What are Punch Lists?
A punch list (or snag list) is a to-do list of tasks, generally used at the end of a construction process, to ensure that all details of a project are completed satisfactorily. In many cases, the punch list is created by the owner: listing items that need to be resolved before the work is accepted (and the final payment released), but this is not always the case. Many construction companies will often assign a team member to create their own list; both to ensure customer satisfaction and to ensure that reletively minor tasks are completed before they become major issues that will require more time to address. Lists can also come from other sources such as building and permit inspectors, to ensure that work is completed to a required standard or code.
The term “punch list” comes from a time when a hole would be punched through said list when a task was completed; often through multiple copies that could then be distrubuted to clients, contactors, architects, etc. to show that the work had been done. Although there are few companies that use literal “punch lists” these days, many construction companies still do use paper lists, which require a lot of time and effort to create and distribute, often delaying the completion of the list items themselves.
Paperless Punch Lists
Electronic punch lists, on the other hand, can largely automate this process and allow these items to be dealt with efficiently. They can also encourage the use of technology to help both illustrate the issue to be dealt with and to help show proof of completion. If the sub-contractor or tradesperson that will be assigned the task was not on site while the list was being created, the issue may not be properly communicated or understood. A description such as “finish trim in bedroom” can be misconstrued, or the assignee(s) may not be able to find what was left undone. A picture of the bedroom, with the gap in the trim circled or highlighted, is much harder to misunderstand, and a picture can be taken afterwards as part of a service report to help communicate that the work was indeed completed.
A punch list app can help to facilitate these interactions: alerting the appropriate people when an issue is found (with the pictures or documentation to ensure the issue is effectively communicated), allowing the assignee(s) to recieve and submit reports while remaining on site, and even allowing on-site personel to collect signatures from workers and clients through the same app running on a tablet or smartphone. This can create savings not only to ink and paper, but also to travel and time, ensuring that tasks are completed with as little delay as possible, and ensuring that all members of a team are updated on what remains to be done.
Organization and Automation
There are other advantages to shifting any data away from paper in addition to those listed above. Though distribution is greatly facilitated through this process, digitizing data also allows for an electronic record of the project: what was requested and what was done, and by whom. Having tasks listed electronically also allows for the data to be organized and sorted, which can also enhance efficiency. For example, a worker with multiple tasks to complete can easily organize the tasks according to priority, location (especially useful for commercial projects where tasks may be several floors apart), or date (assigned or due) just to name a few.
A well designed punch list app can also take some of the burden off of managers and contractors by reminding their subordinates (via SMS or e-mail) of outstanding issues and keeping them on task. Work can be reviewed as soon as it has been done, and feedback can be instantly delivered back; facilitating greater interaction between on and off-site personel, while still allowing contractors and tradespeople to remain afield when they are needed.