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Operations and maintenance documentation is a collaborative, realtime process.

All too often, the handover of O&M (operations and maintenance) manuals from general contractor to asset owner occurs almost as an afterthought.

True, the contractor is contractually obligated to provide comprehensive, accurate handover information in a timely manner. True, final payment may be withheld or financial penalties imposed until this information is delivered.

And yet, many owners find themselves operating for months, sometimes years, without documentation—while contractors chase subcontractors, consultants, and other project team members for the information. With this paper chase, the contractor’s hard costs rise and margins shrink, leaving untold opportunity costs for future projects. The contractor has every incentive to ‘check the box’ and ‘deliver a manual.’

But for owners, simply receiving handover information isn’t enough. Incomplete or inaccurate asset documentation has direct financial impact: increased operating costs, insurance non-compliance, reduced asset service life, and redevelopment or resale issues. How can the owner trust the quality of information that the contractor delivers?

On top of quality issues, owners need to access and continually update the documents in order to operate and maintain the asset. This can be cumbersome, whether the manuals consist of three-ring binders, file folders, and rolled-up drawings or CDs of software files with no metadata or data structure. In either case, the information is difficult to find and share, subject to loss or damage, and quickly out of date.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, 60-70% of an asset’s lifecycle cost goes toward operations, and construction engineers can spend 40-60% of their time locating and validating information. For both owners and contractors, the traditional handover process has become a lose-lose proposition in terms of time and money—yet an eminently manageable risk.

Turning Lose-Lose to Win-Win

With cloud-based collaboration technology, O&M manuals can be generated from the start of the project. Automating project workflows on a single, neutral platform enables contractors to request, receive, and review documentation from project team members as they exit the project—not weeks, months, or years later at project end. This minimizes the risk of losing asset information generated early in the project (e.g., breaker panels for electrical power consolidation). Realtime tracking of deliverables gives contractors the control to pre-empt or address issues. At handover, there are no surprises because complete and accurate information has been recorded, verified, and submitted on time.

There are three key phases that define the process of collaborative, realtime handover:

1) Assembly – Early in the project, electronic placeholders for the required documentation are assigned to each subcontractor and consultant. All project team members understand what is expected of them and when it is due for submission. They can add the required documents, when ready, to their respective manuals. The information is then submitted for review and captured in an audit trail.

2) Review – Charts track each manual throughout the project for easy monitoring and progress reporting. Workflows involving consultants and optionally the owner are automated to enhance the intelligence and efficiency of the review and approval process. Documents rejected by the contractor or owner are returned with comments for resubmission and tracked accordingly.

3) Delivery – Completed documents and related project information, such as asset lists, are used to automatically generate a set of interactive digital manuals. Graphical navigation enables team members to search for an asset, determine its geographic location, and retrieve associated information, such as a drawing, schematic, or BIM (building information model). All O&M information is stored securely in the cloud and can be installed or archived on the contractor’s and the owner’s internal networks.

Collaborative, realtime handover seamlessly bridges process and document management for construction projects with facilities management for the resulting physical assets. As such, it provides an integrated, end-to-end solution that keeps owners, contractors, and their project teams on the same page—saving time and money, while ensuring full accountability and long-term value.

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by Aconex