Masonry has been around for thousands of years. Although the completed art itself has changed little during this broad span of time, the way we accomplish the task has stepped into the 21st century with full force. The advent of computers and the Internet has been a major factor and certainly
revolutionized the way contractors manage and complete their projects. Looking toward the future, large steps are being made in the digital arena for masonry contractors and the construction industry as a whole. One current product is the Autodesk® BuzzsawTM online service.
Buzzsaw is an Internet service that allows you to store, manage and share project information with team members, clients and consultants. Vital information, such as AutoCAD® drawings, schedules, photographs and notes, can be easily viewed, shared and, depending on the permission level of the person using the system, even modified on the spot. The fact that this is a web-based collaboration tool means that those involved in the project can have these items at their fingertips anywhere they have an Internet connection at work, home, on the road or at the job site.
"The concept is we provide a central place where anyone on the project can come and get the latest information and status of a particular project," says Chris Bradshaw, Vice President of Autodesk Building Collaboration Services. "That's very helpful, especially for specialty contractors who don't want to come to a site before the site is ready for them, and don't want to have to move crews around in the middle of the day.
"The specialty contractors that use our service most often report their ability to find out about things ahead of time that are happening on the project that might impact them downstream as one the greatest benefits of using a system like ours. Many specialty contractors operate on fixed, firm price contracts, and not getting notification of a change can be an expensive and time consuming delay."
Generally speaking, mason contractors are not going to be the ones initiating a Buzzsaw account, but rather owners and other primary players.
"The system is set up in such a way that anyone can initiate an account and invite other members. More often it is the owner initiating accounts, followed by architects and engineers, and then general contractors. It's a subscription-based, fee system, and whoever initiates the account pays the fees and all the other members can use the account for free."
Benefits and Features
Even though masons may not be the ones to initiate the use of such systems, as a team player, the free benefits that masons will receive are beyond compare. On top of the instant access to the information, these benefits include improved project communication, shortened project cycles, increased ownership and accountability, and improved record keeping. These benefits are due to the some of the features of this online tool, including:
"The fact that there's a paper trail is a compelling reason for many people to get the system," adds Bradshaw. "A lot of people say there's a lot of legal issues that go away if you're using a system like Buzzsaw because everybody knows there's a record. Some of the things that might come up don't because everybody knows that the system has a record of all that has transpired. People say 'I had no legal issue on this job because everyone knew that there was a very complete record of everything that happened and there's no opportunity for anyone to say they didn't see or get something.'
- Browser-like interface offering functionality such as drag-and-drop, shortcut menus and hierarchical file trees.
- Store and manage standard file types, including AutoCAD DWG and DWF, MicroStation DGN, Adobe Acrobat® PDF, CALS G4, CGM, Microsoft Office, and many of the popular photograph file types.
- E-mail notifications of changes.
- Tracking of file versions automatically, also called "versioning." When a new version is uploaded, older versions are automatically saved to document the trail of changes.
- Initiate and review discussion items related to a specific version of any type of document drawings, office files or images.
- Industry-standard Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), 128-bit encryption provides high-level confidentiality for all communications on Autodesk Buzzsaw sites.
"By having everything out and available to everyone, it begs the question 'Why didn't you know this when here's this information and it was available on this day, and by the way it looks like you accessed this information on this date.' The quality of the whole team interaction goes up a little bit, and hopefully more trust develops as a result of that kind of interaction. People do see that on projects using Buzzsaw, that it's a more trusted environment."
Also, the e-mail notification can help to keep mason contractors up-to-date the moment any element is changed.
"There's two different mechanisms for e-mails," says Bradshaw. "One is that the person who makes the change can do a notification of everybody on the project. Also, any user on the system can 'subscribe' to a document or set of documents so that you don't have to count on the fact that somebody is going to notify you. If the document changes, the system will then automatically send a notification every time."
Big or Small
This all sounds like it's only for large, multi-million dollar projects, right? Bradshaw says that's not always the case.
"Even single family residential projects are being managed on Buzzsaw, but those are typically ones where, for example, the architect might be living in one city, the site is in another city, and the client is maybe in a third city. A tool like Buzzsaw lends itself very well to project teams that are spread like that. Different time zones or physical separation, anybody on the team can go review what's going on.
"We have a number of smaller architecture firms that are using the service and keeping their clients updated on everything that's happening with a project. It doesn't have to be a huge project. The service is so inexpensive that people get tremendous benefit even on small projects."
Computers and the Internet are going to increasingly cut down on the peripheral work involved in construction and masonry in time, spending and energy. Autodesk Buzzsaw is just a sign of the things to come.
"You already see owners who've begun to require that a tool like Buzzsaw be used on projects. More and more you'll see that requirement because there is so much benefit to the owner in terms of visibility and transparency."
For more information on Autodesk Buzzsaw, visit www.autodesk.com/buzzsaw.
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