Cannot Live Without Electronic Documentation

Posted on May 10, 2010


Integrated Project Delivery can be frustrating for prospective buyers, a.k.a. owners, because IPD is a method defined by degrees of commitment by the team. It is not a black-and-white, you have it or you don’t scenario. IPD is the pursuit toward an ideal with some basic tools in place—and lots of shades of gray.

One of these basic tools is electronic submittals, which falls under construction administration (CA) documentation.  At work I use Newforma Project Center, which does more than CA organization, although there are other programs out there.  Regardless of the software, I cannot imagine IPD without it. Looking back to the markup seven copies and stamp yourself numb days, I am not sure how I got through jobs without going crazy, because it offers an amazing package of value with practically no downside.  This is by no means a comprehensive review of Newforma, only what I use it for and how it helps the project team.

1)  Electronic submittals.  Paperless and searchable (with filters), color-coded markups by discipline and electronic stamps on individual “layers”, and routing sequence control are some of the helpful features.  In addition, auto reminders and real-time tracking almost eliminate the need for logs.  At any time, I can access any page from any submittal from any discipline within seconds.  In conjunction with the “Info Exchange” (secure, non-network place for data swapping), the project team not affiliated with the submittal administrator can be sent submittals with attachments and kept in the information loop.

2)  Electronic RFIs.  Once again, paperless and searchable (with filters).  Tracks all parties copied, all responses, due dates and attachments, and lets you know due and overdue.  Responders can attach photos, pdfs, word documents, and sketches in multiple file formats.  Parties copied can log opinions and comments without affecting the status of the assigned party.

3)  Project email.  Syncs with Outlook to provide a folder where all email can be dragged and dropped.  Newforma then sweeps emails over into archive from Outlook at least once an hour.  All email is searchable by sender, receiver, attachment, date, title, etc.  When email is sent, it can be simultaneously archived in Newforma, or saved separately later.  Newforma only saves one unique copy of each email.  Despite thousands of emails, searching is fast.

4)  Keyword-searchable project archive.  Possibly the most useful aspect of the program, Newforma can search project documents (transmittals, RFIs, spec’s, document sets), email text and attachments, memos, etc. for something as simple as “underground pipe” and provide a comprehensive list of everywhere that phrase appears in the project. It is amazingly helpful for culling extensive meeting minutes, lengthy submittal product data, monstrous design guides, tedious criteria and project criteria.

5)  Electronic transmittals / document set management / action items.  Once again, virtual and very searchable.  Provides a copy of all transmittals in one place; keeps a copy of all record drawings separate for easy access; tracks issues that need action which usually get lost in email or buried in meeting minutes.  Newforma not only manages all project documentation listed above, but project timeline data, team member contacts and it overlays with your network to help quickly access company-specific folders. 

The most successful implementations of Integrated Project Delivery involve the most thorough commitments to the process, and this includes using all integration tools available, such as BIM and electronic documentation. Paperless submittals and CA documentation  save time, paper, postage, ink, physical storage space, and increase productivity by streamlining processes for all involved—no more paperwork bottlenecks; it benefits everyone, including the owner. Ask for it on your next project.