Despite incredible advances in technology, the construction industry remains one of the most inefficient enterprises in the nation concerning labor productivity. (Source: Census Bureau, BLS).
The primary reason for this is because many mistakes are made as a result of information not being communicated clearly. So, how can one improve both communication and efficiency? Besides migrating to more digital platforms, one simple change is to shift the company’s workflow from black/white plans to color construction documents.
Most construction plans are historically printed in black and white. And why shouldn’t they be? After all, that is the way things have always been done forever. However, projects are not created in monochrome, they are conceptualized and designed in color. So, wouldn’t you think that there is value to printing color construction documents? You bet, and it is more impactful than you think.
Color is Everywhere in AEC
People think in color. CAD and BIM software displays information in full color. So, why not print in color?
The problem with printing in the traditional black/white format is that information can easily be lost in translation. This issue is magnified when the design is represented in three dimensions. Since so many AEC companies are now using some type of BIM or 3D modeling software, color communication has become paramount.
The Financial Impact of Mistakes
If mistakes are made during a project because of a bad exchange of information and/or communication, it can have a profound impact on the profitability of the job. In fact, on average, nearly 30% of project costs can be attributed to mistakes, rework, and errors. (The Economist)
The research company Lyra (Now http://photizogroup.com/) has provided a white paper that details the cost savings that can happen as a result of printing construction documents in full-color.
The Lyra Report findings:
- Color documents reduce search time by as much as 80%
- Color construction plans reduce errors by 80%
- Color “blueprints” increase learning and retention by 78%
The Paperless Office – We Are Not Quite There Yet
The flipside of the color construction plan argument is the idea of a paperless office. Why not just eliminate paper completely?
The problem with that concept is that it doesn’t jive very well with reality, especially in AEC. There is always a need for physical wide-format plans. One way companies have tried to get around this is by sharing files either via email or online plan rooms. However, the issue that continually presents itself is that, eventually, someone will need a physical sheet to take to the field.
In addition to file sharing, another way construction companies have tried to support the paperless effort is by incorporating some type of on-screen estimating software. These software applications allow an estimator to handle “take offs” right on the screen. Although there is a value to this, sooner or later a sheet will need to be printed for the field crew.
But, how much more powerful would the construction plan be if it included the color annotations, notes, and measurements created by the on-screen estimating software?
Too many “old school” construction professionals have declared that “you can’t spread an iPad across the hood of a truck at a job site.” So, as novel as it sounds to get rid of large-format construction documents, they are still very much wanted and needed.
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Article originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020