Do You Have a Process for Closeout?
September 9, 2019
Over my past year at Pype, I’ve worked with about 100 different project teams from dozens of GCs to automate and streamline their project closeout process. These projects have ranged from massive, multiphase, $300+ million contracts, to single phase projects valued under $5 million a piece. But regardless of project size, GC, or phase, one thing has always been consistent across these teams: closing out is their least favorite part of the project.
As I worked with these teams, I attributed much of this dread to their closeout process (or the lack thereof). Many of these processes were frantic and disorganized, and one PM even summed up his process as “I just let the PE figure it out.” Granted, this isn’t entirely the teams’ faults—managing project closeout has been an overwhelmingly broken process for many, many years, to the point where most teams believe “that’s just the way it is.”
But it doesn’t have to be. Following the outline below, project teams can fix and automate their broken, chaotic processes to track down, compile, and turnover all obligated closeout documents to their owner, setting themselves up for success on this project and all future projects.
- Identify Closeout Requirements.
This may seem obvious, but a surprising number of project teams have trouble finding all of their closeout requirements, particularly with greener teams or greener PEs (especially when they’re left to “figure it out”). Unlike Action/Informational submittals, closeout requirements are rarely straightforward in specs. Instead, I’ve seen them listed under “Submittals,” “Closeout Submittals,” Part 3 – Execution, and sometimes not even in the specs at all, instead being found in the contract. As a best practice, I always suggest teams thoroughly examine the specs, contract, drawings, and any other documents from the owner or design team early on to identify closeout requirements and raise questions to ensure they are well aware of the owner’s expectations.
- Inform Trade Partners of Requirements Early On.
A lot of GCs and trade partners waste time with back-and-forth, non-constructive communication to request or clarify information that should have been handled before the trade even stepped on site. When you identify your closeout requirements, you should also divide and organize them by trade partner. Sending out trade-specific closeout logs will eliminate confusion towards the end of a project. Recently, I’ve been working with some MEPs that use AutoSpecs to identify their own requirements well in advance to avoid the scramble during project closeout—they want to know what they need to submit in advance.
- Standardize your Document Management.
Across the entire construction industry, document management is a tedious, time consuming task, but it seems to be particularly painful with closeout documents. How much time are you spending deciding how to store and rename these documents? Will you accept trades’ transmittal sheets or do you have your own transmittal sheets they need to use instead? Are they sending all closeout requirements as one massive package that you then have to sift through when trying to determine if they sent you the correct documents? Most teams don’t consider any of this during a concrete pour, but this lack of preparation and standardization will come to bite them in the end of the project. Lay down some ground rules for trades submitting documentation, such as requiring that they submit them as separate packages, that they use your own transmittal sheet, and that each document submitted must be accompanied by the full description found in the specs or contract. This way tracking, reviewing, and compiling submitted closeout documents is a streamlined, effective process that your team can machine through.
- Automate Communication with Trade Partners.
How many touch points do you typically have with your trades during closeout? Are you sending out a mass email to all of them, reminding them to “get your submittals turned in,” or are you sending personalized emails to each trade with their specific, outstanding requirements? The latter is far more effective at getting closeout documents submitted, though it takes exponentially more time and effort than the former. Automating email notifications gives a closeout team the ability to send personalized email notifications without spending hours each and every day on it. A recent federal project I worked with was able to collect 92% of their 397 closeout requirements before substantial completion by taking advantage of the automatic email reminders within Pype Closeout. The total number of emails our platform sent? Close to 1,000. By my math, that project team saved 50 hours by automating email notifications, leaving more time to address other critical closeout tasks.
- Create Polished Turnover Packages.
You can do everything else in a project perfectly, but the turnover package is the lasting impression the owner has of your team. If it’s a complete mess when they refer back to it in three, five, or even ten years, they’re going to remember your team as a complete mess. That’s why I’m surprised every time a project team doesn’t know about the owner’s expectations for the turnover package. Project teams need to understand if there are contractual requirements for the structure of their turnover package, a preference from the owner, or any other guidelines other stakeholders have in creating that package. If there aren’t, my rule of thumb is to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and organize it by Division/Trade and then Submittal Type. The same federal project I mentioned above was able to create 10 custom turnover packages organized by Division > Spec Section > Submittal Types, with a table of contents (with page numbers), a custom cover page, and all of their slip sheets in 34 minutes. They were able to do this because they had a plan, used Pype Closeout to carry out that plan, and provided an easy workflow for their 23 trade partners to submit their documentation.
As a final tip, I would recommend that teams use technology to automate project closeout. Our platform, Pype Closeout, streamlines and automates your closeout document collection, from identifying and notifying trade partners of their requirements, to storing and organizing submittals for easy review, to compiling it all into a contract-compliant, easy-to-use turnover package that will impress owners. Technology will never replace a closeout team, but it can free up their time to deal with the many other complex situations and problems that arise during closeout.