By Dan Carlson, Project Manager

Closing out projects can be a real challenge for many contractors. The process involves several actions performed by the various subcontractors and vendors of the project, and is a critical aspect for every contractor to receive final payment. While the obligations are detailed in project documents and the contract, the closeout process is rarely part of the construction process and not always coordinated as well as it could be; which can lead to costly delays in receiving final payment and total project completion.

The closeout process is as equally frustrating for the subcontractors as it can be for the owners and the contractor. I recently experienced an extended closeout process on a project where the subcontractor was withholding closeout documents until training was complete. Training had been delayed due to scheduling conflicts with the owner, and it became a challenging experience for all involved. So the question becomes, what can contractors do to improve the closeout process?

In attempt to improve the closeout process, I wanted to try our lean strategies with two projects I am currently managing. I am using the buyout process to begin implementing procedures for the closeout process. I suspect that properly and thoroughly communicating our expectations at project buyout will be critical for improving the closeout process.

I have spoken to several of our design-build partners about making the closeout process a discussion topic during the design phases of the project. Understanding the owner’s expectations during design will help ensure that we create a successful and usable closeout process that includes useful deliverables. I have also suggested to our partners that submitting closeouts earlier in the project will be more effective. Closeout submittals can be collected while actively working on the project when project details are fresh. It will also allow for our design partners to review the information and make comments which should help make the documents more complete and useful to the owner.

The subcontractor partners that I have spoken to about our closeout goals seem to be excited to try to make this new process useful. Working together we can eliminate the parts of the process that have proved to be challenging for all of us. I look forward to sharing the results of this strategy upon completion of these two projects.