It’s good to share, we just need to do it more

A single source of truth allows for the current version to be the one people are using and referencing, marking up and sharing.– Sasha Reed, Bluebeam

Joint research by CM/BIM+ and software company Bluebeam shows construction still lags on information sharing. So what should the industry be doing differently, and what are the potential benefits?

With complex projects to deliver and extensive supply chains to manage, information sharing is crucial to the effective operation of construction companies. But few firms have mastered it – yet.

Sasha Reed, vice president for industry advocacy at software house Bluebeam, explains. “Document control is a major challenge for construction firms,” she says. “The well-worn motorway of information sharing between project partners has been paved with paper.

“This outdated business process has resulted in hours of rework and inflated project costs due to incorrect and outdated information sharing.”

When it began working with the construction industry, Bluebeam’s initial goal was to remove the paper and disrupt the status quo of information management, enabling construction customers to keep pace with modern project timelines, says Reed.

“Today, digital documents and PDFs have replaced paper,” she adds, “which has introduced a new challenge: digital information management. So, our new goal is to leverage the success of Bluebeam Revu, our software, and provide a centralised platform for storing and sharing digital information.” 

CM and Bluebeam have carried out a survey of construction professionals, to assess progress on information sharing and collaboration – and it shows there is still considerable work to be done.

Information is most commonly shared in the industry by email. Around 84% of survey respondents use email to share internal information, nearly 70% to share sensitive information with external partners, and 86% to share non-sensitive information with external partners, while 74% get instant access to information via email.

“That’s ok for some information,” says Reed. “And when you maintain a centralized location for those drawings, you achieve the closest thing we have to a single source of truth.” Different types of information require different types of sharing. But a single source of truth allows for the current version to be the one people are using and referencing, marking up and sharing.

Key survey findings

  • 83% of responders use software to collaborate
  • 70% share sensitive info via email with external partners
  • 84% of respondents share internal info via email
  • 83% of respondents say they need to work “whenever, wherever”

Barriers to adoption of information sharing software

  • 18% say budget is a factor
  • 14% point to management hesitancy
  • 15% cite lack of knowledge of available solutions
  • 11% blame lack of support staff

“A simple file-share like Dropbox is a good start, but it doesn’t have the tools for effective administration, easy archiving, and quickly ascertaining who made which changes, and when. Making sure everyone has access to current drawings greatly reduces rework and delays due to confusion on the jobsite or in the planning and review phases.”

The survey results show that many professionals may misunderstand the goals of using software to aid collaboration, Reed notes.

“Some 83% of respondents use software to collaborate but interestingly nearly 50% say they don’t use the software to save money,” she says. “Collaboration and saving money should go hand in hand. Collaborating effectively means less rework, scheduling benefits, and greater buy-in from all parties.”

Some 83% of respondents said it was important or highly important to be able to work “whenever, wherever”. “Whether you’re at a desk or on the jobsite, or on vacation when an emergency comes up, it’s vital to have access to the most current information,” says Reed.

“Again, it’s about democratising the information, ensuring everyone has access without needing specialised software. Designers and construction managers will need different software from a foreman or planner. However, having universal software that allows for the sharing of information and real-time collaboration is a boon, because it unites people on all levels and in all phases of the construction process.

“Revu has become the industry standard for that, as a language that anybody can be fluent in.”

83% of respondents said it was important to be able to work “whenever, wherever”

Key barriers to adoption of software for information sharing were considered to be cost (18%), management hesitancy (14%) and lack of support staff (11%). Another 15% cited lack of knowledge of available solutions.

“Customers rarely measure the cost of continuing to do business the old way. Yet they often use cost as an excuse not to get started. The key is to start small so you can build upon the wins and learn from any setbacks. There are plenty of affordable solutions available with free training tools to help you get started,” says Reed.

While 13% of respondents’ firms outsource CAD and BIM requirements, Reed believes it is still “critical” to interpret the drawings produced. “Being able to open and view complex drawings is one thing.  Searching and focusing in on the details is another. Ideally you want a solution that allows you to do both seamlessly,” she says.

Bluebeam has worked with many construction companies to deliver significant cost and efficiency savings. One customer, North American company PCL Construction, tracked the number of times a single submittal was downloaded, explains Reed.

“They discovered that nine individuals downloaded the same submittal 52 times,” she says. “Extrapolate that duplication of effort across all submittals, RFIs or plan sets, and the minutes begin to add up to hours, creating lots of unnecessary rework.”

PCL Construction decided to link all its documents to the plan set and upload it into Studio (Bluebeam’s cloud-based collaboration platform included with Revu), centralising access to real-time information so project managers and engineers were getting the same information as the foremen in the field.

“Revu is allowing us to bring the industry together, and push the limits further,” says Patrick Goforth, project engineer at PCL.

But the software is about more than just leveraging digital information. It’s also about providing a single platform for creating, sharing and managing digital information – and achieving considerable time savings.

Another Bluebeam customer, south London-based contractor Forcia, noted a significant reduction in the time it took to create and transmit RFIs on a refurbishment project in London after moving from Microsoft Word to Revu.

Forcia used Revu to improve site-level communication by using PDF templates to assemble drawing information, specifications and field images. It was able to ask questions of the architect, engineer or owner, with responses archived in a single storage space.

“Industry-specific functionality like this provides a single platform for connecting the designer with the site manager,” says Reed. “Measuring their effectiveness in terms of time and money, Forcia was able to save on both with every project, which the company credits to the deployment of Revu.”

“Revu was made for our type of business and we were able to take that very intuitive software and get ahead of the game,” says Terry Crawford, construction director at Forcia.

Bluebeam’s intuitive, PDF-based markup and collaboration solutions advance the way technical professionals work and manage projects digitally. Learn more here.

Story for BIM+? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in Analysis