Stickney: If reprographers are looking to make the argument for plan rooms in the most compelling way, they simply need to point to the bid process and how customers can leverage the document repository function into the communication and logistics process. Our best customers regularly use the ability of PlanWell or Sub-Hub to not only store the documents and keep them up to date, but to cut bid times by at least 50 percent if not more. They do so by using the ITB broadcast functions, direct-plan ordering capabilities, digital downloads and distribution of plans, and tracking responses to ITB’s. The bid phase is where plan rooms can most explicitly and dramatically prove their mettle.
Schoonover: The use of a plan room and its range of available functionality can be applied in all phases of the project life cycle. An example of a plan room being used to the best of its ability, arguably, is in a traditional bid phase utilized by the construction manager or architect. The bid phase typically involves a relatively brief window of time for contractors to review, prepare and submit their bid. The reprographer is charged with managing the dissemination of thousands of documents and files in a time-sensitive environment, ensuring 100 percent consistency and accuracy of all information to all bidders. In this example, the online plan room is a fundamental approach to communicate project scope, addenda releases, bid date changes, up-to-date bidders list and status, and 24/7 online viewing and ordering capabilities for those who work in the field all day.
What can we expect next with plan room technology?
Magenheim: As plan rooms become more integrated in the day-to-day operations of the construction process, a natural outgrowth will be to use the plan rooms to archive drawings throughout the life cycles of buildings and properties, thus extending the digital convenience and green consciousness well into the future. A well-designed digital plan room can become the sustainable business model for the next generation of reprographers.
Rowe: I believe there will be a migration to a different set of tools and technologies other than straight online repositories. Plan rooms have been around 10 years and are still eclipsed by paper and FTP sites. There are technologies that provide a whole different experience level for the users. The distribution of the information isn’t about it being easy for the reprographer; it’s about being easy for the end user. Clients don’t want to pay you to organize your shop, they need results.
Stickney: Plan room evolution is going to have to embrace the increasing use of 3D information in BIM, match the needs for integrated project delivery workflows, and incorporate features that leverage document use into project management, project scheduling and project costing.
Schoonover: Plan room technology will become more and more popular as the reprographics industry slowly transitions from paper to digital services, as a response to the industry it serves. The technology will naturally become more user-friendly, intuitive and customizable for its users.
Online plan rooms will become an integral part of the project life cycle providing customers with more project management tools, static contact management features, external software plug-ins for workflow integration, and in-office print-on-demand solutions, ultimately increasing the prevalence and acceptance of digital information and digital file distribution achieved through the online plan room.