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  • Filing systems

    This is a long post.

    Ok, to many of you this is going to seem very basic, but I wanted to explore different ways of "storing" our paper data. As Joe always points out on his forum, if your physical system doesn't work, a computer won't fix it.

    So, I am reviewing my filing system for projects, and wanted some feedback, or alternate ideas of what the rest of the construction world does.

    If I have a project, I currently have a hanging 3-ring binder that I store all project info in. I like the 3-ring binder idea, because if I have to, I can take it with me, and it hangs in a regular file cabinet out of view, or can be stored in plastic crates for long term storage. However, most hanging 3-ring binders are only 1", so they get full quite quickly.

    I am thinking of having 2 binders per job, or maybe 3. One for Design, one for construction phase, one for closeout to include items like estimate vs actual and warrantee info/follow up.

    Also, how organized do you keep your files? Do you have a file folder for each "phase" of construction:

    site prep


    Do you separate files for bids and final contracts, or do you all just lump it into one file, and are those by phase/trade? The reason I am asking, is I am hoping to bring someone in this year, at least a part timer (I had one earlier that didn't work out, so we are trying again). As most contractors, giving anything up is difficult. BUT one thing I find is that if things aren't organized, I go a bit nuts, especially if I'm not the last person to have it and I can't find it.

    I'm wondering how detailed to make the filing system so that someone else can, with relative ease, know where to put things, and where not to put things. But, I have a tendancy to overkill, and don't want to do that either, unless it's useful.

    I will then mimic my filing system on my computer for docs there. If there is a possible way to become paperless in the next 2 years, I'd like to, but I think we need to perfect our paper system first.

    Obviously, I think our current system has shortcomings, or I wouldn't be posting.

  • #2
    Re: Filing systems

    Our filing systems is as follows:
    When a job hits production, we create an office folder for all the mundane, and endless invoices for the job[that's field genrated material purchases, and subcontractors' invoices]. Our bookkeeper / office manager files these there as she posts them weekly. The production manager keeps a copy of the plans, project notes, weekly production notes, quote/contract, and company invoices to customers for the job in his job folder [2or3 gem clips keep the docs. in common groups]. The leadman carries his copy of the plans, poject notes,and quote with him as well. All paper work prior to final production documents are kept in the office folder. If the project is long or paper fills up the file, a temporary file holds what's not current in a file cabinet folder. When production closes, and final job cost reports are reviewed, all folders are consolidated to a single job folder. Any duplicate doc. is dumped. Jobs are filed by customer alphabetically by year of production. It's a personally gratifing challenge to make one manila folder go from 1st job review to final job filing for the project. Sometimes packaging tape is necessary for the year long jobs though.Hope some of this process makes sense to you. My office manager, and I have been together for 8+ years. We work well together, and probably do so because we leave each other alone to do our duties. One of us can always find information on our jobs.


    • #3
      Re: Filing systems

      We have one file until right before the project begins. Then we have a job site binder including the drawings. That file stays on site in a visible place so that all employees can find it including the owner. Any changes to drawings or specs can be changed at the job site easily then. At the end of the project the binder is supposed to come back to the office. In a perfect world. I also have on the computer a copy of the job site file in case it's lost. My job files can also get huge. I save every peice of paper related to the job (except for invoices). So any contracts with subs or estimates from vendors go in that file. I even include a copy of all submittals for commercial projects so I know what I've sent.
      I file all my invoices from vendors and subs in my payable files with the check stub stapled to them.
      Payroll check stubs get stapled to the time sheet.
      How do you match up check stubs with invoices if the invoices are filed with the job? I'm a little confused especially if you have an audit.


      • #4
        Re: Filing systems

        I too am trying to go paperless..we presently use a notebook system..d-ring seems to be the best, we can get them up to 3" ...but they set on a shelf..We have 27 different dividers in the notebook, project info, contract, meeting notes, colors, plans,etc .and the CSI 16 sections (for the estm.) and a bunch more... it works great for us... but I want to move to the paperless lap top process....that way we maybe can store info from the job on a CD instead of the back office. Besides I have a real problem with paper... it seems to lay around a bit to much for my liking.


