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Print Dead at 1,803

27 Aug

It seems funny when actually thought about, as there are more books being printed now than ever before (750,000 +/-every year).  Self publishing has opened the doors for many would-be authors and crowd-funding has made it easier than ever to get backing for a novel.  Underground magazines seem to crop up on any topic one can imagine, many either crowd-funded or sometimes even just copied on an office copier and stapled in the corner.  How does this have anything at all to do with the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry?

blueprints2We have been in the AEC industry for a little over 50 years.  In the last 20 years we have been hearing rumors that “print is going away”.  Not too long ago we were running set after set after set of ammonia-developed diazo blueline prints.  Then there was shift to the “cleaner” electrostatic black and white prints.  While the images themselves may have been cleaner, toner and paper dust posed their own unique challenges.  Technology has come a long way with the filtering of ozone and toner, up to and including 100% toner efficient, and even full color print capable electrostatic machines.

About 5 years ago, we created a Digital Services portion of the company.  This was a fairly new part of the company, just making its first steps with CD’s and later DVD’s.  We graduated to Flash Drives and FTP sites.  Now we’re using high volume file sharing and transfer sites to move information that would have previously taken hours in minutes (and sometimes even that seems too long).  Again, how does this have anything at all to do with the AEC industry?

In the last approximately two years, we’ve been watching the amount of hard copy prints we print decline as we’ve watched the number of digital sets we distribute increase.  Five to six years ago, when we would receive a request for the digital files from someone for a plan set, we thought to ourselves, “These guys are crazy!” As it turns out, they most certainly were not crazy, they were visionaries, moving in a path the rest of us would catch up to years later.

The Onion wrote an article entitled “Print Dead at 1,803”.  While it was a satirical piece, the message that The Onion was tongue-in-cheek conveying may indeed have a slight ring of truth to it.  In the last 2 years, we have watched as at first there were only a few companies interested in the digital files of a plan set, usually as an “archive set”.  Then it was about a quarter of the companies obtaining sets were digital orders for sets.  Now, fully half, sometimes even up to 2/3 of the number of ordered sets are digital sets.

Does this mean we think print is going away?  No!  We firmly believe that there will ALWAYS be a place in our world for printed media, plans especially.  We think the days of having all field construction on a project done using fully digital plan sets (touch screens & tablets) IS in our future, but we’re not quite there yet.  Who knows, there may be some companies out there who are already there, 100% paper free.  If that’s the case, give the rest of us a few years to catch up.  We may think you’re crazy now, but we’ll think you visionaries then.

What We Learned

23 Jul

Social Engaging

Back in June and early July, we entered into a contest run by the Business Journal called Social Madness.  It was a competition that took companies based on their social presence, put them into divisions and then measured their engagement on those Social Media tools (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +).  We were bumped out in Round 3 – the Milwaukee semi finals – before heading to the National competition (Round 4).

It was a great experience for us internally at BPI Inc.  Here is what we learned:

  • Content Matters – You read articles on the web or tweets from social media experts that say content is just the #1 thing; and you know, they are right.  And it is not the volume of content that you put out there.  It has to be useful to the audience, timely, and add value.
  • Humor – Adding a spice of humor that is not in the main stream also helps.  Our friend Brooke Ballard at B Squared Media hits it out of the park on this topic in this article.
  • Consistency – 12 postings in one day, and then none for 3 days does not help the process as all.  Being able to use tools built into the systems you are using to spread that shared content is very important
  • Selling – Do not sell your products/services in every single post.  It is the easiest way to lose traction that you worked so hard to gain.
  • Perspective – Put yourself in the Readers chair, and determine if what you are sharing is really of any value
  • Listen – This is the hardest part in social media and in life in general.  Need to make sure your ears are clean and you can hear what the readers are saying to you

The energy that was displayed by BPI, Inc. in the social media side during those fun 4 weeks of the contest have propelled us forward.  We are still working hard to stay actively engaged and are really looking forward to the 2014 Social Madness competition.

