With new technologies springing up seemingly almost every day, manufacturers of reprographic online plan rooms are facing ever-increasing competition. Another hurdle to overcome is that some reprographers do not use the technology to its full potential.
Wide-Format Imaging asked several manufacturers to discuss their plan room upgrades, how best to use their plan room, and what lies ahead.
How have you upgraded your online plan rooms?
Jay Magenheim, president, Ideal Scanners and Systems, Rockville, MD: We’ve made it easier and more economical than ever before for reprographers to set up and maintain an IDEAL PlanRoom. We now offer fast, remote installation (no need for a tech to come on site) and annual software maintenance agreements that include software updates.
Getting a digital solution up and running quickly and economically is important for reprographers who are looking for ways to replace printing income lost with the downturn in the economy. The recession has forced the construction industry to find ways to reduce printing costs like never before.
The biggest competitors to the reprographic industry these days are FTP sites used by general contractors to download drawing files to subs. The files are then printed locally on wide-format inkjet printers. In some cases, online takeoffs are performed. Unfortunately, with FTP sites, general contractors (GCs) lose control of who has downloaded drawings, so they have no way to ensure that their best subcontractors obtained the drawings. With FTP there is no control that disallows competitors of the GC to download a project.
By offering construction customers a low-cost digital plan room that offers permission-based digital downloads, maintains logs of who downloaded, and enables bid management and quick delivery of bid notifications and revisions, reprographers can recoup lost revenue while enabling their construction clients to save money on printing and maintain control of their bid process. Thus, a low-cost IDEAL PlanRoom becomes a win-win for both reprographers and their construction customers.
Kevin Rowe, CIO, MySmartPlans, Kansas City, MO: We built MySmartPlans from a radically different perspective. MySmartPlans isn’t an online plan room; it is a project-specific application that incorporates many tools, including project repositories that replace the online plan room functionality. With MySmartPlans we ensure that everyone on the project is looking at the same information at the same time, from their desktop not an online plan room. If I’m a project manager, that is huge.
Most plan rooms haven’t changed much at all—upload, download and send to the print department. In fact, there are many that development has been stopped, including several very large systems with a large install base. MySmartPlans currently is running a $40-million dollar project. The information has changed 44 times and we have 511 concurrent users. The information is instantly usable from our dashboard—no downloading file after file, no having to organize it on their desktops, etc. MySmartPlans becomes the projects' communication technology. We also have five other print companies listed from which dashboard users can order the paper. We want to print for them, but we don’t have to.
David Stickney, vice president corporate communications, American Reprographics Company, Walnut Creek, CA: The logistics capabilities of plan rooms are starting to take a lead role in the list of benefits that flow to our customers. We’ve added several complementary technology applications to our portfolio that allow our customers to move documents around their offices, around their companies and around the world.
Amanda Schoonover, account manager, Lynn Imaging, Louisville KY: Online plan rooms are becoming a more significant resource to the architectural and construction industry.