Improving your internal operations

A case study on streamlining construction paperwork

Sometimes, it’s necessary to take a step back from the day-to-day progress on projects and evaluate internal processes. If you’ve ever thought “there must be a better way of doing this,” you have probably identified a potential process improvement project. The improvement we highlight below was initiated by frustration over copying data between forms.

On most construction projects, changes are usually made necessary at some point because of, for example, unforeseen conditions, material substitutions, delays or implementing contractor-proposed efficiency ideas. Because these changes affect the construction contract, documentation is required to capture the change.

The process

When a change is necessary, we list the affected items and use a work change directive (WCD) form and an associated engineer’s spreadsheet to capture the scope modification, associated cost increase or decrease and effect on the schedule, if any.

An example of a work change directive and its associated engineer’s spreadsheet.

On large construction projects, there can be multiple WCDs in a month. At the end of the month, these WCDs become part of the official contract by way of a change order. The charge order captures contract information and the resulting changes to price and schedule, attached to the WCDs and a summary of the WCDs.

An example of a change order and four related work change directives.

As the months progress and additional change orders are issued, our clients often request a summary of all changes to date, sometimes called a “change order log.” This log includes key information from WCDs and change orders as well as the new total contract amount.

An example of a change order log and four related change orders.

And just like that, within a couple of months on large, complex projects, we can have hundreds of pieces of information that must be accurately copied between multiple forms — a frustrating process with a high error potential for even the best contractor or engineer. 

There must be a better way!

The solution

The best approach to eliminate the frustration and errors caused by all the copying back and forth was a simple database. Microsoft Access, a database application, was selected because of its low cost and relative ease of use, but there are other software options that also would have been appropriate. Ideally, this solution would be paired with process changes to combine some of the forms and reduce the number of documents, but this is not an option when standard forms are required.

In the database created, all necessary information is entered ONCE. The database completes the calculations and creates the associated forms. After the database was implemented, calculation errors were eliminated and significant time savings were realized. Thanks to this new approach, creating a completed change order with summary forms, logs and multiple WCDs and engineer’s spreadsheets can be done with one click!

Do you have frustrations in your job that might benefit from process improvement? With a new year starting, there’s no better time to look at ways to increase efficiency and reduce the cost and potential for error.

If you would like to learn more or if you need support bringing your ideas to fruition, feel free to contact Lauren Schroedter at

This entry was posted in Adam Perschbacher on January 12, 2022