James Benham is the president of JBKnowledge, makers of SmartBidNet, a Web-based bid invitation and management software for commercial construction general contractors.
Transform your construction projects with the latest technology.
Technology has transformed today’s construction processes to involve more automation and less paper, more communication and less confusion and more data integration and fewer errors. From preconstruction to the jobsite, lag time and unnecessary discrepancies can be eliminated. Use these collaboration tools to begin transforming your construction projects today.
Documents and Spreadsheets
Online document editing systems, such as Google Docs, allow you to easily create and share work online. You can create spreadsheets, documents, presentations, forms and drawings, save them online, and invite others to edit and view them. Everyone can work on the files simultaneously, view all editing in real-time and use the comments feature for discussion.
Documents can be downloaded, uploaded, emailed and converted to various file types for centralized storage, sharing and distribution.
Project and General Business File Sharing
Some project files cannot be emailed because of their large size. You can make building renderings, specifications and bid invitation templates all available online to project participants by using services like Dropbox. From a 2 GB free account to a 100 GB subscription, you can upload as many files as needed to this online storage cabinet to give anyone access to the files. And it synchronizes in the background to all connected computers or devices.
Project Meetings and Presentations
Scheduling meetings and finding a common meeting location for an entire project team can be difficult. Services such as GoToMeeting and Join.Me have created platforms that provide an online space for meetings, webinars and training sessions. These services manage invites, scheduling, registering, screen sharing, file sharing, custom URLs and attendee feedback. As long as everyone has an Internet connection, the meeting location no longer has to be an issue.
Chat, Phone and Video Conferencing
With Web-based phone tools, you only need your computer and an Internet connection to call project team members. For instance, services such as Skype provide group video, call forwarding, voicemail, instant messaging and file sharing capabilities with anyone who has a Skype username. You can assign phone numbers to Skype users and allow people around the world to call your computer at that number. These services take “unreachable” out of the equation.
Plan File Distribution and Communication
On average, an AEC project has at least 200 hundred files. The advent of cloud computing has given us the ability to store massive amounts of spreadsheets, PDFs and documents online, where they can be easily uploaded, downloaded and edited. Now, imagine a centralized, paperless file cabinet—organized by project—that no one has to worry about who has the latest spreadsheet. SmartBidNet is just one example of a solution with an online plan room and invitation/communication process. General contractors and subcontractors can edit project files, share notes and request clarifications from anywhere, saving thousands of dollars on bid invitations, plan file distribution and bid proposals.
Collaborative Estimating Takeoff
Editing quantities and communicating edits can lead to much confusion and error when estimating takeoffs. However, cloud technology has changed this, too. With new technologies like Cloud Takeoff, users have the Web-based takeoff abilities and real-time collaboration. This type of software provides editing and sharing capabilities built into estimating takeoff, and it allows multiple people to work on one file, see each other’s work, exchange instant messages, and produce one complete file (eliminating the need to go through 100 inboxes before completion).
Quick, Real-Time Project Communication
Quickly and easily communicating with your project team can be challenging. Group messaging services, such as GroupeMe, WeTxt and TxtSignal, allow you to send group text messages online or from your phone, manage and forward replies and organize thousands of contacts into groups to quickly send project updates and jobsite broadcasts.
Online databases of AEC companies like JobSite123 manage and organize profile data, request information updates and sync with other solutions to keep information current and available to all who need it. General contractors no longer have to search for subcontractor phone numbers and trade codes because this information can be found in a subcontractor’s profile. Users can browse companies, projects and geographic regions and write and read peer reviews of company services.
BIM Model Collaboration
Certain services like Horizontal Glue, bring Building Information Modeling (BIM) to the Web. This service eliminates file exchange issues, sends notices and RFIs, manages clash detection and performs quantity takeoff and budgeting on all models, with everyone involved. Project management and BIM systems can communicate directly and connect general contractors and subcontractors through an online platform where changes can be recorded and all files can be stored for central reference.
Tablets for Jobsite Coordination
From company-wide software to mobile apps, many companies use tablet solutions and have found them beneficial when traveling from the office to the jobsite. Some mobile applications for the iPad, such as Vela Systems Field Manager, sync jobsite issues, safety checklists, communications and employees with the offices responsible for their output.
Construction Business Owner, December 2011