Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Construction Will Never Go Paperless

A lively discussion has been taking place in the Construction Professionals Forum on LinkedIn regarding the future of iPads in construction. The discussion thread titled "How Tablets Will Transform Construction" highlights many of the challenges our industry faces, not just in using iPads, but in going paperless.

In jest I have titled this blog post "Construction Will Never Go Paperless." But at times the challenges to an electronic system feel insurmountable: fragmented technologies, limited resources to invest in new technology, and, well, technophobia. Read on for excerpts from the discussion thread:
"[I]n regards to electronic submittals and shop drawings it seems like the first thing I see people doing is turning around and hitting print to have a hard copy to review."*
There is a tendency among construction industry professionals to be tactile. Often that means printing documents for review and annotation, even if they are received electronically. Also, drawings are printed on large pieces of paper for a reason. There is an incredible amount of information to take in at once. But just as maps are migrating online, technologies that digitalize drawings have the potential to provide more information than a 2-dimensional drawing can capture.
"[T]hese devices require deep pockets."*
Construction teams are not often granted big technology budgets. Despite the fact that technology will often provide immediate returns, teams don't feel they can justify the expense.
"I think [the iPad] has it's place and on a job site isn't one of them. There will be communications of private nature's going on... Thats the same as allowing staff to use their cell phones or pc's for personal usage..."*
To those who think tablets will lead contractors wasting time on the job doing personal tasks,
"They said they same thing about the Internet in the work place. We can receive emails in the field from suppliers or project managers we can troubleshoot electrified hardware that's failed... The money we save in one year alone pays for the four [tablets] that we purchased."  - Darren Patton, FDAI,CSI,CDT
Fortunately, there are voices in the industry that recognize the value of investing in technology and enabling better communication in the field.

But at times, it feels we as an industry have a long way to go...

*Quotes have been anonymized to protect the privacy of LinkedIn members. If you would like your quote attributed, please email mloftus[at] and I will be happy to credit the source!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us your thoughts!

Please note that comments containing links will not be published.