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April 11, 2017

How Collaboration Tools are Changing Construction


Ask any construction managers what their office workflows were like ten years ago and most will tell you that paper was king and collaboration happened freely – if you were standing in the same room as your co-collaborators. Needless to say, inefficiencies were common and data was housed in disparate locations, forcing team members to scramble and inaccuracies to be more common than not.

A recent meeting of construction industry leaders convened at the annual Associated General Contractors (AGC) meeting, which in 2016 coincided with one of the industry’s major tech conferences, ConExpo. Front and center of many presentations and discussions was the explosion in BIM usage (Building Information Modeling) on all types of projects, and the importance of maximizing BIM benefits with field technology software that enables anytime, anywhere collaboration.

At United Solutions, we understand the importance of investing in construction technology tools that help drive greater efficiency while eliminating waste, both from the landfills and from within a company’s approach to project management. In fact, new software solutions not only help teams work more collaboratively, but also ensures those teams are adhering to the latest principles of lean construction management.

Building Smarter, Not Harder

Experts agree: tools like BIM are increasingly the norm rather than the exception. Although a handful of users at every company still rely on hard copies of blueprints and drawings, the number of those individuals is dwindling as more teams embrace the benefits of BIM as their go-to collaboration tool. Not only that, but technology-based applications like BIM are having a profound effect in other areas: winning new work.

It’s not surprising. As the economy chugs along, companies considering major building projects are wise to consider the technological acumen of the construction manager or general contractor they are considering hiring. This can make all the difference between a team that operates in perfect harmony or one where it feels like the arms and legs don’t know what the head is doing. Perhaps most significantly, construction companies stand to generate worthwhile cost savings as a result of their collaboration software investment.

Take Providence, Rhode Island-based Gilbane, a USI/Sage Estimating user: their teams have decreased their average labor hours per project by 35 percent. Credit modern construction management technology tools and BIM for sparking the reduction and allowing teams to cross tasks off their list directly from the field.

To understand why this convergence of technology is so significant, you have to dig a bit deeper. It’s not just the efficiency, or the ease of information access. It’s the removal of silos, or other barriers that have kept project managers from being completely in sync with architects or subcontractors – or worse, their clients. With greater access to information across all layers of the team, it becomes possible to create one, coordinated approach to project management. Collaboration isn’t some abstract concept – it’s a tangible application your clients will demand and expect.

Achieving a Tech-Driven Approach

Fortunately, the technology landscape for construction managers, general contractors and subcontractors has been changing rapidly to offer a range of software applications that can help teams reach the highest level of collaborative project management. Some of the most exciting innovations include:

  • Mobile service operations: This solution enables field technicians to stay up-to-date on unfilled project orders, check off work that’s completed and respond more rapidly to customers and project managers. No longer are calls to dispatch required or visits to the home office needed to drop off paperwork – it’s all possible from a mobile or tablet device.
  • Remote time entry: Think about how important accurate time collection is to the health of a job. Now think about how often it’s inaccurately captured. Daily time entry via an employee’s mobile device provides managers weekly totals that are compared to job estimates and job-to-date costs, making it possible to easily identify projects that are in trouble. 
  • Paperless project management: Similar to what BIM has done for blueprints, electronic document management has eliminated the paper chase for project managers. New software solutions make it possible to manage invoices and other critical documents easily and route materials throughout your organization instantly to the people that need it most.
  • Electronic takeoff: Another hallmark of a paper-based era, manual takeoff methods are becoming a thing of the past. eTakeoffs provide estimators sophisticated assembly capabilities, extensive Excel integration, and time-saving features like pattern search to greatly improve the takeoff process.

As companies like Gilbane continue to realize significant cost savings as a result of their software investment, adoption of technologies like the ones above is expected to continue to accelerate. With the added benefits of greater collaboration, reduced paper wastes and ease of information access, it’s clear that programs like BIM are just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to the range of applications that enable construction companies to win more work and drive costs down.

SAGE ANNOUNCES… Navisworks Integrator!

Available NOW!

Navisworks Integrator is an add-on for eTakeoff Bridge that enables Estimators to provide seamless integration between Autodesk Navisworks and Sage Estimating.

This means that Estimators can now use the familiar ‘drag & drop’ functionality provided by eTakeoff Bridge to automate the transfer of quantities and measurements from Navisworks 3D Models directly into Sage estimates!

Navisworks Integrator allows estimators to:

  • Speed up Takeoff from Models: Simply drag & drop Navisworks objects onto applicable Sage Estimating Items and Assemblies in eTakeoff Bridge.
  • Easily Map Objects into your Sage Estimating Structure: Quickly map Object Attributes from Navisworks to variables in your Sage Estimating Items and Assemblies. And, eTakeoff remembers the mapping created. This will increase the speed of takeoff significantly by automatically finding mapped objects, generating quantities, and sending them to the estimate.
  • Calculate Quantities with a Click of the Button: Item quantities are generated and seamlessly sent to build your estimate in Sage Estimating.
  • Drill Down: You can always “drill” back to the originating takeoff object from within Sage Estimating. Bridge will identify the source as 2D or BIM and display the takeoff object that originated the estimate quantity.
  • Compare Models: Bridge will automatically compare Model revisions with the existing model and can automatically detect all changes to the model and revise the estimate accordingly.
  • Perform BIM +2D Takeoff: Switch instantly between eTakeoff Dimension 2D takeoff and Navisworks 3D takeoff while feeding the same Sage Estimate.
  • Leverage One Interface: Estimators can be trained more quickly since they only need to learn one common integration interface for both 2D and 3D takeoff… eTakeoff Bridge!
  • View Audit Trail: The Sage Audit Trail will display a timeline of all takeoff changes as the project progresses.

Contact us to learn more!

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