Allstate Steel Company, a structural fabrication and erection firm based in Jacksonville, Florida, was facing the same economic challenges that many in the architectural, engineering and construction industry have endured these past few years. With a reduced amount of projects coming in, Allstate was searching for ways to operate more efficiently. Specifically they needed to:
Above all, they needed these better solutions to be as easy as possible for everyone in the company to adopt.
One day, IT Manager Jon DeCausemaker read an article in Modern Steel Construction Magazine about the incredible paper and costs savings a fellow detailer had achieved by going paperless with PDF editor Bluebeam Revu. "I practically ran over to [estimator and colleague] John Smith to tell him this might be the exact solution we were looking for," says DeCausemaker. They both immediately downloaded a 30-day trial of Bluebeam Revu and began testing Revu's PDF creation, markup and editing features. They also watched Bluebeam's online video tutorials to get as familiar with the software as possible. Within a week they felt comfortable enough to present the idea of going paperless with Bluebeam to their supervisors, who agreed that it would be a great solution for their company.
DeCausemaker and Smith, along with their supervisor, met weekly with the other detailers and estimators in the company to help make the transition from a paper-heavy workflow to a digital one as smooth as possible. They also wrote electronic workflow procedures to standardize PDF markup and editing processes. To make digital redlining and takeoffs easier for everyone, the company bought 19" and 27" monitors.
Each department began using Revu in different ways to improve their workflow. The detailers use the highlighter tool, text box, cloud markup and hyperlink features to redline the contract drawings and markup changes. For example, when an RFI changes an aspect of the drawing, they use the cloud tool to highlight the change, and add a hyperlink to the replaced PDF file. Then they use Bluebeam's Markups list to export all the comments on the PDF into a .bax file, a special XML file that Bluebeam uses to share markup data between Revu users. Detailers then email these markups to their detailer associates who are off site so they can import the markups, thus eliminating the cost of printing, shipping and waiting. This process has been so successful that Allstate's detailers no longer have physical printers and plotters available to them - they use Bluebeam to review, markup and share PDF copies of all drawings.
In addition to using the markup tools used by the detailing team, Allstate's estimators use Bluebeam's takeoff tools to measure and count off PDF drawings. First, they calibrate to a known measurement, then digitally add area, perimeter and angle takeoffs to PDFs. "Bluebeam's takeoff tools speed up the bidding process and allow for greater accuracy than our former pen and paper workflow," said Smith. When RFPs come in, the estimators utilize Bluebeam's real-time collaboration feature, Bluebeam Studio, to work on bid documents together so they can complete them faster. First, they upload bid PDFs to a Studio session and invite other estimators, who are sometimes off site, to join the session. All the estimators add markups to one copy of the same set of PDF drawings together in real time. "The Bluebeam Studio feature alone makes Revu worth the investment," says Smith.
Finally, the fabrication shop has begun using PDF copies of drawings rather than hard copies for many aspects for the fabrication process. "We used to have to send 10 hard copies to the fabrication shop for every job," says Decausemkaer. "Now we only print and send three hard copies."
Allstate Steel has achieved several benefits from their new paperless processes powered by Bluebeam Revu. First, they have significantly eliminated paper usage across multiple departments, including detailing, estimating and the fabrication shop. Not only has Bluebeam reduced the company's paper costs by $1,200 per month, it has helped cut related expenses. For example, the estimating department used to go through 26 boxes of highlighters per month. Now they use Bluebeam to electronically highlight PDFs.
Additionally, the firm has realized significant time savings, particularly in responding to bids. Sharing bid documents amongst estimators used to take up to two hours. Now using Bluebeam Studio, estimators are working on proposals in a matter of minutes, allowing Allstate to respond faster and cast a wider net.
Finally, Allstate has discovered another benefit to the paperless process. By transitioning to an electronic workflow, they eliminated the need to buy and store hefty three-ring binders for their project archives. Now they store job documents digitally in PDF, which not only saves space, but makes them more accessible and searchable.