A Tech Plan for Your Plans

November 30, 2012

What to do at bid day? That is the question many contractors struggle with on a consistent basis, as the costs and complexities associated with paper-based plans and documents continue to be a drag on the overall process. Digitized documents are nothing new to the construction industry, but technology providers are coming to the forefront options to make such a move more attractive than ever before.

As of late we have seen some new partnerships bring forth new developments to the market. For example, back in August Barryhund Online Plan Services, www.barryhund.com, Sacramento, Calif., a Web-based plan room solution, and SmartBidNet, which is developed by JB Knowledge Technologies, www.smartbidnet.com, College Station, Texas, announced a deep level of integration between their respective platforms with the intent of reducing limitations that some plan rooms bring to the table.

With the integrated platform, users can have two-way exchange of information between the online plan rooms and SmartBidNet’s Web-based prequalification, subcontractor management, document distribution, and bid invitation solution.

Another option comes from On Center Software, www.oncenter.com, The Woodlands, Texas, and its On-Screen Takeoff PlanViewer. This allows contractors to download and view all available and updated documents for projects in a digitized format.

On a smaller scale, a newer option comes from a company called Buckaplan.com, www.buckaplan.com, Waterbury, Conn. Designed to become an electronic source for copies in the construction market, the service provides digital documentation for construction companies of all sizes and types for a mere $1 each electronic file (plus delivery).

Brian Burke, who launched the service, believes this digital documentation service was a natural extension of his reprographic business. Burke says the service fills a need for construction managers, contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, and other real-estate professionals.

Using the service, companies upload plans, and Buckaplan then prints and delivers. Such an option can be ideal for a small, specialized operation that is looking to digitize documents in a cost-effective manner.

One customer, S&L Plumbing and Heating Corp., www.slplumbingheating.com, Brewster, N.Y., uses the service in order to print plans for projects that it is bidding, as well as to make copies of plans for current projects. According to S&L Plumbing and Heating, its need is more about turnaround time than it is about quantity of copies, and believes this service fits that need.

According to Burke, the service is able to produce standard architectural and engineering size, high-quality documents and works from industry standard .tif, .pdf and .dwf files. Naturally such a service seems to be an ideal fit for smaller, more specialized firms looking for a cost-effective alternative to larger automated services.

When it comes to working with digital documents, the construction industry has many options at its disposal. It will be interesting to watch how the market develops even further in the coming year.