An online document management application that enables contractors to gather, store and share information with employees and outside project participants can save time, boost productivity and reduce the chance of errors while saving on paper and printer ink, and distribution efforts and costs can be considered not only efficient, but green too.
Here are three Web-based solutions, which can help an HVAC office streamline operations in the office and field.
Sage Project Lifecycle Management, www.sage.com, is a new web-based service platform for contractors. It enables effective workflow management, document management, and financial control and communication across an entire project team with project-related information and documentation stored in a secure, centralized location.
The solution features a simple-to-use online project-centric workspace designed to streamline collaboration, improve accountability and reduce project disputes among all project participants regardless of location. It supports seamless communication in real-time throughout the supply chain and construction process. The software allows easy implementation of a uniform standard for written specifications, policy statements, contracts, pro-forma templates, design drawings and other graphics across multiple projects. With the ability to support many types of documentation, from submittals and RFIs to change orders, the software helps build a permanent structured repository of data for every project.
Team members, regardless of their location, can view drawing files online and, if approved to do so, mark up the drawings with a drawing tool, insert comments, suggest potential design changes and draw attention to issues that may trigger a change. Using the software can help resolve issues and problems as they occur and speed revision cycles with easy commenting and approvals. The mark-ups, comments and processes are permanently associated with the document in question.
Project Lifecycle Management supports a full audit trail, with all transactions time and date stamped, enabling a full, indisputable record of who changed what and when. All data is hosted on secure servers, monitored 24/7, with regular system and data back-ups to ensure constant availability of the latest data. Other capabilities include web-based bid management, financial reporting and storage, and easy access of “as built” data from past projects.
The solution supports integrated communication with Microsoft Office Outlook, including a Sage PLM launch point within Outlook, which can link directly to project folders.
Projectmates, www.projectmates.com, is a web-based enterprise-wide solution for managing commercial projects of all sizes, from planning to punchlist. The software was built with customizable features geared to address the challenges of project management in the construction industry.
With more than 40 different modules, the suite addresses document management and sharing, bid management and construction financials, the creation and sharing of RFIs, submittals, daily field reports and site photos, scheduling and work-flow management.
The developer notes that the modular solution also has the capability to track and manage LEED-related tasks for LEED projects, thereby supporting eco-friendly initiatives in the process of building and managing facilities. These capabilities include the ability to track LEED meetings and minutes, documents, scheduling and timelines, calculate and track LEED credit points, and generate more than 200 portfolio reports for LEED construction projects.
Projectmates information can also be accessed through mobile devices such as a Blackberry, iPhone and Windows Mobile. The solution allows users in the field to access project files and discussion forums as well as upload photos, schedules and punchlists.
Offices not interested in online project management, or that want to send large files independent of any project, can take advantage of a growing category of software solutions often referred to as one-click hosting. One-click hosting is a Web service, offered by many different providers, allowing Internet users to easily upload files from their hard drive (or from a remote location) onto the host's server from which others can download them. Some hosts offer basic free services (which carry certain varying limitations and perhaps advertising on the site) and charge for premium services, which have more expansive (and advertising-free) possibilities.
For example, Sendspace Pro, www.sendspace.com, is fee-based, but free of advertising, enabling users to distribute files up to 1.5 GB each that can be downloaded by recipients as direct links anytime, anywhere.
Sendspace servers temporarily store the files securely, making them available for download when required. Users can set up password protection for files and even encrypt them before uploading. Senders can put direct links to the files on their own company Web site or can add a DropBox from which visitors can download the files whenever they want.
Registered SendSpace Pro users pay for the bandwidth that will be used by the recipients in advance in packages valid for 30 days and can limit the time the file will be available as well as set the maximum number of downloads allowed, including single download only. When files are downloaded, the bandwidth used is deducted from the subscriber's account. A free version of the service, Sendspace Lite, supported by advertising, carries a limit of a maximum 1 GB of downloads per day.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].