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The Paperless Journey

TAKING THE FIRST STEP TOWARD IMPLEMENTING DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

More and more contractors are turning to document management software to ensure crews in the field have the latest drawings to save time, prevent rework and facilitate communication.

“It speeds up information and the amount of information you are able to use in your job,” says Ted Jennings, senior manager of Business Transformation at Barton Malow in Southfield, Michigan, a member of multiple AGC chapters. “There is less confusion about the latest drawings or submittals. There’s better organization.”

An AGC of America/Sage Construction 2021 Construction Outlook survey earlier this year reported 26% of members planned to increase their investment in document management software. And an AGC/Autodesk workforce survey this summer found 28% of respondents had already adopted the software.

A recent survey of 265 U.S. software companies conducted by Coherent Market Research, a global market intelligence firm in Seattle, found a 30% increase in adoption of document management software.

Jennings reports a trend in the past decade away from paper to PDF documents and then to digital files available in real time on a mobile device. And if a question arises, a quick note to the architect can be sent from the software.

SELECTION OF THE RIGHT SOFTWARE

Once Barton Malow began considering deployment of a document management system, a team of employees identified individual and organization needs to be addressed.

Jennings identified a core group of individuals who had worked on various projects. Those people tested different platforms and ranked the software based on how each product compared in fulfilling the 20 or so requirements from the initial needs assessment.

“One of the biggest things were accuracy and speed of the drawings,” Jennings says. “How much time and effort it took to look through the drawings and the ability to view them.”

The team also looked at how the established workflow integrated with the software, for instance for requests for information or punch lists.

Jennings says the team quickly recognized shortcomings in several of the software products the company tried. Three became front runners, which it further evaluated. At that point, Barton Malow added cost to the equation, began piloting the three top candidates and evaluated the quality of the partnerships with each of the vendors. That process took about a year.

Barton Malow decided on Autodesk BIM 360 and is now transitioning to Autodesk Build, which combines features from both BIM 360 and PlanGrid with additional project management features.

“As part of Autodesk Construction Cloud, Autodesk Build makes it easy for customers to utilize one platform from design through construction to turnover to owner operations afterwards,” says Scott Colarossi, senior customer success manager at Autodesk, based in San Francisco. “You want to make sure your software will maximize efficiency and reduce risk through the project’s entire lifecycle.”

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SOFTWARE

Before deploying the software, Barton Malow developed standard practices incorporating the new platform. Then, it began training company employers, subcontractors, owners and architects.

Barton Malow provides their access to the platform, and members of the team with an Autodesk Build license can use their own as well.

“We strongly encouraged our trade partners to work with us on our software, because it streamlines communication and efficiency,” Jennings says. “Collaborating on the same platform reduces duplicating data entry.”

Once launched, Barton Malow required all new projects to use the Autodesk software and other projects could use it if desired. However, some were using software requested by the owner.

Colarossi recommends companies pilot technologies on projects to start, identify who the tech-savvy users are, and then use the skill and experience of the savvy users to expand the technology to the rest of the organization.

Jennings reported that the majority of team members supported the change to the more efficient software and readily adopted it.

“When it makes life easier, it’s easier to adopt,” Jennings says.

The biggest challenge Barton Malow faces using document management and other software is not with the product but with the Internet connections available at the jobsite. Field personnel can use slower cellular connections, but that affects how fast key members can communicate.

As the next best thing to fully connected field teams, Autodesk Build’s mobile field collaboration solution allows for offline work that automatically syncs updates when team members and their devices reconnect to the Internet.

Jennings strongly encourages other AGC members to implement a document management system.

“Technology is changing much faster today than two years ago,” Jennings says. “As platforms are evolving, it requires you to be more vigilant and change faster. You can be left behind faster and easier now.”