Enhanced Video Conferencing

Video conferencing certainly has been widely used in the construction industry for helping teams facilitate meetings across various locations. Being able to incorporate 3D modeling software into the meetings has provided additional value for AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) companies looking to step up collaboration across the project team.

WesTech Engineering, www.westech-inc.com, Salt Lake City, Utah, does construction-management jobs and uses video-conferencing software to communicate with customers before, during, and after the project. Specifically, the company uses the technology to do one-on-one training with remote branches and as a tool to facilitate company and team meetings. The video-conferencing software helps reduce travel and provides more face-to-face time with customers and employees. 

The company is using cloud-based video-conferencing software and online services from Nefsis, www.nefsis.com, San Diego, Calif. For construction companies, the technology can help improve collaboration with dispersed departments, as well as other members in the project team.

Logan Turner, IT supervisor, Westech Engineering, says, “Initially we were using Nefsis internally for meetings with branch offices, which we have around the world … Eventually we were able to branch out and use it with our external customers for bid reviews, spec reviews, design reviews.”

Turner says implementation was easy, since Nefsis hosts the technology. A user simply has to install a client, create a username and password, and login to host a meeting.

The video-conferencing software also allows the company to share the 3D model from the company’s 3D modeling software with the customer. Turner says, “With Nefsis, we are able to share a desktop and the customer is able to actually see it and we are able to rotate it and move it around and answer any questions that they might have.”

In particular, video conferencing can help the AEC industry overcome some licensing hurdles. Modeling software is typically licensed in a way that doesn’t allow one team member to share files with customers—unless the client purchases the expensive 3D modeling software. Video conferencing allows the team to gather online and view the models together through the video-conferencing services. Although the customer ultimately still does not have access to the modeling data.

While companies might be familiar with similar video-conferencing technologies such as GoToMeeting, www.gotomeeting.com, a Web-hosted service created by Citrix Online, a division of Citrix Systems, www.citrix.com, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and WebEx, www.webex.com, a Cisco Co., www.cisco.com, San Jose, Calif., Turner says for WesTech Engineering, Nefsis has been less expensive and had more features for video initially.

From architecture, to engineering, to construction, the project team needs to be on the same page. Technology tools—ranging from collaboration software to video-conferencing services—can provide the industry with the ability to more effectively manage communications across the entire team.