There are a number of challenges associated with the traditional bidding process—chiefly how data is shared data between subcontractors and GCs (general contractors). A new partnership aims to improve not only the way data is shared, but also the way GCs and subcontractors collaborate during the bidding and takeoff process. This could significantly alter the way GCs and subs communicate going forward.

The integration of SmartBidNet from JB Knowledge Technologies, www.jbknowledge.com, Bryan, Texas, and Cloud Takeoff from To Scale Software, www.toscaleplans.com, Cincinnati, Ohio, will give GCs and subs the ability to work on active bids and projects at the same time, providing a new level of visibility.

The new solution will allow subcontractors to log onto their SmartBidNet/Cloud Takeoff plan room while GCs monitor progress as it is happening.

According to James Benham, president, SmartBidNet, until now, takeoffs have been limited to a single computer and had to be shared by email or traditional file sharing methods.

“Up until today, platforms like ours and platforms like (Cloud Takeoff) were fundamentally separate with some minor integration. What we have done is bring them together so that just after sending the invitation to bid, the sub can log in, view the plan file on the Web, perform the takeoff on the Web, share that takeoff data in realtime with the GC, and collaborate on mark ups, takeoffs, and any kind of comments, and the GC can work on it with them in realtime.”

He says, “So it is going to speed up the entire bidding and plan-file collaboration process—significantly so. It is also going to hopefully improve the way that GCs and subs collaborate with each other on documents.”

This collaboration is just one example of how technology can enable realtime communication and make a real impact on the preconstruction process by connecting construction professionals with the tools they need in a realtime online environment.

In fact, Phillip Ogilby, president, Cloud Takeoff, says partnerships like this are what move the construction industry forward with the big winners being the users in both the GC and sub community.

He says, “I have worked with subcontractors since the beginning. I was a subcontractor originally early in my career. I very much understand not only the pain of the subcontractor, but also the challenge of communicating with the GC around the project. At the end of the day, the plans and the specs are the heart and soul of a project that is being built from the ground up.

“What we are able to do now is bring this all together into an environment where if there are questions about what a sub has taken off or what kind of information has been included, then it is easily shared with the general contractor. There are constantly questions and communications that go back and forth. Traditionally, those are through third-party systems. With what we have built together, all that comes together in one application and the subcontractor can literally zoom in on the plans that he has been delivered by his GC, add some comments and questions, and then the GC can see those comments directly on top of the plans or specs, and then that communication is in realtime.”

The company says by clicking on “Active Sessions,” contractors can collaborate on the same files their subcontractors are working on, without waiting until they are finished. Both parties can add measurements, calculations, and highlights, and see each other’s edits—reducing possibility for miscommunication.

SmartBidNet with full Cloud Takeoff integration will be made available to select users in beta form this August, with an official integration in October.

This technology could help enable a fundamental change in how GCs and subcontractors communicate during the bidding and takeoff process. It will be interesting to see how this technology will help the industry change how collaboration is done during bidding.