        • #5
          Re: Filing systems

          Maybe this is too in-depth for your needs, but our filing system is as follows:


          1. Bids
          2. Subcontractors (each having a Paid Bills, Administration, and Shop Drawings file)
          3. Pre-Contract Correspondence
          4. Construction Schedule
          5. Contract with Owner
          6. Correspondence with Architect
          7. Correspondence with Owner
          8. Correspondence - General
          9. Correspondence with Project Site
          10. Acceptance Forms
          11. Cash Tickets
          12. Cost Reports - Monthly
          13. Cost Reports - Weekly
          14. Equipment Lists
          15. Estimate for Payment
          16. Estimating
          17. Field Work Order
          18. Insurance
          19. Meeting Notes
          20. Permits
          21. Proceed Orders
          22. Project Diary
          23. Proposals
          24. Punchlists
          25. Purchase Orders
          26. Record of Conversation
          27. Reports and Tests
          28. Request for Information
          29. Safety

          For smaller jobs we condense these as needed (one Correspondence file for everythin for example)]

          Our data files are similar but not quite as detailed. We do not catalog anything not computer-generated on our server, only in hard copies.


          • #6
            Re: Filing systems

            Fantastic responses, thank you all. Sometimes it helps to see what others are doing to help evaluate yourself. Mike, you have outlines similar, although a bit more detailed than I have, I like the way you break a few of the items out that I just have thrown in together.

            Mike, is your bid folder broken out by trade, or do you lump them all together with a bid log on the inside? I think that is what I am going to do.

            Stacy, I do my invoices just like you and it works for me. I have tried the folder on the job thing, but my folder has disappeared too many times for that to be my main folder.

            Here is how I'm thinking of handling the jobsite folder contents:

            Always have most recent Plans
            Changes and additions to plans/scope
            Special Notices to Subs
            Special Notices to Suppliers
            Workmanship Standards (by trade)
            Cleanliness Standards - project wide
            Dispute Proceedures
            Communication Proceedures
            (this is for the owners as much as subs, no subs are allowed to authorize changes without consent of WDBC - not that owners would ever try to have work done outside the contract on the quiet! :-)

            Thanks for your feedback.


            • #7
              Re: Filing systems- long

              This is the filing format/ process I have developed over the last several years as a PM. Keep in mind we do large high end custom remodels and new builds so your mileage may vary.

              Red binder 1.5” D-ring- Employee
              Application for hire
              Accident reports
              Time Cards
              Emergency Contact information

              Blue Binder 2” D-ring- Supervision
              Copy of Contract
              Budget with CSI codes
              Field reports
              Daily Logs
              Inner office correspondence

              White Binder 2” D-ring- Design Team
              Project specifications/ AIA docs
              Owner specifications
              Owner correspondence
              Designer correspondence
              Architect correspondence
              Structural engineer
              Civil Engineer
              Soils Engineer/ Reports
              Special inspection/ Testing

              Black Binders 2 to 3, 3” D-ring- Project Tasks- Subs, Vendors, In house
              Each task has a separate tab organized in a CSI format. We used to use an alphabetical system for the field binders but the accounting & estimating software uses CSI so for consistency we changed to CSI.

              Sub and vendor tabs include the original quotes and take offs, subcontracts w/ scope of work, Pos, Cos and correspondence.

              Appliances, Cabinets and Windows have their own 1” binder. Cabinets and windows go through the most tweaking before they are finally ordered. I have found it beneficial to keep a history of this process in case we encounter any problems when the product arrives on site. The appliance binder also includes all installation specs. These smaller binders also allow employees, subs etc, to pull(check out) the individual binders to use for layout and reference on the job. vs. rifling through a big binder or asking me for copies plus I always know the latest revisions are being used.

              Last but not least is the Green Binder- Change Orders & Purchase Order Requests. Usually a 2” D-ring (I have had to go to a 3” twice) On average we encounter 60 to 70 change orders on each project, some over 100.

              Change orders are processed in three parts- Pending, Approved not logged & Approved logged (entered in to accounting software and assigned a CO#). With this system I can quickly determine the current status of each CO and in the end there is a complete history of the CO. Useful at the end of the job when the client has not been paying attention to the bottom line despite all you efforts to do so.

              Purchase Order Requests are kept in this binder until approved then transferred to the Project Binder. Again this makes it easy to determine the current status of the POR.