Fletcher 2 Experience

20 Jun

“I want to send you my project for printing, but it’s a pretty big file. How can I get that to you? It’s too big to email.”

“Can you burn it to a CD, DVD or Flash Drive?”

With those words, the need for an easy, reliable, and fast way to upload files to BPI was created.

The need to transfer large amounts of data quickly, easily, and securely has been a problem for many companies, large and small alike.  In our time at BPI Inc, we have seen the transition of “preferred” data transfer mediums move from 3.5” floppy disks (remember those?) to ZIP disks to CD’s to DVD’s to Memory Cards to Flash Drives.  We have seen electronic file transfer systems evolve from FTP sites to email file transfers to cloud transfer applications like Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and iCloud.

Media Options

While all of these methods of information transfer are still in use today with the exception of floppy disks and ZIP drives (but then again, they may exist somewhere, lurking in the deep, dark corners of the internet…) businesses need a fast, efficient, secure way to transfer large amounts of data.  To that end, BPI Inc has implemented a fast, efficient, secure (noticing a trend here?) tool to allow YOU, our partners, to provide us your files.

Below is a short video that show the Fetcher 2 tool in action.

Now, the conversation is closer to this…

“I want to send you my project for printing, but it’s a pretty big file. How can I get that to you? It’s too big to email.”

“Do you know about our Upload Tool located on our website?”

“I didn’t.  How does it work?”

Down Side of the Cloud

30 Apr

In a previous post, the idea of the Cloud Office was introduced.  In this, the second of our three posts regarding Cloud Computing , we will take a closer look at the potential pitfalls of having your information stored not on a local drive, but in the vast expanse of the Cloud.

Cons:

  • Limited Customization – The entity hosting your information may have a standardized way of organizing your information / folder structures, and it may not be YOUR way.No Cloud
  • The host controls your data – You are at the mercy of the host as it relates to scheduled backups and security updates.  While we’ve all hit the “Install Updates Later” button on our local PC’s, the host may run updates and backups when it is convenient for THEM, not necessarily for YOU.  This may be especially true if the host is overseas or in a substantially different time zone.
  • If the power goes out for some reason, snowstorm, earthquake, lightning strike, you may be able to continue working if your information is on a local server/LAN.  If you rely on the internet to access your information, and the internet is offline for some period of time, your data may be inaccessible.
  • The “Cloud Office” may not be viable for rural companies with limited internet options or smaller bandwidth capabilities.
  • If your company’s internet connection does not support a Bandwidth supportive of your company’s needs, there may be complications, including but not limited to
    • Latency or lag time accessing information (slow response time)
    • May be impractical for uploading/downloading larger files
  • If the host company goes out of business, your data may be lost if there is no plan of action to transfer that data to another company or to your company to look for a new host.
  • Some business owners/operators may cringe at the notion that sensitive data, perhaps including trade secrets or confidential documents, are not locked up on company premises but are floating somewhere in a cloud.  There have been cases where online hosting services have lost supposedly secure data.
  • Some users may wonder about compatibility and security, especially when sharing files with other companies and whether cloud solutions really have as many features and functions as on-premises programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.  For example, an Excel power user who has built a lot of macros and has a high number of cells with built in complicated formulas will find a drop-off in the functionality of those complex macros when switching to cloud-based spreadsheets.
  • Integrating cloud-based products with a company’s industry-specific programs/applications may prove problematic, but the expectation by “Cloud” supporters is that applications of all kinds (industry specific and ‘generic’ programs alike) will migrate to the cloud in the future, as vendors focus on how to make them work seamlessly together.
  • Adoption and training of employees who may be resistant to change and insist on doing things the ‘old way’, such as emailing the file back and forth continually revising the naming convention rather than communally collaborating on a file. Part of this would involve changing the processes and work flows that have been in place for many a year.  Working on the same file simultaneously — a much more efficient and effective way to collaborate – is one of the main benefits of the “Cloud”.

The future third installment will focus on the plus side of the Cloud features

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