Paper cuts

I spent a couple of hours this morning with a postgraduate student researching ‘project extranets’ as part of his dissertation. Among the topics we discussed was the extent to which construction collaboration technologies reduce the volume of paper used on a project.

Working for BIW, I have seen great variations in the use of paper at a project team or company level and among individuals. At one extreme, you get project teams which are almost solely ‘electronic’, happily using online mark-up and commenting tools, perhaps only printing out a drawing when they need something to show to site operatives. At the other extreme, you get companies who insist on having a hard copy of every project-related communication, and for whom electronic communication almost seems to be an irritation.

(Only last week I visited a project where the project manager criticised designers insistent on annotating drawings by hand, after which the drawing is laboriously scanned to create a PDF and uploaded back to the collaboration platform. Here, the image of the markings and comments must be associated with the initial issue of the drawing, and the proposed amendments cannot easily be extracted for production of subsequent versions of the drawing. Crazy.)

I was reminded of this issue when I read Phil Clark’s latest post, Paper cuts, on his Zerochampion blog. Apparently, he received an email with an attachment that was blocked from being printed out. Now, if that approach could be extended across design teams, it would certainly help ensure that everyone collaborated electronically, as well as reducing the amount of paper generated, distributed and stored by project team members.

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