B.C.'s construction industry is going through a culture shift, as more software document management programs are rapidly putting information into the hands of managers.
“It has to do with the technology culture,” said Patrick Baker, president of Constructive Solutions, which supplies more than 400 construction clients with software programs.
Today’s tech-savvy, younger generation is pushing its acceptance.
“Smartphones laid the groundwork and the tablets were another step,” he said, adding that expectations are you can get any information anywhere.
It has taken the integration of software document management programs beyond the office to become another tool of those connected to a project, said Baker, not to mention the growing efficiencies achieved in time management.
Programs – either custom designed in-house or off-the-shelf – are being used.
There’s a barrage of uses: watch-dogging; forming a common platform, where multiple users can view documents; legal back-up; meeting specific contract needs; and, more recently with the advent of tablets and smart-phones, putting office documents into the hands of field crews. There’s also the old standby of accounting.
“He who has the best documentation wins,” said Enza Bruno, who is in charge of mechanical contract management at Professional Management Ltd.
She uses Jonas Software to focus on accounting because when disputes arise, they are usually about money.
The software program provides the ability to upload contract documents relating to subcontractors, track the costs and revenues of a project, as well as general correspondence like emails.
Good management turns those loose agreements into solid documents, which the courts favour over verbal testimony.
She said that documents can mitigate disputes that may escalate into costly legal battles. While Bruno said some trades take a while to appreciate the significance of proper documentation, she pointed to general contractor PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc., as a company leading the industry.
“They are extremely meticulous,” she said.
PCL developed its own Project Document Control (PDC) system in 2006 using Microsoft SharePoint. It goes beyond control to management.
“There is the ability to expedite collaboration between team members on a project. There is also the ability to put documents in the hands of people in the workforce by using kiosks or a tablet, utilizing PDC” said Jeff Duffield, manager, operations support for PCL, which has a strategic advantage with its own program.
“We can react to the changing environment of PCL specific business requirements,” he said.
The system can use its own cloud on complex projects allowing multiple users, including outside consultants or subtrades, to view documents in a secure environment.
Ledcor has tailored programs to specific end-uses. It built two structures aiming to meet the Living Building Challenge, the ..dSFU UniverCity daycare and VanDusen Botanical GardenVisitors Centre.
Bruce Vasarhely, project manager on the daycare, credited Ledcor’s ability to meet the criteria to construction sustainability specialist Marsha Gentile, who adapted a software program in-house to track documents. The program recognizes when documents are needed, not collected and when information is lacking.
“It helped us confirm and maintain our status and allowed us to simply make sure we didn’t miss anything,” he said.
Ledcor’s Earl McIsaac, senior project manager handling quality control, said the company is currently rolling out QualityWorks, a derivative program of one used by architect Brian Palmquist, who joined the company.
The program tracks ISO 9000 compliance, a standard set by the International Organization for Standards and ensures an integral record.
“You can not edit anything you have done with this program – there is 100 per cent tracking of what you have done,” said McIsaac, adding that is especially important on federal contracts.
Very few construction firms are able to track documents that closely, he said.
When Graham Construction built the P3 Kelowna and Vernon hospital project using Aconex, a web-based software tracking program recorded 585,000 document transactions, 300,000 correspondence items, 13,000 registered documents and 4,500 drawings.
About 700 people had access.
Graham’s Dave Corcoran, vp of major commercial projects, said it helped keep them on top of data regulations, compliance requirements, tight deadlines, and financial penalties for schedule delays and non-compliance.
“It is not the traditional model of software on a server,” said Thomas Mo, Aconex’s Alberta business development executive.
Their cloud technology is for sharing of information and they are viewed as a neutral third party.
He said Aconex can also extract and compile an operations and maintenance manual for any project, once complete.