With More Complex Projects, Cloud Computing Offers Advantages
The driving force behind this turn of events is hesitancy of architectural, engineering, and construction firms to invest in expensive, complex systems. They are looking to cloud computing and software-as-a-service solutions for bid and project information management, said Shelby Lynn Marshall, business development manager with Lexington, KY-based Lynn Imaging, one of the five firms comprising eDevelopment. The benefits of cloud computing dovetail nicely with the core competency of traditional reprographic firms, she reported.
“Though many of us thought we were in the printing business, we were really in the outsourcing business,” she explained. “We took work off the desks of construction professionals, so they could focus on designing and building. Cloud computing is outsourcing information technology infrastructure to a provider on the Internet. Even though the computer can be almost anywhere on the Internet, construction companies still prefer to deal with a local company. This is where the opportunity exists for traditional reprographics companies.”
Cloud computing is ideal for the integrated project team, and the technology of eDevelopment is built to fit their day-to-day processes.
“It’s not just about printing; for the last 50 years, it has always been about managing information,” Marshall noted. “While we still manage paper processes for some of our clients, we now have more digital solutions in place that manage information throughout the lifecycle of the project.
“We are playing a larger role because the information we manage is much more intelligent than it used to be. It once was just a two-dimensional blueprint. Now it’s not only dimensions readily available, but also light exposure, clash detection, and 3D presentation, to name just a few. The greater the sophistication of the information, the more complex it is going to be to manage. And eDevelopment offers online solutions to manage complex projects.”
Bid Process: Traditional vs. Modern
The traditional bid process versus a digital process can be summed up in the following way, Marshall said. Traditionally, a construction subcontractor printed eight copies of his submittal and shipped it to the construction manager. The construction manager approved the submittal and shipped it to the architect. The architect either approved it, or sometimes had to mark up all eight copies, then stamped them and shipped them to the corresponding party.
By contrast, when the process is digital, the subcontractor posts the submittal electronically, and the construction manager reviews it online, approves it digitally and sends it on to the architect. The architect either stamps it to approve or revises and resubmits. “It all happens digitally in a matter of an hour versus days or maybe weeks for the traditional paper process,” Marshall said.
EDevelopment’s clients do not have to pay huge upfront costs, and its online applications are user friendly and require little training. Applications eDistribution and eCommunication are both online applications, so clients are 100 percent “in the cloud,” Marshall said. They have nothing to download to make the applications run, resulting in the offerings being highly mobile.
One more expert excited about the potential of the emerging technology and the role print service providers will play in that new world is Jay Magenheim, president and CEO of Ideal Scanners and Systems in Rockville, MD.
Once plan rooms had become a commodity, wide-format imagers were giving away their plan rooms and other digital services in order to win orders to handle the printing, Magenheim said. As such, they weren’t getting fair return for offering those services. But when the recession hit, and industries started looking to cut costs like never before, the construction industry discovered the FTP site, allowing them to transfer larger files. Now they could send out files in digital form without having to have them printed, Magenheim said.