Two Gretzky-Inspired Process Trends for Builders

By Dan Conery, Vice President of Construction Solutions, Newforma

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky made famous the idea of skating where the puck is going, not where it’s been. If, like The Great One, you want to excel by anticipating where the game is headed, I have two places that builders, architects and engineers should be watching.

Trend No. 1: Paperless Processes
I know it has been found that businesses are using more paper, not less, thanks to computing.  But that’s just a phase, and we’re getting to the end of it. In 2006, I started telling AEC professionals that the day would soon come when they would manage submittals electronically, without paper. Most laughed, but not everyone.

The ones who did not scoff started implementing e-submittals processes that are saving them a per-project average of 220 hours and 54,000 square feet of paper. In addition to time savings, they’re also saving tens of thousands of dollars in printing and shipping expenses. Paper use is on the way out because software has moved on.

It is typical in computing to start by doing the same as was done in the analog world, but to do it digitally. For example, the recording industry first offered digital music by making compact disks, which are nothing but smaller, clearer-sounding records. And the architecture, engineering and construction industry first took advantage of high technology by making software to draw two-dimensional plans – plans that were then printed, same as before.  

But what happens next? That’s the interesting part.

In the music industry, CDs gave way to MP3 files. And in the AEC industry, CAD is giving way to building information modeling, or BIM. MP3 files offer far more flexible, varied ways to be used than CDs did. And the three-dimensional models of BIM offer far more uses than 2-D plans ever did. For example, 3-D models permit you to detect clashes before you start building.  

That’s why paper use is dropping. It cannot do what electronic processes can do. To date, Newforma customers have logged and managed more than 1 million submittals using paperless processes.That’s just a small part of how they’re leaving paper behind, and it’s just the beginning.

Trend No. 2: Integrated Processes
The great promise of managing electrons (digital files) instead of managing atoms (paper and construction materials) is that they’re so much easier to manipulate.

For example, where would you rather detect clashes: in the field, or in a 3-D model?  Clash detection illustrates the way the design process can be integrated across disciplines. You combine models from various project partners – architects, subcontractors and equipment vendors. Coordination of 3-D models requires electronic ways to interact with other team members. That capability is maturing, also.

Now you can get software that not only permits the easy exchange of large files, but logs who downloaded what, when and ties those logs to action items, electronic markups and other parts of project delivery. Instead of having different software to manage different parts of project delivery – pre-construction, project management, and field management – integrated enterprise software is tying all those loose pieces together into one integrated whole.

It is even possible now to find software that gives companies the ability to create seamless, automatic exchange networks for all sorts of files – submittals, RFIs, models, you name it. The files you’ve agreed to exchange just “automagically” appear on each other’s networks, where you expect to find them. Talk about integration!

Where to go from here
If you’re using software that was built to manage paper, think of it as fully depreciated and ready to replace. And if you’re using software that does not integrate with vital systems such as email and your network, look for alternatives. You don’t have to settle.

The puck is well on its way to a new location! Will you be there to receive it?

About the author
Having worn many hats for Newforma since the earliest days of the company, Dan Conery is currently the vice president of construction solutions. Newforma is a project information management software company, focused on helping companies improve building and infrastructure project delivery. Customers in the Newforma Project Network are using Newforma software to manage information on more than 770,000 projects. 

Before Newforma, Dan was with Primavera Systems, where he held a variety of positions revolving around Expedition project controls solutions for contractors and owners. Dan holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Rochester, a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of New Hampshire, and a master of business administration degree from the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at UNH.

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