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!