Cloud-based construction document management is about much more than just lowering printing costs.
Cost is an important consideration for developers and property owners when it comes to choosing a contractor, and, therefore, staying cost competitive is an important consideration for contractors. After all, your ability to control costs directly impacts your ability to win contracts and to deliver on them profitably.
For this reason, cloud-based construction document management is often touted as a cost-control measure. And it’s true that the simple savings on reprographics and printing alone can be significant. But if simply avoiding printing costs is your reason for switching from paper-based processes, you may not feel yet that the benefits outweigh the investment. Whether it’s due to security concerns or simply because the team has “always done it that way,” many contractors continue to run job sites the old-fashioned way.
Here are six reasons why it’s time to consider the switch.
#1: Up-to-date plans
Every contractor and sub-contractor knows that out-of-date plans and specifications are a leading cause of rework on the job site. On sites that rely on paper, each morning the work crews collect the latest version of the relevant drawings and specifications from the job site trailer and get to work, assuming that any relevant updates have been made correctly. The superintendent walks the site with the master plans in hand, making notes and making sure everything goes according to plan.
Meanwhile, the trade contractors may have questions or identify issues related to the current site conditions, and need to communicate those details back up the chain. At the end of the day, the questions, issues, and notes are compiled and any changes needed are communicated. Hopefully, the questions and issues can be resolved and new updated documents are issued quickly and distributed to the team. If, by chance, even one subcontractor ends up operating off an outdated or incorrect copy of the plans, rework is inevitable.
With cloud-based construction document management, the process runs more smoothly. Everyone on the job site automatically has access to the latest version, and any comments made to the document set are sent out automatically to everyone who needs the new information. This dramatically reduces rework (and therefore, of course, cost) and improves construction speed.
#2: Version-to-version redline continuity
All day long, the superintendent walks the job site redlining his or her copy of the documents, both with personal notes to review later, and with more general notes to share with other members of the team.
In a paper environment, these notes are unlikely to survive to the next version of the documents, especially any that he or she wrote for private use. Unless the Superintendent takes the time to sit down and transfer the notes meticulously to the new version, all that valuable site information can be lost.
In a digital environment, however, a superintendent can make notes directly on the documents and carry them over automatically when the document is updated. Likewise, he or she can make notes visible to any project team members who need to see them, and those too will carry over. When an issue has been resolved, those comments can be closed and removed from future versions of the documents — but, importantly, maintained as a record in earlier versions.
#3: Hyperlinked files
On a traditional paper-based job site, subcontractors and other project team members each have a roll of project drawings that they work from, usually relevant only to their own portion of the job. For instance, a subcontractor responsible for a particular system such as HVAC may only carry around the files relevant to that trade. Sometimes, however, it becomes necessary to understand something about the architectural or structural details in order to ensure the system is installed correctly.
In the paper environment, the subcontractor walks to the construction trailer to consult the other drawings and to make the necessary notes. Then back to the construction site to begin the work. When added up over the course of a construction project, time spent walking back and forth to locate the correct files becomes significant.
In a digital environment, files can be hyperlinked within one another so that a subcontractor looking at the plans for the HVAC can easily click through within those plans to view the plans for the architectural and structural details. The best cloud-based document management tools will automatically identify and interpret callout hyperlinks in plans and create the hyperlinks for you. So instead of flipping/clicking through pages, you can drill down right into the information you need. If you want to add even more context to a drawing, you can add markups and even attach a document, like an RFI, to the markup.
Watch this :40 video to see callout hyperlinking in action:
Hyperlinking can also lead to better quality work, as it eliminates the subcontractor’s need to make a decision between saving time and gaining clarification on a related document.
#4: Better security
One reason some companies opt to continue with paper documentation is that they’re concerned about security. After all, if you know where the project documents are physically, you can take measures to ensure they remain private. In a digital environment, the threat of unauthorized individuals accessing your documents may seem more real.
The truth, however, is that digital project files, when properly handled, can be more secure than paper. Digital file controls allow you to put the right information in the hands of the right people, based on permission settings that you control. Permissions can be updated and individuals, roles, or companies can easily be added and removed throughout the project lifecycle.
And as for theft prevention, today’s cloud security technology has advanced beyond the technology of previous years. Consider that the National Security Agency trusts digital file management to store building plans for secure areas–and that this same technology gives even small and mid-sized construction companies access to the same level of security.
#5: Anytime-anywhere access
Design team in China, construction in NY? No problem, with digital document management. But the benefits of anytime-anywhere access go well beyond the design phase. For companies like Van Wijnen (a 1,400-employee construction firm in the Netherlands), anytime-anywhere access on the job site means that construction teams can collaborate and create systems that get the job done faster and better.
On the 13-home residential development where they piloted their BIM 360 Field installation, for instance, installation, for instance, Van Wijnen crews added photos and checklists that they developed on site, which helped teams at other locations work more efficiently. Meanwhile, they eliminated the need for teams to run back and forth to the field trailer for updates.
"We’re gaining a competitive edge from doing things better, faster, and at a lower cost. A house that once took 120 days to build now can be built in 60. This is with normal materials and a typical team." - Peter Hutten General Manager Van Wijnen
#6: Environmental impact
There was a big push many years ago for paperless job sites. Proponents talked about the waste in construction that’s attributable to materials, and found that paper was a significant contributor. While a completely paperless site never truly came to pass, the fact is that cloud-based construction document management does significantly reduce paper waste and therefore environmental footprint. With government agencies and businesses increasingly seeking out green and environmentally friendly building materials and methods, a construction company’s commitment to reducing paper waste continues to play a role in competitive advantage.
Taken together, these six benefits of digital document management on the construction site produce a compelling business case for making the switch. Fortunately, cloud-based construction document management technology has reached a level of maturity that makes it easy for even small construction companies to get into the game and start realizing cost and time efficiencies. What are you waiting for?