In a recent Journal of Commerce article that I read the author reports on a recent presentation by a document-management expert that discussed the premise that “The construction process from bid to design is paper-based, but adopting current technology can help move companies into a digital workflow”. Sasha Reed, director of account services with Bluebeam Software Inc. says that “When you look at specifications, drawing revisions and how many parties that can get shipped to, it is a no-brainer — there is a lot of paper in this industry. That was not necessarily a bad thing years ago, but with the technology in place now, we do not have to generate as much paper as we did before.” I couldn’t agree more.
Bluebeam is a company that, in their words, “makes smart simple solutions for paperless workflows that leverage the pdf format.” They are absolutely on the right track for providing effective tools that the construction industry can use to manage the growing use of pdf formatted documents for project documentation and communication. 10 years ago virtually every page viewed using our technology was a scanned image. Today, less that 15% of the images posted to our system are scanned. Digitally created pdf’s are the predominant format used. The business case and resulting efficiencies from using digital workflows are overwhelming.
The key issue from my perspective is how to effectively integrate all the various document management activities that are now able to be performed using digital tools. In particular, there is a challenge moving 100% to digital workflows when the reality there are still some unaddressed paper based activities or even more challenging, processes where only some of the parties are using the digital tools with others who are still committed to paper. These are key considerations that our PlanSource technology helps to manage. It is designed to effectively manage and control all documents whether they are the result of a digital workflow or not.
Further on in the article it states “Reed recommends an FTP (file transfer protocol) site for document management of larger files. An FTP site is essentially a virtual storage room. It can provide the controlled access and security needed to download, upload and revise files.” This is the only point in the article that I would take issue with. In other blog posts here I have discussed the many weaknesses of using FTP sites to manage project documents. They are simply inadequate and certainly don’t do anything to bridge the ‘digital divide’ described earlier in this blog post. By all means, take advantage of the tremendous power of tools like Bluebeam, but to be fully effective you need to marry that power with effective document control technology to complete the picture.