Bringing Your Punch List Into the 21st Century


Market Analyst

Whether you're the general contractor of a major construction firm or a local home builder, the completion of a project's "punch list" is the final barrier between you and receiving payment for your work. The explosion in popularity of smartphones begs for a solution to the traditional, low-tech way of approaching a construction project's punch list. Punch list computer software has existed for years (even for mobile phones). But none of the current construction project management software is maximizing the technology available on smartphones today. This is how we'd like to see smartphones, and specifically a punch list app, bring traditional punchlist into the 21st century.

What the Punch List App Would Look Like

Imagine you're a general contractor and you're entering the punch list phase of a construction project. Instead of lugging building plans, compliance codes, pads of paper or even a large tablet PC to the job site to record information, you're able to slip an iPhone with a punch list app into your pocket. As you conduct your walk through, you're only seconds away from creating an entry to your punch list.  A couple of taps brings up 3-D floor plans; you manipulate the 3-D model with your fingers until you drill down to your exact location in the room; tap the specific problem area, tag it's location, take a picture and quickly fill out a form describing the problem.

In addition to being able to draw on the plans themselves, the app would also allow you to draw lines or make marks on the pictures you've taken. Because you're using a smartphone to record information, you can log information more quickly than pen and paper and store more of it. Once a punch list entry is created, the information is shared with the appropriate subcontractor. To reduce the number of communications, punch list entries can also be grouped and sent out as one notification. Information sent to the subs could include:

  • Job site location
  • Geo-tagged photos of issues
  • Automatic voice-to-text transcription of audio notes
  • Requested completion date
  • Digital signature request
  • Compliance notes for building codes
  • Automatic schedule/calendar updates and notifications when tasks are completed
  • Vendor price comparison for supplies

As subs complete tasks, the schedule is updated and notifications are pushed out to the other subs. This push notification would be especially useful for subs who are waiting on others to complete tasks. For example, as an electrician completes their work, they update the punch list app and the drywall company is immediately notified to begin work. The app would also be great for organizing employees on large job sites. In fact, with a group of connected employees on site, a general contractor could tap into employee locations via a GPS-enabled punch list app and assign tasks to the nearest employees. How impressed would a customer be if you addressed a problem by immediately tapping into a mobile punch list app and directing the nearest employee to solve it?

From Paper to Pixels

The technology of a punch list app would get the buzz, but the app's true power lies in it's ability to streamline communication and organize information. Traditional punch lists are recorded separately, often using completely different recording mediums. Some take a pen and paper to the job site; others an audio recorder; still others snap pictures. Logistically and organizationally, this is a nightmare for all involved.

Opportunities for delays exist at nearly every stage of the process. Information is spread out among building plans, handwritten notes and stray photos. Not to mention dozens of people.

What if every one involved in the punch list recorded information in the same mobile program, communicated instantaneously and received updates in real time?

This is exactly what our mobile punch list app sets out to accomplish. Instead of each party waiting for updates from the general contractor, everyone is continually updated by the punch list app. More importantly, the updates are entered in the same way by each sub – through the app's form. No more piles of paper and unorganized work orders while you try to interpret a subcontractor's personal punch list system. Subs can better plan their schedules knowing when jobs will be complete. GCs can check the overall status of a project by seeing how many punch list tasks have been completed. If a sub contractor hasn't completed a punch list item, the app could even sync with a company's accounts payable department to withhold payment. Everyone is living in mobile harmony.

What features would you like to see in a punch list app?

  • Hal

    Very nice! Although we’re teaching our clients how to have a zero punchlist. But, the vast majority of builders aren’t learning. Still, I’ll tweet and blog next week.

  • Keith

    Being in construction for the last 20yrs, I enjoy seeing technology find its way into what is generally construed as a low tech field.

    My biggest concern is would the app be able to cross multiple operating systems for mobile phones. I use a Blackberry, but I know contractors who use iPhones, Windows based phones, and now with the Palm Pre out the use of many different smart phones on one project is not only probable, but likely.

    I really like the idea, and have always embraced using ways to “work smarter, not harder” as my father taught me.

    Looking forward to hearing more about it!

    Keith Bloemendaal

  • Robert McIntosh

    Interesting and I believe great minds think alike. We have produced the majority of your specifications into our PunchList application FinishLine. Currently our solution is not yet to the smart phone level but on a tablet pc. All data and drawings are stored on a central server and field staff collect the data online or offline and sync to the server if conditions require. Ultimately until they solve wireless signal issues (Wifi, Cellular or otherwise) in the 3rd level basement electrical room of a building at 60% completion with concrete and steel walls, floor and ceiling, practicality calls for a offline and sync solution which is beyond the smart phone capability for now. We are working on a smartphone module specifically for “lite” situations and for back check inspection. Thanks for the great article.

  • John Chubb

    Have any looked at Latista system. Also a tablet PC based punchlist and sounds very similar to Finishline but might be more robust of an application.

  • Towner Blackstock

    Sounds a lot like Field2Base for tablet PCs. Great software; I’ve used it, and have a number of construction clients who are very happy with it.

  • Di

    Have you created the app yet?

    • Chris Thorman

      @ Di

      I’m not an app developer. Wish I was though!

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