontractor.

When you combine multiple spec sections with multiple copies and iterations, you are paying for thousands—or even tens of thousands—of pages to be copied and delivered throughout the course of a project. It is no wonder large commercial and infrastructure projects have full-time document managers, with entire rooms devoted to storing these materials on the job site. The amount of paper for product submittals alone is staggering, even before considering shop drawings, LEED® submittals, and Operations and Maintenance (O&M) manuals.

In some cases, your company does not have a choice in how submittals are distributed. The architect, owner, or construction manager sets forth the submittal requirements as part of the Division I Project Administration requirements. If the requirements ask for a physical submittal with a rubber stamp, the end results is, of course, a room full of Banker’s boxes containing all the submittals from the project.

The owner does need a record of what building products were used in the building’s construction. He or she needs to know what equipment was installed and be able to access all warranties and maintenance information on equipment. But there is a better way!

This is the second in a 3-part series on improving the submittals process with an electronic system. A similar article was published in the September issue of Construction Business Owner called How to Streamline Construction Submittals.

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