Technology enables state transportation agency to make the leap to digital design review

Earlier this month, my colleague and I presented a session to a group of civil engineers and transportation agencies about the tech trends in the AEC space. Along with advice on how to prepare your plan for controlled collaboration, we also talked through some practical use cases. One such use case was especially interesting, as it outlined a challenge not unfamiliar to government agencies who are contemplating the leap from paper to digital processes: how to securely migrate workflows. 

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April 17, 2014 |
Sasha Reed

Image: courtesy Bluebeam

Earlier this month, my colleague and I presented a session to a group of civil engineers and transportation agencies about the tech trends in the AEC space. Along with advice on how to prepare your plan for controlled collaboration, we also talked through some practical use cases. 

One such use case was especially interesting, as it outlined a challenge not unfamiliar to government agencies who are contemplating the leap from paper to digital processes: how to securely migrate workflows. We shared the story of a state transportation agency who defined a plan, rolled it out, overcame unexpected challenges and successfully made the leap.

Spurred on by government mandates to eliminate inefficiencies and an internal motivation to move away from paper, they carefully planned the transition over a two-year period. In 2011, they made it official and retired all Mylar and paper plans. They also mandated that in order to do business with them, their associates would have to adhere to their digital process. 

The transition wasn’t without some hiccups. About midway through their planning process, they hit a technical roadblock and reached out to us. They were unsure of how to balance open collaboration and document control to satisfy their need for information security and accountability.  

As it turned out, only 25% of their project team members were internal. The rest were external consultants who they relied on for design work. This meant that they needed to create authentication and control processes for digital plan submissions and beyond. They determined that digital signatures were the way to go, and started to require all reviewers to digitally sign their drawings upon submission.

The problem? With requiring digital signatures so early in the process, it inhibited their ability to collaborate with the consultants, and with each other, internally. Anytime anyone commented, revised or added content to the drawing, it invalidated the signature and required a resigning process. It created a complex and time-consuming issue for them, inadvertently creating more work for themselves and their consultants.

Their solution to the issue was to use their Document Management System (DMS) to house the drawings and authenticate and control who had access to the drawings during the review process. It provided a record of who checked the drawings in and out, and when. Leveraging our technology in conjunction with their DMS, they were also able to track who made revisions, and who said what and when.

However, as new content was added and addenda were created, they found a new challenge. They needed a way to view these separately saved files as one drawing set without combining them and invalidating the digital signatures.

The solution to this issue came in the form of our innovation called “Sets”. It’s a way to view and interact with multi-page drawing sets, organizing them as if they were a combined set for easy navigation and search. The key benefit for the team was that they could now view the original signed drawings, revised drawings and newly updated addenda as one digital set without having to combine and invalidate the digital signature on the original document.

They also found that searching for specific information on the drawings and related documents was noticeably faster than before. By leveraging this innovation, they were able to pull the plug on paper and balance security and access to drawing information while creating a ton of efficiencies. 

This is why going digital is such a hot topic. It’s truly a matter of cutting through all of the options and finding the combination that works for you, in your organization.

If you’re interested in reading details on this particular implementation, the agency has published a Digital Project Development Manual on their website as a working guide for all of their constituents.   

Sasha Reed | Digital COM
Bluebeam Software
Vice President of Strategic Development

As Vice President of Strategic Development at Bluebeam Software, Sasha Reed collaborates with leaders in the architecture, engineering and construction industry to guide Bluebeam’s technology, partnerships and long-term goals. She joined Bluebeam in 2007 and co-created the Concierge Approach, a distinctly branded process of customer engagement, product feedback and solution delivery to which much of Bluebeam’s success is attributed, and which today is replicated at every organizational level.

Sasha is known industry-wide as a “conversation facilitator,” creating platforms for exchanges necessary to digitally advance the industry, including the BD+C Magazine Digital COM Blog, which she authors and manages. She’s been a featured presenter at numerous national and international conferences, including the 2014 Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), Federal Project Delivery Symposium and NTI Danish BIM Conference. Sasha also co-chairs the Construction PDF Coalition, a grassroots effort to provide a common industry framework from which to create and maintain construction PDF documents, serves on the City College of San Francisco BIM Industry Council, and is Advisor to the Board of Direction for the National Institute of Building Sciences BuildingSMART Alliance.

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