7 Tips for proper Document Controlling in a construction site

Document Control in a construction site is a very critical process and not settng it up properly from day 0 of the project, could have significant implications to the final product ( or project ). It’s also a quality procedure that needs to be written (and most of the times approved by the Project Manager/Client of the Project)

Every construction project is a big pile of information and data that somehow have to be organized, stored and distributed correctly and on time to the people who need them on or off site.

Download the Inspection & Test Plan Template (ITP) for Construction Projects – in Excel Format

So, let’s have a look on what is really important for Document Control in a construction project, no matter how big it is:

1. Engineers and construction teams on site should have easy access to every single document relevant to their job, at any given time. It doesn’t matter if it will be a hardcopies shelf, a fancy electronic document management system or a shared network drive . To put it simply: if people on site do not have access on drawings, method statements, ITPs and any other document that they need in order to proceed, they cannot work or they will work without any controlled documentation (which is basically what happens in 90% of the cases).

2. People on site should always be informed immediately if there are changes on any document (and especially on drawings). There has to be a system/way of informing the relevant persons when there is a new revision of a drawing, when there has been a Field Change on a design or when the method or materials are changed. It can be through email, through phone calls or meetings (most practical and quick usually…). Otherwise there is a great risk of people constructing on site with an outdated revision of drawings , not approved materials and methods.

3. There has to be a way of marking up the changes between the current and the previous revision of drawings and documents (clouds, bubbles, different colours etc). People should be able to identify what has been changed immediately.

4. Every document should have a unique code number for easy identification and traceability. This coding/numbering system should be described in a relevant quality procedure as well.

5. Once it gets approved, the new revision of any document should immediately supersede the previous revision. All the previous revisions should be removed from the site or stored somewhere and get locked or destroyed for avoidance of unintended use.

6. It should be fairly easy for people on the field to recognize what is the status of the document they are holding in their hands. It can either be a stamping system, signatures or anything else. Marking every single document or drawing with a mark “For Construction” doesn’t mean anything: that could be an outdated revision of that drawing which is not valid anymore.

7. There has to be only one and unique source of document distribution in a construction project. It has to be made clear to all the stakeholders and their management that any document that comes from any other source (circulated through emails, given by hand in meetings or else) is simply not valid and shouldn’t be used on site. These are all bad practices that complicate things and include a high risk.

Any professional in the construction industry can think of many cases where time and money has been spent for remedial works that took place because the teams on site used wrong documents or not approved materials. Hundreds of NCRs have been issued all over the world because of bad document controlling in a construction project (incorrect revisions, not approved drawing etc).

Document Controlling apart from being a procedure is also a simple way of describing the tidy way that every Engineer or construction professional should have as a habit and an everyday attitude on site. However, it shouldn’t be left to the hands and the professionalism of every indidual on site.

It is extremely important for the senior management in construction industry to realize the significance of strict and proper document controlling for the benefit and successful completion and delivery of any project.

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Pavlos Inglesis
I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng-MICE) and a Chartered Quality Professional (MCQI CQP) working in the construction industry for about 20 years. My specialty is Quality Control and Quality Assurance Management in Construction Projects. I have worked on projects in the Middle East, and Greece and am now based in the UK.

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