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The Top 5 Features to Look For in Drawing Management

Every journey needs a roadmap to take it from start to finish. This couldn’t be more true in construction, except that a project’s journey typically requires an entire atlas: a collection of drawings for every stage. But, keeping that collection organized, up-to-date, and accessible is a serious challenge. And, the more folks who need the drawings, the more confusing it gets.

Luckily, there are ways to simplify the drawing management process. Instead of working from paper plans and printing new revisions at every turn, digitized drawing management programs keep everything saved (and updated) in one database. And while adopting a digital future might be the right move, not all drawing management programs are equal, so it’s important to know what to look for. The five features below are a good start. 

What is Drawing Management?

Before discussing its most critical features, it’s important to understand exactly what drawing management is. Drawing management is a digitized, cloud-based system that collects and organizes architectural plans, structural drawings, mechanical schematics, elevations, and other drawings related to construction projects.

As a cloud-based database, the drawings are available from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection. Users can log into the system, peruse the appropriate drawings, and review them or send them without going back to the home office. 

The Importance of Drawing Management

Drawing management has become one of the most influential forms of technology for construction companies. These online-accessible databases allow for better collaboration, less waste both environmentally and monetarily, and smoother-running projects.

When a construction company uses a drawing management program, they’re able to give instant access to drawings to whoever may need to see them. This includes designers and engineers, subcontractors, material suppliers, inspectors, and owners. This type of instant access ensures everyone is always on the same page and working toward the same goal.

Let’s also look at this from an environmental perspective: Digital drawing management means that there is less paper being printed every day. Revisions performed on a computer can be saved directly to the database, meaning users won’t have to travel back and forth to the shop and site for the latest prints, saving gasoline at the same time. 

Drawing management can also help make well-informed decisions faster. Any time there is a design change, the design or contractor can send the proposed change to the customer with the drawing attached. They’ll be able to review the proposed change and the drawing, allowing them to make an informed decision and approve or deny the request.

Drawing management also ensures that the folks actually building the structure are working from the correct plans at all times. With instant access to the latest revisions, users are less likely to be working off of old drawings, ensuring that the project is completed according to schedule the first time. 

The Top 5 Features To Look For in Drawing Management

Choosing a drawing management system goes beyond understanding its importance and role in a modern construction company’s day-to-day operations. The following are some of the best features to look for when shopping for a drawing management system.

1. Add Comments

Traditional paper management systems involve several copies of the same drawings. Management typically makes individual comments on these copies and hands them to the folks who need to see them. This is a lot to manage and there’s no guarantee that everyone will receive their plans along with the notes. But with the ability to add comments for each person who needs to see them to one electronic copy of the drawing, everyone stays in the loop. 

2. Modify and Mark-up Drawings

Just as the ability to make comments is important, so is the ability to modify or mark up plans and drawings. Changes on traditional paper need to be distributed to individual team members while making a change on a cloud-based drawing allows everyone to see the most up-to-date revision without missing the changes. 

But even more important than the ability to mark up the plans is the system’s ability to make those new sketches available for everyone on the job. If an engineer marks up the plan and saves it to the database, the subcontractor who opens those plans will see the marks and be able to act accordingly.

3. Link to RFIs and Change Orders

Drawing management is all about efficiency, and this couldn’t be more true than it is with RFIs, change orders, and other requests. When a user sends an RFI for clarity on a material or design, they’re able to link directly to the drawing in question. This is essentially like the electronic version of stuffing a drawing in an envelope and sending it directly to the customer, only faster. The designer can open the ROI, better understand the question, and answer in a more efficient process.

The same applies to change orders: Any proposed change that might require a CO can be accompanied by a link to the exact drawing in question. This allows users to review the change order, see how it will affect the plan, and make a decision that works for the project in a fast and efficient process. 

4. Track Revisions

Managing revised plans and drawings in a paper system can be a nightmare. First, all of the copies need to be accounted for, and they need to be kept in revision order. They need to be easier to sort through, and to ensure the project goes off without a hitch, the most recent approved drawing needs to be on top. With a drawing management system, this doesn’t need to be so hard.

Digital drawing management systems make tracking revisions a breeze. With the click of a mouse, users can look at older drawings based on dates and revision numbers, or jump ahead to the latest approved version. 

5. Choose Layers

Construction drawings contain a lot of information. But not all of that information applies to everyone who uses those drawings. Comments, notes, and sketches on those drawings can get confusing, but with a drawing management system that allows users to create private layers, users can hide all of the peripheral information and get down to the heart of their job.

With the ability to create layers, designers and project managers can give specific details to subcontractors and other job site personnel. This streamlines the transfer of information, hiding all of the data, notes, comments, and sketches that the sub doesn’t need to see, resulting in a better understanding of the project. 

