Why subcontractor management needs to go digital

Subcontractor management is one of the most important activities in any construction project. Whether you are the main contractor or you run a subcontracting business, you need a reliable way to organise your teams’ time and tasks. Until now, this has mainly been a manual, face-to-face process. But digital technology is starting to change the equation.

Contractors of all kinds are adopting new types of subcontractor software. So, what do these digital tools do, and how do they help with subcontractor management?

Desk of architects engineer with a blueprint on table in the office. Engineering tools and construction concept.

What is subcontractor management tech?

Subcontractor software covers a range of tools that help manage the work of – and relationship with – subcontractors. This technology aims to digitize task and project management and replace traditional manual techniques with apps and mobile-based tools.

Companies can use subcontractor software for a variety of reasons:

  • Subcontractor task management: Allows the lead contractor or head of the subcontracting company to allocate jobs to individual employees.
  • Verification of work: Mobile based apps let you use a phone’s camera or geolocation features to verify project progress without having to physically visit a site. For example, a photo of a defect that a subcontractor has fixed saves the site manager from walking over to the location and checking themselves.
  • Interact with the building plan: Subcontractor software lets users view a digital plan or BIM model. They can then understand what the structure is supposed to look like and ask questions.
  • Support invoicing: Subcontractor task management tools let you provide clear evidence of what jobs a subcontractor did, when and how long it took. This also makes it easier to accurately invoice and improves trust for all parties.
  • Communicate: Subcontractor apps let all users discuss the project in a central place and have those conversations recorded for later reference.

Why use subcontractor task management apps? 

Subcontractor management tends to be a highly manual activity. Once subcontractors arrive on-site, site managers show them a paper copy of the building plan and verbally inform them of deadlines, issues and expectations. They’re then asked to complete their work within a given timeframe.

The problem is that this approach invites misunderstandings and miscommunication. While most subcontractors are highly skilled, this manual method makes the following issues more likely:

  • Delays

Countless studies have highlighted the tendency for US building projects to be delivered late and over budget. This is by no means entirely the subcontractors’ fault, the poor subcontractor management certainly plays a part. For example, a subcontractor may be on-site and ready to work, but a job that needs to be finished before they can start may have overrun. With a subcontractor management tool, a site manager can easily track progress so that there’s less “dead time” on-site.

  • Disputes

There are many common disputes that arise between contractors and subcontractors. These problems happen, at least in part, because of a lack of clarity over responsibilities and expectations. Subcontractor management software can minimise these disputes. If everyone shares the same project information and expectations – and communicates digitally – the risk of disputes is lower.

  • Miscommunications

Poor communication between the stakeholder and the subcontractor is a very common problem. Once again, subcontractor software helps. If a roofer, mason, plumber or electrician ever has any doubts, they can directly message the lead contractor using digital communication tools.

Digital transformation: Why practical completion is going digital

How subcontractor software works

PlanRadar is a task and defect management app designed to support subcontractor task management. The tool gives every member of the project access to digital blueprints (2D and 3D) from their mobile/tablet. It’s possible for all participants to issue a ticket, follow up on the progress, create a punch list and communicate with colleagues. All subcontractors working on a project can easily download the app and get up and running with the easy-to-use software.

Contractors and subcontractors can use PlanRadar for:

  • Task allocation: After logging in with their username and password, subcontractors get an overview of all the tasks assigned to them.
  • The Plan View: Subcontractors can identify the exact location for each ticket on the digital plan and tap on a pin to see the details. All tickets have a category to show their status (open/in progress/resolved/feedback/closed/rejected).
  • The List View: Using this feature, a subcontractor can scroll through the tickets of a particular project and get a closer look simply by clicking on the ticket’s headline.
  • Ticket Details: Aside from seeing all the information about the ticket, a subcontractor can specify the progress, the status and also use the camera icon to attach photos with the tickets for clarification. When they take a photo, subcontractors can also annotate them with text, stickers or draw markings by hand.
  • Comments: From the journal tab, each subcontractor can read the communication history in chronological order and also comment themselves.

Example: How subcontractor software helps you

Imagine you are an electrician installing wiring on a new housing development. The following table compares subcontractor task management with and without digital technology:

Task Manual approach Digital approach
Assigning jobs You receive a paper blueprint showing current plans for the layout of walls and electrical points. Use the same plan for the entire project or find yourself waiting for new paper plans when someone makes a change. You have access to a blueprint on your smartphone and can easily ‘zoom’ in for more detail. The blueprint gets automatically updated if there are any design changes. You also can’t lose or damage the blueprint.
Time management If you’re running up against a deadline, you need to visit the site manager and request an extension in person – assuming you can find them. This doesn’t guarantee they’ll inform the project manager of the change. You can request an extension from within the app and automatically record it directly onto the project plan. There’s no confusion and you can demonstrate when and why you asked for the change.
Raising queries If you’re uncertain about a task, you must seek out the site manager for clarification. They might need to call up the architect. If you need clarification or more details about a task, simply send queries (including photos or a voice memo) to the person who assigned it via the mobile app. They’ll then get a push notification and will immediately know that someone needs support.
Invoicing You bill at your set rate, but there’s always a risk that the lead contractor may dispute any charges if they cannot see evidence of your work. There is a clear digital record of all tasks you complete. Site managers allocate jobs to you and you also have concrete evidence of what you finish.

Time to digitise subcontractor management?

Digitising subcontractor management brings so many benefits – to both the subcontractor and the lead contractor. By improving communication, transparency and task assignment, projects flow more efficiently and productively.

PlanRadar’s subcontractor software helps you revolutionise subcontractor task management. Try it today for free.

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