In today’s highly competitive world, no contractor would take on a project without their power tools. According to an online survey conducted by the Contractor magazine, some of the most popular power tools contractors use are: hammer drills (87%), power drills (85%), circular saws (74%), rotary hammers (70%), and reciprocating saws (86%). However, nowadays, with the advent of the cloud (see “Construction Industry in the Cloud” for simple explanation of the “cloud”) savvy contractors use software as the unorthodox “power tool” that can give them a slight edge over their competitors.
Many savvy general contractors have implemented new software technologies in an attempt to cut costs while others still use pen and paper almost exclusively. Therefore, having inadequate tools yields to similar results to being under-equipped on the job site. For example, a nail gun may cost 10 times as much as a hammer, however, every contractor will probably make the investment in order to get the job done in a fraction of the time. Likewise, software tools such as document management and drawing management may cost 10x as much as pen and paper, but they can get the job done much faster, save money, and reduce confusion and rework. As a result, these software tools are cost-effective in the long run.
Document Management and Drawing Management
- What is document management software?
- What is drawing management software?
- Do you need a document management or drawing management? Both?
I have attended several construction trade shows and spoken with a myriad of construction professionals. After numerous conversations with these professionals, I realized that there is a misunderstanding about what document management and drawing management mean. Paradoxically, these two terms are often used interchangeably. Thus, the purpose of this blog post is to define document management and drawing management, explain what makes them different, and illustrate how revolutionary technologies like document management and drawing management can make construction professionals’ lives easier, much easier.
What is “Document Management”?
Imagine that in this box you have three folders:
- One where you store your business documents,
- A second one for legal documents,
- And one more for your personal documents.
Now think of this “File box” as your storage management tool wherein your business, legal, and personal documents are securely kept. You can insert or take out whichever document you need manually. Although this is an easy way to organize your files, you can only store so many before it becomes a hassle to keep up with countless number of documents.
Construction professionals use technologies such as Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive as an alternative to the “File Box, ” because they can store their projects in one place electronically. These device agnostic technologies serve as a much better alternative because they enable you to synchronize, backup, and access your folders remotely and in real-time. Furthermore, you can also share a single document or the entire folder with anyone.
For example, Imagine your boss calls you on your day off for a last minute ad hoc meeting and asks you to bring the legal document for project X, but you only have 20 minutes to leave your home before it’s too late. Right away, you start scanning through scores of legal documents within your legal folder. Because there are too many papers to manually go through all of them, you decide to bring the entire folder with you to the meeting. This would be inconvenient and a liability because you could lose the folder, all of the documents in it, and potentially disclose confidential information to unintended parties.
Alternatively, with a document management software, such as those I mentioned, you would have remote access to your “File Box” so you can conveniently retrieve project X using your computer or smartphone. Furthermore, you could share project X using a secure link that all guests at the meeting could access via email or text (short message service (SMS)). This way, you would not need to make paper copies for the guests at the meeting, which would be very helpful in a “last minute meeting” situation like this one.
In summary, a document management software provides a central location wherein you can securely store all your documents and access them remotely using any device.
What is “Drawing Management”?
“Drawing management is a solution that enables organizations to securely publish, store, and deliver drawings online through other forms of electronic document communication.” (QA Software). When I first read this definition, I thought: “It sounds just like document management.” Nonetheless, drawing management is a subset of document management.
In the aforementioned “File box” example, we had three folders:
This time, imagine you are the owner for a blue wave car wash project.
You choose to store all of the documents that pertain to this project in your business folder. Although numerous revisions will be made throughout this project, you can store all new changes and new documents in one central location i.e. using a document management software. That is nice. But, what if you wanted to quickly reference back to a change made by the architect, engineer, or contractor of this project on a specific date/time? Again, this could be a tedious time-consuming task because you would have hundreds of electronic documents to sort through.
Thus, rather than sorting through all of those documents (as seen above), a drawing management software provides you with an organized labeling process for a quick and easy way to reference documents. Most drawing management systems provide a convenient dashboard view with sheet icons. See picture below.
Rollout, our drawing management platform, allows you to seamlessly track changes and control who checks in and checks out a document. So, as the owner of the blue wave car wash project, you would be able to see the changes made by any of the team members working on this project.
For instance, the changes made by James- the architect of the blue wave car wash project, Matt – the engineer, and Alejandro – the contractor.
You could also filter these changes by date and time e.g. if you wanted to see the changes made by James and/or Matt on April 26th, 2014 (a year into the project), Rollout can help you retrieve this information with a click of a button.
In summary, a drawing management software is a subset of document management. A drawing management tool like Rollout allows you to seamlessly keep track of all changes made on a specific folder, and quickly reference the documents therein.
How are Document Management and Drawing Management Different?
- File Storage: Document management and drawing management software tools provide secure file storage in the cloud, however, the drawing management software offers more than just simple file storage. See d, e, and f.