Why Drawing Management Solutions Are Worth it

Drawing management solutions make a lot of sense, but they’re often an investment that construction companies aren’t sure they want to make. What makes these solutions worth it? 

Realistically, effective drawing management software will begin to pay for itself immediately. Every time that project manager doesn’t have to drive back to the office for a paper drawing, or every time a decision is made faster because drawings are readily available, they’re saving money. 

Consider the cost of performing a few days of work with old drawings and the expense of correcting the mistake. These costs alone could pay for a drawing management solution.

Ultimately, drawing management solutions save construction companies by maximizing efficiency. Companies looking to streamline their processes and protect their profit margins should adopt a solution that fits their needs, and with the features listed above, they’ll know exactly what to look for. To learn more on how Premier can help streamline your business process with this magical tool, contact our industry pros and request your demo today!

 

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Is Construction Software Worth the Investment?

Construction software isn’t cheap, and when it comes to calculating the ROI, it can be difficult to see the upside. Even though it may not be obvious, there are some real, hard benefits to purchasing a construction-specific software solution.

The importance of investing in construction software

Many construction companies start out using general accounting software, like QuickBooks, to manage their finances. Usually, these solutions are effective for a while, but then the business gets busy, hires more workers, and soon outgrows the tool. During this phase, important job and budget cost tracking is often done using spreadsheets, which are prone to errors and don’t always have the most up-to-date information.

As a company continues to grow, they often look to invest in construction-specific software that will help them manage finances and projects within the same software. Investing in all-in-one construction software is important because it:

  • Provides one source for information, data, and project file storage, both in the field and in the office. This improves communication and increases collaboration.
  • Connects the field to the office, eliminating costly data silos, where information isn’t shared across teams.
  • Improves data accuracy by eliminating error-prone spreadsheets.
  • Improves accessibility by providing information for multiple hardware options, from laptops, smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
  • Allows teams to know what resources they have and when – which helps with forecasting.

Why you might not want to purchase software

There are many reasons contractors and suppliers don’t want to purchase new software. It can be difficult to make a change, especially when the current system is “working.” Many workers fear change, even if it will make their jobs easier or quicker. Fear of the unknown keeps many from making any kind of change, even a good one.

Changing software costs money. There’s no way around it, there’s a financial cost to any software system. While it’s important to know how much the software will cost, it’s also important to assess the potential benefits of a new system. These benefits aren’t always obvious and can be difficult to measure. They include reduced stress levels, more accurate information, and increased productivity.

In the short run, employees will be less efficient than they have been. This can be attributed to the training time needed to educate employees and decreased efficiency due to learning a new skill. However, employees will get better as time progresses, continuing to improve their efficiency, and changes in your processes can add to that efficiency.

Why you should invest in construction software

Investing in an all-in-one, project management and accounting, software solution will provide several benefits:

It will streamline and improve your current processes.

When a company is using general accounting software that isn’t specific to the construction industry, employees must often create new processes to track and report on data in the way that project managers or management want it reported. However, by using a solution specific to the industry, many of these processes can be streamlined or even eliminated. This increases employee efficiency and saves time and money.

It will increase productivity.

Employees have only one place to look for the information and documents they need, reducing lost time. Also, with increased accuracy, employees can rely on the information they receive, reducing time spent checking for errors. Data entry errors have cost companies millions of dollars.

Companies will need to hire fewer employees.

With improved efficiency and productivity, workers can be reassigned to other tasks, or a company may find there’s no need to hire additional workers to handle additional workflow. This saves time searching for, hiring, and onboarding new employees.

It improves industry compliance.

Construction companies have additional compliance requirements that other companies don’t. They must comply with hiring standards, contractor insurance requirements, safety requirements, as well as federal and state government pay requirements. An all-in-one construction software solution provides these companies with the tools they need to ensure compliance in all their activities.

It connects the field to the office.

One of the biggest communication breakdowns occurs between the job site and the office. Sharing data between workers in these two locations is key to completing projects in a timely and cost-efficient manner. By purchasing one software that integrates both field and office communication and data, you can save the time and headaches that occur because of miscommunication.

Helps you save more time by providing you with the latest tools.

It provides new tools, like automation and artificial intelligence, to help project teams streamline their projects and mitigate risks before they happen. Automation reduces workload by performing common tasks without human intervention. Artificial intelligence, or AI, helps project teams to predict costs and other risks before they occur so they can address them and potentially prevent them. For example, it can analyze activities and learn which ones cause the most delay or create the most risk and remind users when these tasks will be performed.

An all-in-one construction software solution, like Premier, allows companies to streamline their processes, quickly share information between the field and office, ensure compliance with industry and government standards, and take advantage of new tools like automation and artificial intelligence. To learn more about how Premier can take your construction company to the next level, schedule a demo today.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.