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When and How to Manage Subcontractors

By Nathan | Posted on

subcontractor management

While subcontractors have been part of construction projects for as long as there have been construction projects, using them has always had its ups and downs. British king Edward I ("Edward Longshanks") had his "master builder" oversee more than 3,000 workers on multiple castle building projects in 13th century Wales. Subcontractors ranged from the usual carpenters and masons to diggers, quarrymen, and blacksmiths. The results? A number of stunning castles. And a nearly bankrupt royal treasury.

So was the problem the master builder, or his methods for managing all of those subcontractors? As "master builders" or general contractors know today, the handling of subcontractors is still a major issue, perhaps even more so than it was some seven hundred years ago. Recent data indicates that a general contractor is far more reliant on sub-contracting firms to complete large portions of a project than would have been the case a decade ago. The shortage of qualified workers is part of the reason for general contractors relying more on subcontractors. Since that situation shows no signs of changing soon, a general contractor will most likely be continuing to depend on on-site workers that are kind of, sort of, but not really the firm's employees.

Pros Of Using A Subcontractor

  • Subcontractor workers are temporary, saving payroll money
  • General contractors normally don't have to provide insurance or training for these workers, also saving money
  • Subcontractors can serve as temporary specialists that firms might otherwise lack

Cons Of Using A Subcontractor

  • Firms lose control over work when using a subconbtractor
  • Firms lose time explaining and overseeing a subcontractors's work
  • Subcontractors often use subcontractors themselves, meaning even less control for general contractors

How to Manage Subcontractors Efficiently

But today’s “master builders” have a tool for managing subcontractors that Edward Longshanks’ did not. Field management software helps to eliminate what has always been one of this industry's biggest problems, communication issues. Raken's daily reporting app allows project managers to pass along updates, warnings, schedules, and required reporting forms to sub-contracting counterparts over frequently used devices such as phones and tablets. This subcontractor management software also allows managers to collaborate in real time on work progress and time-billed reports. This reduces the need for face-to-face physical meetings that cost both time and money. So while general contractors are likely to be reliant on subcontractors for some time to come, tools like Raken mean that it won't cost them a king's ransom to do so.

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