According to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, about $16 billion worth of inefficiency
and waste in the U.S. construction industry is due to lack of interoperability – people planning, bidding or building off the wrong information.
With plans being such a critical component of any project, general contractors and developers need to pay special attention to who is handling their information, but this is often an area where they feel they can cut corners or leave it up to the designers to choose the best partner. I’ve heard too many stories where millions of dollars of information – drawings, specs, images, schedules
– were wiped out and lost forever due to a lack of digital infrastructure and interoperability. Even if plans are not lost completely, slow or inaccurate postings and distribution can have a cumulative effect, causing great
expense and delays.
Many builders have started taking a “doit- yourself” approach to information management to save money. Ironically, this strategy can backfire into an expensive, and risky, proposition for builders. Traditionally builders have just been in charge of actual construction while architects have been responsible for design. With the advancement of building information management, this line is starting to blur and builders are starting to incur some liability for the accuracy of the design model. This is risky enough without builders also taking on the liability of accurately distributing the information as well. A competent information management partner is also a risk management partner. They can help not only settle disputes, but prevent them. After 30 years of experience working with general contractors and developers on projects large and small, I have seen the classic pitfalls and money traps that builders who attempt to manage their information without a professional partner go through. I have also seen projects completed ahead of schedule and on or below budget thanks to efficient, service-oriented information management professionals by their side every step of the way. Here are the eight most important things to consider when looking for an information management partner:
1. Risk management experience
Acting as an impartial third-party manager, your information management partner helps mitigate risk for everyone involved. From the developer’s point of view, their biggest challenge when errors are made is being architect and the builder. Somebody has to pay for mistakes and delays, but who – the architect, the builder, or the developer? A good information management partner is an objective advocate for the truth. They can track all activity related to information on a project, no matter how many complicated addenda, change orders or construction bulletins might be layered on. They can provide litigation support, but more importantly, prevent disputes through accurate and timely reporting. Ask your prospective information management partner about their experience helping customers with risk management and get specific examples. Find out if they carry Errors and Omissions insurance. A strong E&O policy conveys that your document management partner is serious about their commitment to your project and accuracy of information.
2. Robust online planroom functionality
All sorts of Internet-based solution providers have sprung up touting a bundle of useful tools, but these tools are usually disconnected and limited. Don’t get distracted by a flashy Web site. Make sure your information management partner’s plan room is built around an authoritative online system with full tracking and the assurance that the image
on the screen is identical to the print image they are planning and building from. Many reprographers’ so-called planrooms are really just simple FTP sites with a shopping cart to order paper through. While robust tracking
functionality is arguably the most important aspect of an online planroom, other key components include high quality image files for accurate online review; the ability to print files on demand; offering multiple file types to enable interoperability; and a strong digital assets team of professionals behind the planroom that will double check every document for accuracy.
3. Don’t be deceived by a low base unit cost
Most construction professionals are taught to look for the lowest price per nail, wallboard or lightbulb. However, because of the changing nature of construction documents, it can be hard to estimate the quantity of information
you’ll generate. Therefore, the best strategy to control costs is to fi nd providers that give you ways to use information more freely. An all-digital approach, although it may appear more expensive out of the gate, will likely save you more money over the course of the project, especially for complicated, multi-faceted projects. Many reprographers have a low base cost, but may charge onerous fees for using the online tools that don’t lead to print. They may charge you extra fees to create work orders via the online system for online review or for other methods of digital access, creating unnecessary barriers to open information sharing. Knowing what’s included in your rate structure in advance will avoid any expensive surprises that could’ve been avoided.