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How Software Can Help Solve Construction Drawing Revision Problems

by Chris Lee | October 23rd, 2019
You’ll never eliminate changes in construction, but you can mitigate the inherent problems that come with managing revised drawings with the right technology in place.  Estimating Frustration It’s a familiar scene … an estimator receives a bid request for a project that he’s very interested in bidding. He spends a couple days performing a takeoff and gathering his material and subcontractor quotes. Then, right when he gets his sales price put together, boom, he receives a revised set of drawings. After he probably takes a deep breath, he now reviews the new drawings to finds drawing changes when compared to the original drawings and we're not talking about title block or drawing number changes, but the changes that affect his scope of work and even submittals turned in with his construction documents. Even with a meticulous eye for detail, it’s not obvious where all the drawing changes are located. Adding and removing the changes in scope feels a lot like finding a needle in a haystack – but will be a lot more costly. So, the frustrated estimator decides the smart thing to do here is to takeoff the project again. He’s already familiar with the set of drawings and wants to be completely sure he doesn’t miss anything. It’s a wise decision but means the first round of effort is essentially throwaway work with the new drawings and revised construction documents. Now in all too typical fashion, just as the estimator finishes the takeoff – again – he receives yet another drawing revision with a new set of drawings and must start all over – again – on the takeoff. This is next-level frustrating! Finally, the estimator gets a solid bid in front of the General Contractor, and thankfully, gets awarded the project. Domino Effect of Drawings The estimator isn’t out of the woods yet, either. He’s getting small addendum changes and asked to provide impact in cost and scope for review, again. He must compare his original drawings to the new set of drawings, so he can create appropriate change orders and ensure his team is not working on an old revision number that could affect their scope of work, previously created submittals --- that would end up in requiring rework which eats into his profits and is frustrating for everyone involved.  What we have in this common scenario is a domino effect of inefficiency that results in unnecessary risk. Despite the estimator’s fastidious attention to detail and getting on-target takeoff, estimate, and bid information together … field teams may yet execute on out-of-date information, negatively impacting project costs and schedule. This situation is rooted in two interconnected problems. Paper-based processes and out-of-date plans are at the core of suffering for contractors with the revision blues. Let’s explore…  Paper Drawings As we depicted in our scenario above, the design concept changes as the project progresses. These changes occur often (even daily) which means that the original drawings are quickly outdated with a new set of drawings. With paper drawings, someone will physically receive information then make duplicates as needed, collate and annotate by hand, and then physically disseminate to the project team. It takes significant effort and time to keep drawings up-to-date and maintained in the job trailer, which is critically important because it’s the only current set! Plus, contractors need space to house paper drawings, which comes with a price tag – along with expenses for reprinting and redistributing drawings. While expensive, the process is almost impossible to manage in a timely way. So despite best intentions and effort, many teams still end up with outdated information as changes fell through the cracks and mistakes crept in. Without a proper system to manage these changes and plan revisions, construction companies will produce further inefficiencies, more errors, and waste more time and budget trying to identify what went wrong and how to resolve problems. Version Control While original drawings are changed and marked up, team members must have immediate access to the most current drawing set. Working off of outdated drawings wastes time, creates confusion, and often spurs unnecessary frustration and expense. In fact, more than a headache, rework costs the construction industry billions of dollars every year – and a large part of that cost is due to problems with version control and the multiple sets of drawings issued throughout a construction project. When project team members are not working with the same set of plans – and the most current set of plans – they will predictably have to grapple with uncertainty, miscommunication, and chaos. Make It Better With Tech It’s essential that construction companies address and prevent delays and miscommunications between those in the field and those in the job trailer or office. Cloud-based software equips you with the technology to communicate effectively and confidently manage design changes from the field to the office collaboratively For one, that pesky paper problem is minimized. Digital plans are more accessible because they can be retrieved from the cloud anytime, anywhere. Plus, contractors can reduce printing costs for revisions and save considerable time otherwise lost to manually updating information – and no longer will numerous notations be crammed into a single sheet to save on printing costs. Furthermore, streamline the process by distributing digital drawings to team members. Not only does that incur no incremental cost, it allows instant communication so individuals are notified about changes in real time and are sure to work from the same, current set of drawings and details. Plus, technology eliminates the time-consuming, error-laden manual process of updating plans. As the project progresses, easy access to digital drawings in the cloud allows project teams in the field to quickly review sheets, mark up affected areas of drawings with annotations or comments, approve changes, and then distribute updated information to the entire project team in just minutes. Rest assured everyone involved is always working from the most recent plans, which can prevent costly mistakes and rework. And of course you’re driving greater efficiency by having anytime, anywhere, any device access to critical project information.   Conclusion With convenient access to the most up-to-date version of digital drawings, team members can work more efficiently and collaboratively because there is less confusion and friction and better accountability and understanding. Plus, save time with more efficient pre construction efforts, as well as have more productive project meetings by making decisions without delay, since accurate information is at your fingertips and team communication is immediate. By implementing a cloud-based system to cure the revision blues (and avoid expensive problems), construction companies can efficiently manage project drawings and maintain version control, as well as ensure team members have access to up-to-date drawings, easily distribute information and notifications, and organize plans for effective management and communication. And of course, improvements should begin with pre construction processes for faster and efficient takeoff and estimating. For example, with Esticom, estimators can take existing plans that were used to takeoff the project, and overlay the new drawings, which makes it much simpler to add and remove missing items from the scope of work. This literally saves days of time in taking off the project again because now the estimator only has to add or remove what has changed, versus trying to compare multiple sets of drawings. Be sure to contact Esticom to learn how construction takeoff & estimating software in the cloud can help you save time and streamline processes for a true competitive advantage. 
Chris Lee
Chris Lee has an extensive background in preconstruction management as a former specialty contractor and business owner. As the Chief Estimator at Esticom, he’s helped thousands of specialty contractors digitize their preconstruction process to increase revenue and profitability while decreasing unnecessary overhead.

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