As a project manager or estimator handling the pre-work side of a construction project, you’re very familiar with job submittal packages.
In many firms, they’re considered a “necessary evil” because of the two key points they bring to mind:
- They’re absolutely vital to the construction process, and a poorly made submittal package could harm the company’s reputation and cause needless delays.
- They’re time- and labor-intensive to put together, and no one likes doing them.
However, since they are so important to a smooth, successful job, we all tend to grin and bear the second half of that equation — assuming the time and other resources we dedicate to putting together job submittals is just part of the inevitable cost of doing business.
But, the fact is most construction firms could save over 70% of the time and money they invest into job submittals by making just a few relatively small changes to the tools and processes they use to put the packages together. And, if your company compiles more than three job submittal packages each month, the savings outweigh the cost of making the changes almost immediately.
Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
What you’re currently spending on job submittals
You’ll need to insert your own figures to see exactly what your company is currently spending, but we’ll use industry averages just to make the point:
Most job submittal packages are compiled by construction project managers, and the average salary for a construction project manager is between $90,000 and $150,000 annually. Let’s use $120,000 for the sake of argument. Although it’s usually a salaried position, assuming an average of 40 hours worked per week, that means our project manager earns about $58 per hour.
Based on the feedback we’ve received from hundreds of construction firms we’ve spoken with over the years, the traditional job submittal process can take anywhere between five and seven hours to complete. Using six for our purposes, that results in a per package cost to the company of $348 ($58/hour X 6 hours) in labor alone.
On top of that figure, we need to consider the peripheral costs associated with compiling 200+ pages in a large 3-ring binder and delivering it to the client. Between paper, ink, the binder, tabs, and shipping (or the time it takes to hand-deliver), that figure is probably inching toward $360 or more for every job submittal package being created.
And, that doesn’t even account for whatever it takes to handle requested revisions after the general contractor and client have had a chance to review the initial package.
It’s no wonder the job submittal process is considered a necessary evil by most companies.
Why that money gets burned every month
What’s likely most frustrating about the situation is that the process is outdated and inefficient. After all, pulling together printouts or photocopies of product catalog pages, punching holes in them, and clamping them into a binder is a tremendous amount of unnecessary work.
Does it make sense that you can handle nearly every other step of the project workflow — from the initial bid and estimate to delivery of the final invoices and other documentation — using the computer on your desk, but when it’s time to put together a job submittal package, you need to go find a large, flat surface so you can get your craft on?
As is the case with every computer-aided activity in the modern construction office, a fully digital and partially automated job submittal process would save tremendous amounts of time. In fact, most companies that use an application specifically designed for this purpose find that it cuts the labor investment down to about an hour or a little more (as opposed to six.) And, having the option to deliver the submittal package electronically rather than printing and shipping it saves even more.
So, to put it bluntly, most of the money firms are spending on job submittals is being burned each month because they either don’t realize a digital solution exists, or they feel (incorrectly) that it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
How to put out the financial fire
There are simple, inexpensive, but powerful job submittal software applications that allow you to build submittal packages in half the time while maintaining high quality and professionalism.
These applications boast a number of valuable features, but the key time savers include:
Automatic product catalog page retrieval and indexing. (In many cases, you can simply upload your product list via spreadsheet and the system locates the most recent, up-to-date product information for you.)
Automatic formatting. (Some systems will automatically categorize documents into the CSI MasterFormat® for a professional, accurate submittal package, with Table of Contents included.)
Electronic editing and markup. (Imagine being able to “markup” various pages as you would with a marker or highlighter on paper, but strictly in electronic form.)
Electronic delivery. (Email the entire package in PDF format to the general contractor and other stakeholders, and any requests for editing can be similarly delivered.)
Companies that have invested in job submittal software have found their cost-per-submittal package drop by more than 70%. And, with a modest monthly subscription price, most of those companies noted positive ROI immediately.
If you’re interested in learning more about job submittal software take a look at Trade Service's Submittal Manager today to see how you can shave off 50-75% of the time it takes to complete your submittals.
About the Author
Shaun Gambardella is a Product Manager for Trimble MEP. Prior to joining Trimble, Shaun worked in the electrical industry for 10 years, with 8 of the 10 in estimating and project management roles. With his decade of experience utilizing Pricing, Estimating, and Project Management software, Shaun brings real world experience and insight from the contractor side of the electrical industry into everything he does.More Content by Shaun Gambardella