Based on projects I’ve been involved with, I’d say the answer to whether the construction foreman’s paper diary is dead, is a resounding…no.
While we’re seeing a growing trend in the desire for electronic diaries and digital workflows, the default is still typically a paper-based system – unless a project’s leaders drive digital. Research conducted by McKinsey suggests the construction industry is second lowest only to agriculture and hunting when it comes to digital uptake.
What’s the purpose of the foreman’s diary?
In Australia alone, the value of avoidable waste from disputes in the construction industry tops $7 billion (see this CRCCI study). That’s an insane figure considering the massive push for efficiencies. One of the keys to avoiding disputes is early notification of issues that may lead to time and cost impacts (see this analysis).
Here enters the foreman’s diary. It’s a key source of what’s happening at the workface and a powerful communication tool for raising issues with project leaders via engineers and project managers who read these records daily.
The foreman’s diary is also a critical tool in the unfortunate circumstance a claim moves into a dispute. That’s because it’s a record of what has happened from the perspective of the client, contractor and subcontractor – recording key facts such as resources on site for the day, work performed, performance observations, key issues and delays, directions given, weather etc. These records support a court assessment regarding the amount that should be paid by one party to another for work delivered.
Why transition to digital?
1. Faster communication and easier search capability
Digital records are available and searchable as soon as they are created. Rather than wait to the end of a day, or the next shift, for a manual, paper report, everything from Events to photos to progress updates are available immediately. This improves communication between a team, enabling earlier identification of issues and faster mitigation…reducing time and cost impacts.
While digital records add immense value during the delivery of a project, if a dispute arises, they also support significant savings by avoiding the need for claims consultants to go through paper records and convert them to digital records. The records are captured as the work is done, meaning they are ready and available from the outset as an as-built record of the project.
2. Better recording consistency with earlier identification of missing records
With paper diaries, missing or poor quality records are not identified until they are actually required, which can be as late as a dispute situation. This is generally because those records are filed in a site office but not used by anyone downstream. This means they’re not that visible to a project team.
A digital foreman’s diary is easily built into the daily and weekly communication processes of a project and is highly visible to everyone, particularly project leaders. Just one benefit is that missing and poor quality record keeping are very quickly picked up.
3. Richer records
Paper diaries typically don’t include photos and GPS-tracked, time-stamped records. It’s true that a picture tells a thousand words. With today’s technology, including smart phones, there is no reason why diaries shouldn’t be supported by rich photos that are tagged to issues, Events, Activities, the work breakdown structure, team commentaries, GIS information and more.
There are many digital solutions available in the market, from apps as simple as Evernote to specialised construction diary applications.
Naturally, I’m most familiar with Envision’s diary solution. We’ve developed and deployed this across major infrastructure and resources projects. Through this, I’ve seen the content of digital diaries being actively used during delivery – and by many more stakeholders than traditionally possible with paper diaries…in ways, you would have never considered. Digital diaries are supporting the daily workflow of:
- Project engineers
- Construction managers
- Project managers
- Commercial managers
- Contract administrators
To find out more about how Envision can help your site record keeping, check out this video: