Can new digital technologies help workflow in building & design?

Can new digital technologies help workflow in building & design?

  • 14 Apr 2016

GUEST BLOG   Rick Peterson, Global Sr Director Marketing Strategy, of Wacom, discusses the need for digital technologies and traditional forms of communication to work together.

The fundamental tools of the trade in construction and design tend to consist of trusty pencil, paper and blueprint. However innovations in new technology are quickly beginning to take over and replicate the experience of pen and paper. Whether it’s making a to do list on site, taking down snag lists at new developments, sketching ideas or communicating with colleagues back in a fixed office, many of these workers across the UK will still turn to their clipboard with their beloved pen and paper – despite the existence of laptops and other mobile digital devices. This method has long been the most efficient and widely accepted way to record and share notes and sketches within the working environment. However, times are changing within the world of construction, architecture and design in building. Extending the digital workflow can make life easier in an industry that relies so heavily on efficiency, speed and the flow of information.

In all industries, including building, the need to share information at the touch of a button, provide ideas immediately or get back to someone within 24 hours has now become the norm. A cross industry report from the Oxford Economics for Virgin Media Business in October 2015 found that construction firms that have embraced digital technology have already grown their revenue by 5.9%. By bridging the gap between the traditional and digital workflow, there is great potential for this sector such as quicker communication, digital document filing and greater control.

Forming ideas on paper

In the world of design, architecture and construction, the initial sketching of ideas is fundamentally important when dealing with a client for the first time. Quick sketches drawn up while on site, while collaborating with a client, or on the way home from a meeting provide instant visuals from the thinking mind. With a pencil, different alternatives can quickly be created to identify the best one, saving effort, time, cost and misunderstandings. Sketching ideas can also instill a sense of reliability with clients who feel like they’re in safe, creative hands with their builder or designer.

Explaining ideas in different environments

Being hands on with partners or colleagues in a meeting environment also sees the perfect opportunity for pen and paper. After forming ideas on site or with a customer, a builder or designer can take these back to an office for example, and explain face-to-face without having to write lengthy emails.

Taking control

Hand drawing can be a reliable tool to ensure that the initial ideas from a designer or architect remain true. This is extremely important in this environment as there are so many people involved in such a complex process. A simple piece of paper with sketches and instructions is a great way to pass on the idea and an initial sketch is also a quick and easy way to present this, however this can sometimes be quite limiting in a digital world.

Although all of the above show the continued need for clear and easy to understand communication in this industry, there are many scenarios where this can be better done with new technologies. These make information sharing fast and ensure clear communication and expectations, which helps minimise the potential for lengthy changes. Design projects require precision and building plans need to have the ability to be duplicated for all crafts and trades involved. But, for those on the ground in day to day construction, such a site managers, digital ink can make our instantaneous world a much easier place to work. Thankfully there are fantastic solutions from the world of technology and innovation that are helping to to bridge the gap between the two and make employees’ lives easier in this industry.

Retaining important documents

Whether it’s a hand drawn sketch of a first floor layout or a list of snags that need fixing following a new build construction, paper notes and drawings can find themselves easily mislaid. Having these in digital form and saving them to the cloud means that they’re never lost.

Sharing with others

Transferring information between departments in a business often needs to be speedy, but also easy to understand and interpreted by others. A hand drawn sketch with measurements and notes may need to be shared with the team back in an office ensuring the clients’s requirements are exactly as discussed. Pen and paper can of course be physically taken back to the office environment and typed into a computer system, but this adds and extra element of time and potential for miscommunication.

Saving time

Depending on the scenario and use of the drawing, a sketch drawn using digital techniques can be altered into a more precise document with enhanced clarity without wasting time. For example, not having to re-draw ideas and sketches means there’s no accidental alternation during the process.

Merging the two

An intelligent way to enhance the workflow in this industry is with innovative technoloogy such as the Bamboo Spark. It allows users to take handwritten sketches and notes on a piece of paper and save them digitally. This smart folio digitises anything written or drawn so that users can save into the cloud. With a Wacom cloud account, users of the Bamboo Spark app can convert handwriting to text in one simple step. Converting handwritten notes to text gives users the ability to archive notes and sketches and share them over email or other office applications such as Evernote.

Solutions such as this can can easily be adopted by an architect or construction worker. It is much more than a gadget as it helps to bridge the gap beween analogue and digital and improve workflow in this profession. Immediately emailing a sketch over to a client or a list of problems taken down on site to the admin team can help save time and resources in this fast-paced working world, while still retaining the obvious benefits of pen and paper that we are so used to.

It will be interesting to see how the building industry merges the two key worlds of analogue and digital in the future and how it will increase productivity and efficiency within the industry. As technology progresses, more and more solutions will become available to a huge number of industries requiring quicker processeses in dynamic working environments. This goes hand-in-hand with digital natives getting jobs in the trade and expecting digital solutions as the norm.

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