CYA is a common theme in many industries, but in construction, sometimes it can mean the difference between turning a profit and filing for bankruptcy. I’ve spent many years on cold jobsites and cushy warm offices, and in both places I learned the hard way that details aren’t just important, they’re vital to your survival.
Those of us who learned the hard way know that the key to good CYA is to take notes on everything you’re told and everything you see. Thanks to my tech background (I was the nerd who did his homework with a pen plotter in the 80’s), I saved myself a lot of time by not just taking notes, but taking them the right way. One of the first things I did at my commissioning company was standardize the way we documented everything. When a tech would locate a low spot in a drain line, it was always documented as a Sag, not a Dip, not a Sunken Line, always a Sag. When a hot breaker was found in an electrical panel, he had to determine whether it was an overloaded circuit, loose connection, or bad breaker (a good eye for IR can tell you that without touching the panel), and not just label it as hot. Even with a simple roof inspection there were around 30 different ways to categorize a potential problem. By creating a list of standard deficiencies when we developed our services, we were able to make sure every tech documented items exactly the same way (today it’s done with FieldLens Categories), and more importantly, we were able to give customers statistics on those items by location, contractor, store design, and time period.
It wasn’t just important that we categorized all the issues we found the same way; it was also important to nail every detail. Was sewer gas leaking from that floor drain because the trap was leaking, or because they forgot to install it? Did they spec that breaker past 80% load or did someone add something after the fact? Was that work completed before or after the latest plan revision? When a large part of your job is pointing out defects in the work of other companies, nothing is more important than the facts.
The last lesson I learned (and yes it was the hard way) was a lesson about consistency. We knew we were documenting everything the same way, and we knew what details we had to include each time. From there, no matter how many times we saw the exact same thing, we couldn’t cut corners. Even if the electrician was working right beside us, and we showed him the loose connection we just found, we still documented it. The few times we didn’t were often the ones that came back to bite us later. Sure, we may have told that contractor what he needed to fix, but then someone else told him a dozen other things, and then his boss called and sent him to the supply house, and his wife called, and then the two-minute conversation that could make or break our customer’s confidence in our services was forgotten about… and we look like we missed a potentially dangerous electrical problem.
So remember: Standardization increases efficiency—both when you’re documenting items and when you’re looking for them later. The devil is in details, and you’ll find him when you leave one out. Once you’ve figured out the first two, the only way you can screw it up is not to do it. The great news is FieldLens makes all these things easy, and if you ever need a little help figuring out how it can work for you, just give me a call.
Julian Clayton is VP of Product for FieldLens.