Construction Project Management: Bringing Your Punch List into the 21st Century

Posted by Brad Egeland

I was contacted recently by Chris Thorman, who blogs about contractor software at Software Advice (www.softwareadvice.com). Chris is working on an idea for software for the construction industry that would make project management and punch list management much less of a headache than it has been in the past. Following our discussion, Chris submitted the following information for me to make available to our PMTips readers.

Bringing Your Punch List into the 21st Century

Whether you’re the general contractor of a major construction firm or a local home builder, the completion of a project’s “punch list” is the final barrier between you and receiving payment for your work.

The explosion in popularity of smartphones begs for a solution to the traditional, low-tech way of approaching a construction project’s punch list.

Punch list computer software has existed for years (even for mobile phones). But none of the current construction project management software is maximizing the technology available on smartphones today.

This is how we’d like to see smartphones and specifically a punch list app bring the traditional construction punch list into the 21st century.

What the Punch List App Would Look Like

Imagine you’re a general contractor and you’re entering the punch list phase of a construction project. Instead of lugging building plans, compliance codes, pads of paper or even a large tablet PC to the job site to record information, you’re able to slip an iPhone with a punch list app into your pocket.

As you conduct your walk through, you’re only seconds away from creating an entry to your punch list.  A couple of taps brings up 3-D floor plans; you manipulate the 3-D model with your fingers until you drill down to your exact location in the room; tap the specific problem area, tag it’s location, take a picture and quickly fill out a form describing the problem.

iphone punch list final1 Construction Project Management: Bringing Your Punch List into the 21st Century

In addition to being able to draw on the plans themselves, the app would also allow you to draw lines or make marks on the pictures you’ve taken.

Because you’re using a smartphone to record information, you can log information more quickly than pen and paper and store more of it. Once a punch list entry is created, the information is shared with the appropriate subcontractor. To reduce the number of communications, punch list entries can also be grouped and sent out as one notification.

Information sent to the subs could include:

  • Job site location
  • Geo-tagged photos of issues
  • Automatic voice-to-text transcription of audio notes
  • Requested completion date
  • Digital signature request
  • Compliance notes for building codes
  • Automatic schedule/calendar updates and notifications when tasks are completed
  • Vendor price comparison for supplies

As subs complete tasks, the schedule is updated and notifications are pushed out to the other subs. This push notification would be especially useful for subs who are waiting on others to complete tasks. For example, as an electrician completes their work, they update the punch list app and the drywall company is immediately notified to begin work.

The app would also be great for organizing employees on large job sites. In fact, with a group of connected employees on site, a general contractor could tap into employee locations via a GPS-enabled punch list app and assign tasks to the nearest employees.

How impressed would a customer be if you addressed a problem by immediately tapping into a mobile punch list app and directing the nearest employee to solve it?

From Paper to Pixels

The technology of a punch list app would get the buzz, but the app’s true power lies in it’s ability to streamline communication and organize information.

Traditional punch lists are recorded separately, often using completely different recording mediums. Some take a pen and paper to the job site; others an audio recorder; still others snap pictures. Logistically and organizationally, this is a nightmare for all involved.

Take a look at the work flow of a “traditional” punch list process.

punch list before v211 Construction Project Management: Bringing Your Punch List into the 21st Century

Opportunities for delays exist at nearly every stage of the process. Information is spread out among building plans, handwritten notes and stray photos. Not to mention dozens of people.

What if every one involved in the punch list recorded information in the same mobile program, communicated instantaneously and received updates in real time?

This is exactly what our mobile punch list app sets out to accomplish.

Take a look at how our app – a digital, centralized point for storing information – changes the project’s work flow.

punch list after v2 Construction Project Management: Bringing Your Punch List into the 21st Century

Instead of each party waiting for updates from the general contractor, everyone is continually updated by the punch list app. More importantly, the updates are entered in the same way by each sub – through the app’s form. No more piles of paper and unorganized work orders while you try to interpret a subcontractor’s personal punch list system.

Subs can better plan their schedules knowing when jobs will be complete. GCs can check the overall status of a project by seeing how many punch list tasks have been completed. If a sub contractor hasn’t completed a punch list item, the app could even sync with a company’s accounts payable department to withhold payment.

Everyone is living in mobile harmony.

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Related posts:

  1. Phases of a Construction Project Life Cycle – Part 1
  2. Phases of a Construction Project Life Cycle – Part 3
  3. Phases of a Construction Project Life Cycle – Part 4
  4. Phases of a Construction Project Life Cycle – Part 2
  5. Construction Software State of the Industry from Software Advice

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5 Comments to “Construction Project Management: Bringing Your Punch List into the 21st Century”

  • It sounds like a real organized system, however, does it translate into Spanish, you may need it in Florida to make it effective.

  • I highly recommend the construction software from Jonas Construction – it is really good with management and accounting purposes.

  • How is Chris going with this app? We are in the site establishment phase of a 182-unit residential development and I found this post by actively looking for EXACTLY this software … I can see there’s been no activity on this thread for a couple of years so I will seek Chris out directly!

    We are ready to buy NOW!

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how to bring the traditional construction punch list into the 21st century via the smartphones. Owner Builders

  • We have launched PunchLists in the App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/punchlists/id511168030?mt=8&ls=1

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