Tag Archives: Planrooms

Digital Dowload vs Hard Copy

3 Jul

“Thank you for calling BPI, Jim speaking. How may I help you?”

Hi, this is <Customer> from <Company>. Do you have the plans for the <Project Name> project, and how much are they?”

We do have those plans, a hard copy set is <$X.00> with an additional <$X.00> for shipping, or a digital download is available for <$X.00> directly from the website.”

Does this sound familiar? Have you received a call similar to this, or have you made a call similar to this, perhaps to BPI? If so, you’re not alone.

The AEC industry, much like the music, TV, and book/magazine publishing industries is changing. When I started in this industry, digital printing was cutting edge; diazo printing was still the bread and butter. Digital files were asked for occasionally, typically by the architect or owner for their records, but most every project was distributed via hard copy sets. Now, digital copies of project files are regularly requested.

So, when faced with the option of digital or hard copy, which do you choose? Let’s take a look at each.

Hard copy plans are typically easier to read, browse through, show to others, and file with other documents. Hard copy plans are still accepted by municipalities as “archival.” Field notes can be easily added to a hard copy document and shown to all to whom the notes apply, as long as those individuals are in the field with the marked up set. Hard copy plans can typically handle weather conditions such as wind, rain, and snow that may have negative effects on digital media readers/laptops.

However, hard copy documents take up room. Lots of room. Large plans, ‘E’ size drawings, can be a beast to work with, especially in a close-quartered job trailer. Hard copy plans allow only one user to have possession of the document at a time. Hard copy plans are not conducive to collaboration unless all invested parties are looking at the same sheet at the same time. Hard copy plans may require hours or days to obtain, depending on availability of plans and if the plans need to be printed and shipped.

Digital plans are far easier to transport. Laptops, flash drives, even the memory card in your cell phone can be used to store and transport files. Digital plans can be emailed to many users at one time, thus allowing for collaboration across multiple platforms, such as GoToMeeting, Skype, or conference calls, with each person looking at the file at the same time. Digital files can easily be copied and stored off-site. Should something happen to the device holding the digital files, a backup can easily and readily be made available in short order. Digital files can be opened and reviewed on laptops, digital media readers, even smart phones. Digital media can typically be downloaded directly from the site that hosts the plans within minutes rather than longer timeframes associated with hard copy plans. Digital media is more environmentally friendly than hard copy paper prints. Most of the time, a digital set of plans will cost less than a hard copy set of plans. Digital plans are conducive to quickly estimating, utilizing online estimating softwares such as PlanSwift.

Digital files are not, however, the easiest to markup. Markups typically require third party software, as opposed to a simple pen or pencil. However, with the advancements in online collaboration tools (AutoDesk Design Review, Adobe Acrobat, etc.), the learning curve has been drastically reduced. Typically, if one collaborator has a file open and is marking up the file, other users cannot access the file in “real-time,” or they can access only an older, possibly out-of-date, version of the file. If weather conditions in the field are detrimental to the device displaying the files, the device may malfunction and be useless. The same can be said of the power requirements of the digital media device.

This list is by no means complete, but as can be seen, there are benefits and drawbacks to both forms of media. Ultimately, the choice is yours, and will need to be determined based on your company’s ability to download and print files in-house or have the plans printed and picked up or shipped. So, the next time you place or receive a call for a set of drawings and a project manual, remember to ask, “Hard copy or digital?”

Under the Hood – 3rd in a Series

20 Mar

In our first article about Online Planrooms and Digital Document Management, we looked at a broad overview of the services available to help you in organizing and managing your documents.  In our second article, we started to delve into the specific questions as they relate to Online Planrooms and Digital Document Management.  Now we will continue to explore more of the questions that must be asked before choosing a plan management solution.

How can I win more bids and/or track my project?

Let’s break this down into two separate questions: “How can I win more bids?” and “How can I track my project?”  The first part is a little tricky to explain.  An Online Planroom will allow you to easily give more visibility to your project and to reach companies you may not have had access to before.  This is done with an ad in a trade publication or local paper that directs potential bidders to a web portal where your project is housed.  Your customers will be able to review the files and place an order for a hard copy set or a digital download of the files, thus allowing them to more quickly return a bid to you.  More market penetration + faster bid response = (potentially) more bids won.  The actions that are made upon the web portal are tracked, which leads into question 2, “How can I track my project?”

