Some contractors believe the primary purpose of a Project Engineer is to digest information flooding onto a project and divert it to the proper channels—a seemingly indispensable role. But what if technology comes to work so well that the information routing is automatic and the inefficiencies we now battle in our workflows disappear? Will Project Engineers disappear too?

I don’t really think so: I have no doubt Project Engineers are here to stay. But I do believe their roles will shift in response to the paperless jobsite movement, if that movement can overcome its own hurdles of inefficiency that currently exist. To do that the movement needs coordinated industry guidance to advance to the next logical stage.

As a Senior Project Engineer at Skanska, not only do I manage information related to my projects, I also share experiences and help project teams develop new digital processes to streamline and improve communication. We are constantly running towards the goal of working smarter, faster and more efficiently, and like many other general contractors nationwide, we are working towards going paperless. To do that, we are using PDFs and tablets more and more.

The PDF has become the way we access and edit information, create RFIs and submittals, and even create and distribute punch lists. PDFs are enabling us to save time by finding and documenting information more quickly, while simultaneously helping to improve overall project communication by eliminating reliance on outdated drawing sets and allowing us to maintain a single, digital, source of truth.

As many GCs know, however, the current PDF experience differs from project to project simply because design firms and their consultants do not generate PDF documents in the same way or with the same tools.

Some PDFs come to GCs after having been directly converted from CAD applications with bookmarks, hyperlinks, searchable text and pre-existing viewports. Others are scanned from paper with no metadata transferred from the original CAD application. The difference in file quality and fidelity results in process inefficiencies and wasted time, primarily because there are no industry guidelines for PDF creation for construction.

That will soon change.

With support from Bluebeam Software, developers of PDF markup and collaboration solutions for the AEC industry, Skanska is forming a coalition of general contractors throughout the country around the banner of “All PDFs Created Equal.”

On August 1, in its first meeting, coalition members Balfour Beatty Construction, BNBuilders, DPR Construction, Hoffman Construction Company, McCarthy Building Companies, Mortenson Construction, Skanska, Stiles Corporation and Turner Construction Company will meet in Los Angeles to discuss the first phase of this project: determining the PDF qualities that GCs need so that we can more efficiently communicate and collaborate on digital documents. From drawing size to file size, vector content to layer density and more, we will be outlining and explaining why certain aspects of PDF file creation are crucial for effective use in the field.

Bluebeam is supporting the coalition by helping it reach out to PDF super-users and by providing the meeting space, which is the facility it will use for its own Bluebeam eXtreme Conference on the following day.