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I’ve been asking general contractors to tell me their biggest information management problem in the field. They consistently respond with the same concern—“We need access to our current project documents.”

There is no bigger waste of time than having to march to the trailer to retrieve the latest version of the relevant floor plan or specification, find out if a submittal has been approved, look up an answer to an RFI (request for information), or find the contact information for a project team member.

Traditionally, contractors have tried to maximize their time in the field by taking everything with them—drawings, specification books, cameras, notebooks, pens, pencils, blue tape, the works. But who can carry all that? You need four arms. Or a mule.

Laptops and smartphones ease the burden, but each has its limitations. Laptops are surprisingly unwieldy in the field. Smartphones are incredibly convenient—until you have to view documents or enter data.

Fortunately, in the last couple of years, digital tablets—especially the iPad device—have proven wonderful for accessing and managing information in the field. In addition to being portable, they provide the tools for contractors to access, view, mark up, distribute, and create project documents.

Newforma Mobile Suite
Newforma is developing a Mobile App Suite to put comprehensive project management capabilities on a tablet. Newforma apps will integrate with our enterprise software to synchronize the office with the field.

For example, our plans app integrates with the document control functions in our enterprise software. That way, the app automatically downloads the latest plans and specifications and their key attributes, as they’re updated, assuring the tablet user of always having current data.

In addition to opening documents on your tablet, you’ll be able to use built-in markup tools to annotate the document and distribute it to fellow project team members.

Other apps in the works:
• Punch List app for capturing and managing punch list items
• RFI app for creating and reviewing requests for information
• Submittal app for reviewing closed submittals
• Project Team app for viewing a list of project team members
• Action Items app for creating and assigning action items to team members
• Daily Report app for creating reports in the field
• Site Visits app for recording site visit reports
• Field Notes app for collecting photos, videos, text, and audio clips that supplement punch lists, daily reports, and site visits

Fewer steps, clearer path
The contractor’s days of walking back and forth between the jobsite and trailer are soon ending. By syncing Newforma Mobile Apps with enterprise software in the office, you’ll have access to all of your key project documents. Just as importantly, you’ll have tools to communicate and collaborate with your project team in ways that are easier, clearer, and more seamless.

You might call it a step in the right direction.

by David Wagner, senior product manager, Newforma