When you think about the industries that are on the cutting edge of new technologies and innovations, the construction industry is not likely the first to enter your mind. In fact, the construction industry has often been hesitant to change – reticent to embrace new technologies that will change the status quo and upend, “business as usual.”
While the rest of the organizations that make up the AEC lifecycle have embraced new technologies, construction companies are falling behind – much to their detriment. The construction of a new building or infrastructure project requires the collaboration and coordination between multiple, disparate parties – from those making the plans to the different trades working (often simultaneously) to bring them to life.
Ultimately, the more data that can be available and shared on a construction site the better informed, up-to-date, connected and coordinated those constructing these projects will be. The less coordinated and informed, the more miscommunications, errors, cost overruns and schedule delays there will be. This has created massive opportunity for disruption in the industry, and an equally massive need for advanced construction technologies that can help combat these challenges.
One of the innovative companies with a solution to these construction conundrums is PlanGrid, a provider of construction software solutions. The company, which was founded by construction engineers with deep knowledge of the challenges facing the construction industry, has introduced a Construction Productivity Software suite that effectively allows contractors and owners in commercial, heavy civil, and other industries to work together throughout the project lifecycle.
The product is so transformational and revolutionary, that the company was acquired by Autodesk at the end of 2018. To get better insight into the issues impacting construction, the benefits of the PlanGrid solution and the impact that this acquisition will have on customers of both companies – and the broader construction industry – we recently sat down with Stuart Frederich-Smith, the company’s VP of Product Marketing. Here is what Stuart had to say:
GovDesignHub (GDH): Can you tell our readers that may not be familiar with PlanGrid a bit about the company and its solution?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: PlanGrid is a leading provider of construction productivity software that empowers general contractors, subcontractors and owners in commercial, heavy civil and other industries to efficiently work together throughout the project lifecycle. PlanGrid’s software helps keep the field and the office on the same page with real-time access to the latest project plans, punch lists, daily reports, submittals and other critical information.
Headquartered in San Francisco, the company has over 400 employees and was recently acquired by Autodesk. We will be working closely with the design software pioneer to offer a comprehensive suite of cloud-based construction products that connect the office, trailer and jobsite.
GDH: Why was the construction industry in need of the PlanGrid solution? What challenges were builders facing?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: While many other industries were able to leverage PCs and the internet to dramatically increase productivity in the second half of the 20th century, the particular challenges of construction prevented the industry from sharing in those same benefits. The industry needed project data to be available anywhere and constantly up to date. This became possible to imagine with the launch of high powered tablets, the maturity of cloud technology and a serious software ecosystem.
As former construction engineers themselves, PlanGrid’s co-founders understood first-hand the problems — including high paper costs for blueprints, miscommunication and rework that extends project timelines — arising from the reliance on paper-based information management and the lack of mobile technology solutions for the field. PlanGrid was built to make technology so intuitive and fast that people in construction want to use it, automating tedious tasks and enabling teams to effectively collaborate from anywhere, whether online or offline.
GDH: How did PlanGrid’s solution help construction companies overcome those challenges?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: PlanGrid makes it easy for all team members to work from the same set, providing a single source of truth for all project information. While building, construction teams of any size can get information to and from the field on any device instantly. With PlanGrid, any construction team member, including owners, general contractors, subcontractors and architects can view and update blueprints, specifications, photos, RFIs, field reports, submittals, tasks and other critical information — collaborating on and sharing information instantly so updates are not lost.
At turnover, punchlists take days, not months, and accurate, digital as-builts are immediately available for ongoing facilities management & operations.
GDH: Can you provide some metrics and anecdotes that detail the benefits of the PlanGrid solution? How many projects has it been used on? Has it helped those projects get completed more quickly? More cost effectively?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: PlanGrid has been used on over one million projects across commercial, heavy civil, healthcare and other building segments in approximately 90 countries around the world. Customers report labor and productivity savings that include, on average, 7 hours per week, amounting to millions of dollars in labor savings a year for the larger construction industry.
Rework, which can account for 5% or more of a project budget, is decreased because construction firms are able to employ better data management practices, and miscommunication among stakeholders and team members is avoided. Additionally, With PlanGrid, the cost of printing and distributing paper is also dramatically reduced, if not eliminated altogether.
Anecdotally, a project manager for a general contractor shared that using PlanGrid, he was able to catch a mistake that would have cost $38,000 in rework. The general contractor also reported $10,000 in paper savings in just the first few months of implementing PlanGrid.
GDH: As you mentioned previously, PlanGrid recently announced that it had been acquired by Autodesk. Why was PlanGrid a good fit for Autodesk?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: Autodesk BIM 360 and PlanGrid are complementary technologies. BIM 360 is a comprehensive unified platform that connects project data in real-time from multiple sources across the design and construction phases. This powerful platform helps project teams address key workflows like collaboration, constructability, quality, project controls, and document management so they can address immediate tasks and control overall project performance.
PlanGrid provides leading workflows for 2D plans, documents and tasks in the field. It is available for mobile, desktop and web. It is easy to use and deploy, helping teams stay connected to the latest drawing sets and communicate in real-time. When combined, customers will be able to connect the office, trailer and the field with the power of Autodesk’s BIM 360 platform for end-to-end project delivery and PlanGrid’s best-in-class construction field productivity tools.
PlanGrid also offers Autodesk growth opportunities with subcontractors and owners, and in the infrastructure (heavy civil) space.
GDH: What will Autodesk users be gaining from this acquisition that they didn’t have before?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: The acquisition allows Autodesk to deliver a more comprehensive, cloud-based construction management platform. It will strengthen Autodesk’s ability to serve the construction industry, by connecting 2D, 3D and data-driven construction workflows to enhance project productivity.
It also supports an ongoing shift in the construction industry, which is rapidly adopting new technology and improving the way contractors work. PlanGrid is an excellent complement to Autodesk Revit and BIM 360 for seamless exchange of information to all project members.
GDH: How will this acquisition impact PlanGrid users?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: PlanGrid remains deeply committed to investing in its platform to help builders build better, a commitment and vision that Autodesk shares. In the immediate future, it is business as usual; users will see no change in PlanGrid’s product, service offerings or customer support.
Over time, customers of PlanGrid and other Autodesk products will see much tighter integration between the software solutions, which will drive increased value. PlanGrid will also continue to remain committed to interoperability with other critical construction technology.
GDH: How do you see PlanGrid disrupting the construction industry into the future, now that it’s a part of Autodesk? What’s next for the solution and how do you anticipate it growing and evolving into the future?
Stuart Frederich-Smith: PlanGrid has many exciting innovations on the roadmap, and will continue to improve and expand support for critical field workflows. As mentioned previously, over time, customers of PlanGrid and other Autodesk products will see much tighter integration between the software solutions.
The companies’ combined capabilities will accelerate construction productivity and improve how information is exchanged across all construction project teams, while also helping customers prepare for a future that is automating the way things are designed, built and operated.