              This may seem a bit much but it works very well for us. Quick to access and easy to maintain. We explored the “paperless” solution a few years ago and determined it was not feasible for us. With the binder system the project information is always available on site and easily accessible. I found most digital based filing systems not intuitive enough and required cumbersome file naming systems. A lot of non-digital doucuments did not scan well either. The real clincher for me is that I don’t yet “trust” all electronic systems with my data and find myself printing hard copies anyway.


              Jay Critchfield


              • #8
                Re: Filing systems- long

                Sounds like we all use the notebook system. We use 4 books usually 3” D-ring with dividers. The first is the Design book and it has the same dividers more or less as the construction book. After the design is final we archive all the extraneous info and the design book becomes the office copy of the construction book. On the job site we made some plan boxes/tables from scrap plywood that have a slight angle with a lift up top. We keep plans in these along with the field construction book, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher on the side.

                Our construction book dividers are as follows:

                General Information. We have a database of most of the stuff you need to know on every job like: Owner, lot info, lot number, parcel number, address, setbacks, snow load, soils type, building jurisdiction, info like design review regs, CC&R’s etc. This gets entered in the database and is printed out to go into the book.

                Directory. This is the contact information for everybody involved in the project from engineers to subs and suppliers. We also include listings for building department, fire, emergency etc. In addition to the primary subs and suppliers we also include secondary listings for all the lumberyards and other places we buy from on a regular basis even if they are not the primary supplier so we can call around if needed.

                Owner correspondence
                Owner proposal and contract. The subcontracts are in the section that pertains to that trade.
                Budget and Change Orders
                Schedule. We do weekly updates in MS Project and put these in here.
                Plans. In addition to 24” x 36” plans we also generate 11x17 1/8”=1’ for the books as well as subs and suppliers. We make lots of these because they are cheap and you can make them on the photocopier. We comb bind these with a card stock cover and just about everybody can have a full set of plans. We ask them not to build from them however. We have also developed a “Plan matrix” in our database. This lists all the plan sheets, all the revision/version dates with a little note about the revision or version, the most current plan date and Revision number, who is supposed to get what plans and what size, who got what plans and when. This would be a hassle to do by hand but database does a great job because when a new revision is generated and entered the system generates a list of everybody that needs a copy and a transmittal to send with it. You could probably do the same thing in Excel. We have flat files in the office and plan boxes on the job. We also have a different revision for the design phase vs construction. During design we note revisions with letters (Rev: A,B,C) and after final plan approval we note revisions with numbers (Rev:1,2,3)
                Selections. These are all the fixture and Finish schedules.
                Siding/Ext. Trim
                Plumbing R/I
                Plumbing Fixtures
                Misc Mech. I.e. fireplace, etc
                Interior Trim
                Counter Tops
                Most of the above sections would have the subcontracts, scopes of work, cutsheets, specs, our in-house inspection checklists and reports etc.

                There are 3 copies of the Construction book, office, field and owner. The Owners manual starts out at the very beginning with a lot of info on how to go through the design process, get a construction loan, etc, as well as the same sections as our construction book in addition they have Banking, Appraisal, Invoices/Payments. We ask them to bring their books to all meetings and we add copies of relevant items. This also gives them a place to put all their other stuff. The best thing is you can control their information and make sure they have XYZ change order and they signed it.

                The Billing Book. We have a different person doing Billing/AR so it’s easer for them to have their own book. This has:
                Schedule of Values
                Invoicing/Payments. This has all of our invoicing to the client along with a copy of draw request and all sub and supplier backup if it’s a T&M job, copy of payment, etc. We separate each group of invoicing with a colored piece of paper that you can print on a form with stuff like Draw #, Invoice number, Date, Date Paid, Amount Paid, etc. There is also a space for any hand written notes about that billing. These notes should be entered in your billing/AR package as well.
                Banking. This section would have stuff like loan docs, draw requests, correspondence with the bank, appraisal, etc.

                We keep all AP by vender/sub by year. Copies of payments go on top of the invoices they are paying and go in that vender or sub file. On T&M jobs copies of these invoices would also go in the customer billing book in the invoice section. For lump sum or spec jobs our job cost system can find the invoice in the AP files so we don’t bother keeping them with the job info. We do insist however that every invoice has a job number and cost code on it and not to put items for multiple jobs on one invoice.

                I have more but I’ll stop here. If you want the rest email me or I’ll post if you want.


                • #9
                  Re: Filing systems- long

                  Excellent information!