By Pape Fall, Director of Quality Assurance
You’re cleaning up after dinner and doing the dishes. You rinse off the last fork and put in the dishwasher — all done. But then you walk back out to the table and see a plate and two glasses still sitting there, even though your kids said they cleared all the dishes. You carry them back into the kitchen and see someone has dropped another dish right into the sink. Your job still isn’t done. At home, this kind of back and forth to get a job done can be frustrating, but overall, not a big deal. On a commercial development, it can cost time, money, and cause you to miss your substantial completion deadline.
This is where the punch process comes into play. I think the punch process is seen as a standard, less exciting part of construction and not always given the attention or consideration it deserves. By definition, the punch process is when a contractor walks a building and makes a list, or punch list, of any work that has yet to be done or issues that need to be fixed. They hand that list to their trade partners who go do the work and check off each item. Then, the team repeats the process until they get to zero items. It’s the way it’s always been done. But what happens if the contractor doesn’t take the time to coordinate the inspections, organize the punch items, and control the site once work is completed? Think back to washing dishes. Uncompleted work gets left off the list. Or completed work gets damaged and not accounted for. It can be extremely inefficient at the final stage of the project, when owners are ready for their building to be complete.
A Better Way
What’s a better way? Our teams have been successful at improving the efficiency and efficacy of our punch process by planning and coordinating it like they would a critical path task. One of our teams building a 520,000 square foot, 750-bed student housing development is using technology to improve their punch process. The team uses their handheld devices and our construction management software to create digital punch lists. They can take a picture of the issues, assign the work directly to a trade partner, who gets an alert with a due date sent straight to their device. Once the work is complete, the trade partner can send a picture right back and mark the item complete. This process eliminates any confusion or possibility that assignments get lost in translation. Our team can monitor the punch list and its progress and send out reminders if the work hasn’t been done yet.
On another multifamily project, our team is tackling the daunting punch process of a 34-story tower with 365 units with an innovative five-point punch process. After developing the punch list, our team had each unit and space inside building thoroughly cleaned so we could clearly inspect the entire building to develop one, complete Contractor punch list. After our trade partners had time to complete the punch list work, we held a 15-minute walk prior to our owner walk-through. This gave us time to spot anything that was damaged during the punch process or the final cleaning and resolve every issue. This thorough process allowed our Owner to focus on ensuring the finished building matched their vision and expectations, and not catching items we missed.
In addition, our team is using keypad locks on all units after the punch work is complete and controlling who has access to the codes. This process allowed us to control who enters finished units, reducing the potential for damage to finished work — a simple step to maintain the cleanliness and integrity of our completed work.
Our company operates under the mindset that we are always in process. We’re always looking to find a better way. I believe our teams are finding better ways to complete the punch process, leading to increased quality control and faster speed to market for our clients. Our industry often focuses on finding new technology and leaner methods to speed up construction, but by applying that same innovate thinking to the punch process, we can achieve substantial completion sooner with less rework — a tremendous value for our clients.