No Paper Drawings? Going Paperless Is An Innovative Step Forward

Flipping through piles of papers is not an option when Lucian Earle needs to make markups or look through project drawings – and that’s a good thing.

Lucian, a Project Coordinator, is part of a Walbridge Southeast team working on a paperless job site – meaning they use a touchscreen computer in the trailer for all updated documents.

“The centerpiece of our trailer is the 60-inch touch screen television that serves as a monitor for the laptop connected to it,” Earle said. “Using our project dashboard, the most technologically-challenged can access any project document.”

Earle added they are finding time savings when a bulletin is received from the A/E. It is also helping streamline communication by the project team.

“Contractors have been open to the idea and find the ease of its use to be relieving,” he said. “Tapping through a few screens is a lot easier than heaving sixty-pound drawing sticks around.”

Although contractors still print sheets for the field, this is an innovative way to merge construction and technology.

“We are at that point where it is becoming cost-effective and everyone wants to buy into it since most people live on our smartphones or tablets,” Senior Project Manager Scott Ashe said.

In fact, many contractors have found it easy to use.

“Walbridge personnel can review a drawing with a contractor, zoom in, add markups and print so the contractor can take it back to the field for their use,” Earle said.

Senior Superintendent Jim Marttila said in years prior utilizing this kind of technology was not cost efficient. Now, with lowered costs, it is the perfect time to combine proven, efficient processes with time saving technology.

“Now, I have the current drawings instantly and don’t have to worry if it’s the latest and greatest,” he said. “I also have the ability to access it on the field.”

It is imperative for contractors to see the information quickly and up-to-date but helps in other ways too.

For example, Marttila explained it benefits the customer directly because of the ease of use.

Creating the usable monitor on the job site started with an idea to build a virtual drafting table featuring contract documents, submittals and RFIs. Through time and use it was honed, with additions of logistics plans and vPlans.

Ashe hopes for more touchscreen implementation with contractors.

“Now, we need to push to see what else we can do.  There are solutions out there for job boxes with touch panels instead of having paper sets in the field,” Ashe said.  “It would help end subcontractors working off of the wrong set of drawings or losing drawings and keeping up to date with the new RFI answer that issued a sketch, changing something on the drawing.”

Marttila recalled how only a decade ago some projects could have several hundred drawings a week, a large contrast to his current work.

“Now, I don’t have a need for a filing cabinet in my office in the trailer,” he said with a chuckle. “I just need a folding table to sit down at and I have all the up-to-date documents in front of me.”