Team and stakeholder communication is vital for any construction project. Much of that communication depends on construction drawings that are put down on paper. With the constantly evolving nature of even simple projects, though, changes get made and paper piles up. Inevitably, valuable information gets lost in the shuffle.
Coordinating the organization of this paper takes time-consuming effort from a team that is already short on time. Some construction teams are outsourcing this mundane task and reaping the productivity benefits.
The project manager, Gary Cummins, at one such company, John Hyland Construction Company, sat down with the ARC® SKYSITE team to share insights on how JHC outsourced information management to improve the way they communicate.
Challenge: Siloed Information and a Lack of Transparency
JHC is a construction management company for public and private clients, with recent projects including a student housing building, a community hospital and a public library. Cummins has 40 years of experience optimizing workflows for all phases of the construction process, and has been at JHC for a little over a year. Even before he joined JHC, he was recommending SKYSITE to project managers and project owners.
Cummins was seeking a solution that would help him and his colleagues ensure accurate communication as construction plans changed. Cummins described a school construction project which involved three versions of the same drawings. “We had two or three versions of the same drawings,” he said. “We needed to make sure that any variance from one version to the other could be seen.”
The lack of transparency into drawing variances would have serious implications for the process of requesting bids. For example, when Cummins bid out his drawings, any differences between plans had to be visible. Moreover, he needed unlimited capacity to share the huge files that held these plans.
The variations in drawings also complicated the change order process. Since subcontracts were based on the 95% bid set, there was confusion when several changes had to be made in the 100% permit set. Without a solution, this challenge would lead to costly project delays.
Cummins also told us of the communication challenges construction teams face when plan changes aren’t transparent. Cummins said, “The struggle was related to hyperlinking to RFIs and ASIs so there is one place where the whole OAC team can see and look at the same thing. Everyone thinks they have the same thing and they might not. It’s redundancy at best or it’s inconsistency at worst.”
“The struggle was related to hyperlinking to RFIs and ASIs so there is one place where the whole OAC team can see and look at the same thing.”
During construction projects, hyperlinking is efficient, Cummins says. “This particular project I’m on now has a separate 8.5” x 11” book of details. To be sorting through big, bulky drawings and switching to the separate book is frustrating and time-consuming, but when you can click on the hyperlink and see the section view or detail page it really speeds up research.”
With siloed information and a lack of transparency, contractors risk cost overruns, project delays and time-consuming reworks.
Solution: Centralized Communication for Every Phase of the Project Lifecycle
SKYSITE was built to solve problems like Cummins’s. The solutions to his problems had far-reaching effects, but they were quite simple.
- SKYSITE enabled an overlay process that allowed JHC to publish multiple versions of the same drawings in one viewable overlay.
- Hyperlinking between sections of construction drawings, construction details, RFIs and ASIs gave team members the ability to quickly navigate project documents.
- Unlimited file sizes eliminated clunky file sharing processes for internal and external team members and stakeholders.
- Digital drawings combined with hyperlinking made meetings and collaboration more productive.
- Invite tracking allowed project managers to share and control access for anyone involved with the project.
Results: Readily Accessible Information Throughout the Construction Lifecycle
Simplified bidding process, OAC meetings and file sharing
One of the challenges JHC faced was maintaining transparency between multiple plan versions during the bid process. Subcontracts were based on the 95% bid set, but several changes were made in the 100% permit set. The overlay process created by ARC Projects enabled JHC to publish a set that clearly showed changes between versions. This simplified the change order process because every subcontractor could quickly see drawing variations.
SKYSITE also ensured that every subcontractor was bidding on the same set of documents.
“We use SKYSITE for pre-construction,” says Cummins, “when distributing plans and documents to subcontractors and requesting bids from them. I find that very helpful.”
Similarly, during OAC team meetings, communication was vastly improved. Current plans, RFIs and ASIs were quickly shareable and accessible to everyone. The capability to send unlimited file sizes also meant JHC didn’t have to use FTP sites or other inconvenient file sharing methods.
Easy access to drawing sections and construction details
During a project, team members and stakeholders didn’t have to sort through bulky drawings. The ability to quickly jump to linked sections and details in a digital drawing improved productivity for JHC and their subcontractors.
“Our project engineers, foreman and subcontractors love having access to updated, hyperlinked drawings in the field. It saves time and frustration compared to taking several pages with you, just to find that you needed one more print or that it was the old version.”
“Day to day, being able to simply jump to a section view or to details, saves time and frustration,” Cummins says.
“Day to day, being able to simply jump to a section view or to details, saves time and frustration.”
Every drawing and detail was accessible for JHC and other stakeholders with the ability to send and track invites within SKYSITE.
“SKYSITE is the way to do it. It’s still a paper world, full of redundancy and outdated information. I’d like to get rid of it, but I think it’ll be a while before we are paperless. It makes sense to have a high level of transparency for the whole team, so we can look at the same thing and view updates together. Strong communication enables stakeholders to look at the correct documents. There can be so much confusion with different version of documents–which SKYSITE solves.”
“I look forward to the paperless day, when the construction phase is paperless—starting from the building department and inspectors, to close-out documents.”