Combinder is solely focused on close-out PDF documentation, providing an alternative to SaaS collaboration vendors offering O&M compilation tools as part of a wider system.
The compilation of operation and maintenance information for handover to the owner/operator of a built asset used to involve retrospective collation of large volumes of documentation, with much of the information duplicated across different sections, and often more than copy of the whole O&M manual needing to be delivered.
Early electronic O&M creation
Almost as soon as project teams began to deploy electronic document management systems or Software-as-a-Service ‘extranets’, they began to look at how these might additionally be deployed for handover information. In 2002, the UK’s BIW Technologies* (now Conject, recently acquired by Aconex) was one of the first SaaS vendors to develop functionality that allowed the concurrent compilation of the core element of UK handover documentation, the Health and Safety File.
Almost a decade later, in August 2011, Aconex entered into a partnership with Grazer, an Adelaide-based business specialising in the production and handover of post-construction O&M manuals for clients in Australasia. In June the following year, Aconex acquired Grazer, and in February 2013 launched Aconex Smart Manuals.
BIW/Conject and Aconex were not unique in providing O&M functionality – most of their AEC SaaS collaboration competitors have developed similar functionality. In addition, London construction consultancy Dome Consulting launched Dome Connect, extending the company’s expertise in commissioning management (post); Zutec also built on its O&M compilation expertise to develop a SaaS manuals capability (post); McLaren acquired CAFM Explorer in 2011 to give it a seamless design-to-FM offering (post); and in 2014, I talked to another UK-based provider, Edocuments (post).
In short, this requirement is already being targeted by several SaaS technology vendors, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for others. I was recently contacted by Brenton Wiberg, a partner in California, US-based Combinder. He told me Combinder was ” founded on the pain that general contractors were having at project close-out and how to deal with the O&M Manual data.” He continued:
The traditional 20 binders full of printed cut sheets seemed, and rightfully so, archaic and unfriendly to the environment. So contractors started providing this information on CDs or thumb drives. Owners though didn’t seem to use this and still insisted on printed copies. At some point the advent of “digital dashboards” came in to play which, when paired with an iPad, made the digital versions of the close-out documents much easier to use, but much trickier for the contractor to provide. This is where we stepped in for some generals, but a lot are using Bluebeam for this while others aren’t doing anything at all.
Combinder specialises in organising, hyperlinking, and indexing digital construction close-out documents into a clean, easy-to-use mobile interface, creating a hyperlinked PDF deliverable. It aims to “make it simple for construction managers to deliver LEAN digital operations and maintenance manuals and even simpler for facility managers to use those documents.”
And it makes a virtue of being economical: “There is no proprietary software or perpetual maintenance fees necessary to view your digital O&M, just our relatively small, onetime fee, making Combinder one of the cheapest options available” (pricing here).
[* Disclosure: I was an employee of BIW Technologies from 2000 to 2009. pwcom.co.uk has since undertaken consultancy work for Conject.]