Projects are tracked through the Online Planroom, each project retaining a record of who has looked at the specific project to easily create a Planholder list.  If a plan is viewed, downloaded, or a hard copy ordered, this information is recorded as well.

Are my project documents secure and available 24/7 online?

The short answer to both of these questions is yes.  The files hosted on the Online Planroom can be locked down for viewing purposes only.  If locked down, files cannot be printed or modified without unsecuring them using the proper password.  If a set of digital files is ordered, those specific files are unlocked to allow printing.

As to the availability of content on the Planroom, the files on the Planroom are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Once the files are loaded to the Planroom, they are available for viewing and ordering based on your requirements.  Files are able to be viewed and ordered from any internet capable device – desktops, laptops, tablets, even smartphones.  There is no special software required.

Do I have the right addenda or revision and how can I track this?

Different Online Planroom offerings track this information in different ways.  Some applications file each modification of the file into a separate folder, meaning the Bid Set is in one folder, Addendum #1 is in another folder, Addendum #2 in another folder, etc.  Some Planrooms have a folder that contains the most current versions of the files, thus creating a “current set” of the latest files.  Some Planrooms sort the various document issues into separate tabs, and some Planrooms combine several of these methods giving a greater flexibility to how your plans are to be displayed.

Ensuring you can track who has which documents is an important criteria when selecting the best Planroom solution. The integration of communication tools to notify bidders is another key element which can you save you time and money while allowing the bidders to view changes quickly online.

We hope that this series has helped you to decide whether an Online Planroom offering is right for you.

Taming the Beast

8 Nov

In the last five years, BPI has earned opportunities to partner with prestigious companies on three of Wisconsin’s largest construction projects ranging from $85 million to over $2 billion. One such opportunity included Wisconsin’s largest hospital construction project, while another gave BPI the experience of working with global partners in New York and Japan on Wisconsin’s largest private construction project. A third opportunity includes Wisconsin’s largest public housing development and the largest tax credit allocation in Wisconsin’s history. In all circumstances, BPI is able to deliver customer excellence using a variety of industry tools.

In 2006, BPI began a 4-year partnership with a large health organization in the City of Milwaukee. BPI’s responsibilities included using KIP large & small format copy/scan/print equipment along with various software’s for implementation and execution of the following items:

  • more than 90% of print work
  • online plan availability
  • collaboration with architects, including the lead architect in St. Louis, MO
  • onsite scanning by BPI personnel at customer site of all construction documents at project closeout
  • complete plan index with proper nomenclature/terminology to provide plan description and document consistency

While execution is key, communication is also of critical importance. BPI honed communication skills while partnering with an overseas customer that had headquarters in New York and Japan. BPI’s Milwaukee office hosted several of the customer’s Japanese officials while using all the latest industry tools and knowledge to work through assorted logistics, such as:

  • printing and assembly of closeout and O&M manuals
  • hundreds of thousands of originals sized from 8.5×11” to 36×48”
  • documents including both color and black and white images
  • training of construction site personnel
  • final product shipment to Japanese headquarters

A vital component in both execution and communication is timing. Using DFS software, BPI is able to closely partner with a local housing authority to provide the most up-to-date, quality digital drawings at the construction site. The primary outcomes are invaluable:

  • Having the most recent sets of drawings and documents means timely information is not jeopardized and smooth workflow continues
  • Elimination of inaccurate, poor-quality, or unreadable drawings reduces confusion and onsite errors
  • Contractors had the ability, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,  to find, view, order printed hard copy plans (available from any of our 4 local BPI facilities) or download digital files directly from the site for instant access and print

Large construction projects and printing jobs can become unruly and take on lives of their own. Each project can become a beast that delays progress and affects the bottom line of all parties involved. Leading companies, both local and global, count on BPI’s dedicated and knowledgeable staff to tame the beast and assure execution, uninterrupted communication, and appropriate timing. BPI commits to its partnerships by using the proper industry tools to provide customer excellence from each project’s concept to its completion.

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