Lachmi Khemlani’s latest AEC Bytes newsletter discusses a recent US show, Technology for Construction, which included various conference sessions. Project collaboration came up as a topic (albeit renamed by the participants as "ePM, standing for electronic project management" – another abbreviation to add to the list!), and it seems US experiences are generally very positive.
The US’s General Services Administration (GSA) regards ePM as critical for large organizations needing to reduce the amount of paperwork and increase the efficiency of the multiple projects:
"Its Public Buildings Service is currently responsible for 188 major projects that add to up to $10.7 billion! Of these, it is using ePM on 27 pilot projects, including the $450 M Department of Transportation Headquarters and the $105 M WWII Memorial, both of which are located in Washington DC. No one technological solution was found to be adequate, and the GSA is currently using solutions from 7 different vendors, including Buzzsaw, Constructware, Prolog, and Tririga.
"Having a centralized repository for drawings, documents, RFIs, and submittals not [only] has the benefit of enhanced collaboration but other advantages as well: up-to-date and real-time information, faster and better communication, increased accountability of each team member, elimination of duplicate data entry, reduction in mailing and printing costs, and avoidance of disputes and claims because of the project archive.
"At the same time, there are also challenges involved in ePM implementation such as the reduced band-width at job sites, the question of who takes up the ownership and responsibility of the system, and reliability and security concerns. …
"The real key to reaping the benefits of ePM, according to Kristine Fallon Associates, is universal adoption of the system, elimination of the requirements to use paper documents, and the elimination of parallel systems."
I was pleased to read Lachmi’s concluding remarks about the whole area of technology:
"… looking at emerging technologies in construction as a whole, there seem to be three distinct movements—BIM, ePM, and smart chips. While it is terrific to see so much potential for technological improvements ahead, it is also troubling to see these technologies being developed in relative isolation rather than in conjunction with each other. What we really need are project management and collaboration tools that work with model-based design and construction processes, which in turn incorporate the smarts provided by RFID and other wireless technologies. The benefits this integration of technologies can bring to the AEC industry are mind-boggling and can hardly even be fully imagined."