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Consider Where Project Information Management Software Works and Where It’s Going

Design and construction executives need better ways to manage email, submittals, punch lists and closeout—and they need solutions to work everywhere from the office to the jobsite trailer to the field. Project information management (PIM) software often can meet these needs, but not in multiple locations. 

For example, a firm can buy an app that displays drawings on a tablet. This is convenient in the field, but it doesn’t integrate with the software used in the office to manage all the related submittals, requests for information, meeting minutes, estimates and other forms of project information tied to those plans. It’s the age-old problem of having silos of information.

Fortunately, the industry is quickly developing solutions that integrate project information everywhere contractors conduct work—and what solutions aren’t capable of today already are being developed for the near future. 

Location-Based Considerations
In a corporate office environment, enterprise software for PIM can file emails with other project documents, provide a user-friendly search function, allow file sharing, log downloads, and manage submittals, punch lists, bidding process, action items and documentation handover. Executive dashboards also can be used to easily monitor financial and resource performance across projects.

Moving from a corporate office to a jobsite trailer, the software provides onsite personnel with tools for construction contract administration, such as submittals, RFIs and change order proposals. Enterprise software allows all information in the job trailer to be identical to the information in the office without entering anything twice or waiting to access data.

Additionally, remote access to enterprise software allows field personnel to be prepared for discussions and decision-making. Software never takes the place of face-to-face communication, but it can facilitate conversations by putting reference information at field workers’ fingertips without returning to the trailer. It also makes it easy to record decisions and communicate them to the rest of the team. 

Tying PIM to BIM
Knocking down information silos and integrating workflows is important, but real productivity and risk reduction means finding ways to tie non-graphical project information to information in the building model.
For example, someone supervising crews erecting structural steel may notice the seismic bracing has not been fireproofed. What’s the best way to find out whether that material conforms to specification? Using the right PIM software, a contractor can submit an RFI to the structural engineer that’s almost as clear as pointing to the bracing in person.

Some PIM software can link RFIs with 3-D models. Seeing the cross-bracing in context will improve clarity and create a more complete project record. This allows the owner to receive an enriched document with less risk, as well as a fully informed model—containing an RFI, submittal or email thread—with which to manage the building.

Imagine clicking on a pump in a model to see the maintenance schedules, warranties and inspections linked to that specific item. That’s vital information the owner will value, which makes the contractor providing the model a more valuable partner to the customer.

Many of these capabilities are available today and more are in the works for the future. A wise investment in PIM software will pay off for years in terms of increased efficiency, reduced risk and satisfied owners. 

Dan Conery is vice president of construction solutions for Newforma. For more information, visit www.newforma.com.  

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