Friday, March 9, 2012

iPad App to Replace Printed Blueprints? (

Two of our blog-visitors suggested we post this article on our blog. (One was David Brownell, the other was one of our readers who wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you to both for bringing this article – and – to my attention.)

Here’s an article that comes from, one of the on-line magazines for construction executives:

iPad App to Replace Printed Blueprints?

A small startup's unique platform for construction plan management could save the industry billions

March 7, 2012, article authored by Jon Walton

The construction industry has a $4 billion dollar problem – in the endless modifications to expensive printed blueprints, building plans can often swell to nearly half a percent of a project’s total budget, making for some extraordinary costs on larger builds.

Not exactly renowned for innovation, the construction industry has been slow to adopt the range of technologies that have transformed so many other sectors. Plangrid, a small Y Combinator startup company, is looking to change all that with an ambitious app for the iPad that looks to replace costly and cumbersome printed designs with a sleek, manageable digital archive of customizable plans.

Plangrid’s new iPad app allows users to manipulate plans in the field, quickly flip between blueprint versions, and share new designs via cloud services or e-mail. The intuitive layout balances simplicity and functionality, and the software’s ease of use will be surely appreciated by a not-so-tech-savvy sector.

Because plans take so long to move through the modification and reprinting process, many unnecessary rework costs are associated with outdated designs being used in the field – a problem remedied by the immediate availability of Plangrid’s instantaneous updates and cloud-storage capabilities. The company offers a three-tiered pricing plan for building professionals, and for smaller projects (less than 50 sheets), the app is free.

With today’s announcement of the iPad 3 – boasting a 2048 x 1536-pixel retina display, 5 megapixel camera and LTE capabilities – the incorporation of tablet technology into the construction field is even more irresistible. Whatever the success of Plangrid’s app, the industry is sure to move towards digitizing blueprint management for field use in the near future.

Now, more about PlanGrid, now that I’ve visited PlanGrid’s web-site.

In the “tour” section of PlanGrid’s web-site, they say this….

Reduce Printing Costs

Construction industry experts estimate that for every $1,000,000 of project volume, $3500 is spent on printing alone! With PlanGrid, you will slash or eliminate those costs and save tons of money.

PlanGrid will slash or eliminate printing costs.

Two of PlanGrid’s founders gained experience in the construction industry. One of PlanGrid’s founders is a former rocket scientist! All four of PlanGrid’s founders graduated college (two have master’s degrees). (Can’t help but wonder if Mr. Santorum would refer to these highly educated young people as elitists.) Founders’ backgrounds:

Ryan Sutton-Gee

Cofounder, CEO, and head janitor.

Ryan is the business leader of PlanGrid and is passionate about bringing good software to the construction industry. Ryan came up with the idea for PlanGrid after wrestling with the nightmare of document control and now spends most of his time guiding the overall vision of the company. Prior to founding PlanGrid, Ryan worked as an estimator and as a project controls analyst at ITSI-Gilbane and graduated from Stanford University with a masters in civil engineering.

Tracy Young

Cofounder, COO, and chief ass kicker.

Tracy is in charge of the day-to-day operations at PlanGrid and is always driving the rest of the team to new levels of productivity and long hours. With the most field experience of the founding team, Tracy is responsible for the feature set and ease of use of PlanGrid. Tracy is always arguing for better functionality, clearer interfaces, and a better user experience for all of our customers. Prior to founding PlanGrid, Tracy helped build hospitals for Rudolph and Sletten Construction. Tracy has a BS in Construction Management from Sacramento State University.

Ralph Gootee

Cofounder, CTO, and master of all he surveys.

Ralph is PlanGrid’s iOS develolper, and graphics programming expert, and is the reason why PlanGrid is so much faster than anything else out there. Not only that, but Ralph is one of those mythical beings who can both design a good UI and make it work. Prior to founding PlanGrid, Ralph worked as a software engineer at Pixar and even had a stint as a ballistic missile defense researcher at the Applied Physics Laboratory. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a masters in applied math.

Kenny Stone

Cofounder, VP Engineering, and literary scholar.

Kenny is the creator of the web-side of PlanGrid and the man in charge of our cloud-based back-end. Kenny’s tireless efforts are the reason why our site never goes down, and why we’ll never lose a single sheet of your drawings. Prior to founding PlanGrid, Kenny worked as a high frequency trading programmer for several years and graduated with a BS in computer engineering from Purdue University.

You can learn more about PlanGrid by visiting their web-site:

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Blog-publisher’s comments:

We’ve previously posted articles and news about iPAD App’s developed for the A/E/C industry; here are links to some of those previously articles, if you care to look back at them:

iPAD app and SAAS e-planroom

Article on "HKSTracepaper" about the use of an iPAD for accessing documents when an architect is on the road

Autodesk Buzzsaw Mobile App Provides Access to Building and Construction Data on iPad or iPhone

iPAD Apps for Project Management and Construction in the AEC Industry

Related to previous post about "Paperless Construction" -

I don’t have much doubt that, over time, the use of iPADs in the A/E/C industry will grow. PlanGrid is not the first company “out there” with an iPAD App that provides an e-planroom service. Most reprographers have been offering e-planroom services for years and years, by now, and files in e-planrooms can, if and when a user wants to, be called up on digital devices (tablets, notebooks and desktops, and, I would imagine, on iPADs.) I wish PlanGrid’s founders the best of luck and success with their new business venture.

It’s mentioned (this was either in the article the author wrote or somewhere on PlanGrid’s web-site) that the use of PlanGrid’s service can help construction-industry-users avoid having to print plans on paper, saving the cost of printing as a result. Billions to be saved. Billions? Well, prior to the “Great Recession”, the reprographics industry was reportedly a $5 billion industry. Given the drastic downturn in A/E/C business, the reprographics industry may now be a $3 billion industry. I do believe, as do some others, that A/E/C customers are not printing as much “per project” as they used to print. But, who’s actually tracking that? Any reprographer who’s in the FM business and in the production center business and who has exclusive relationships with an architecture firm (who’s an FM customer) and a GC firm (who’s also an FM customer), who collaborate on the same project, could probably capture the dollar amount of printing that’s spent on “a” project. I seriously doubt that reprographics firms have been doing this – tracking the REAL, TOTAL DOLLARS spent on a single A/E/C project (by both the A/E firm and the GC firm involved in a single project) – but, would that sort of cost-capture exercise not provide the kind of “trend” information that would be meaningful for forward business planning purposes? Meaningful information for a reprographer? I’m so old that I can remember when most of our A/E/C customers printed nothing in house (they did not have blueprinting equipment and there were no such things as plotters); they did all of their printing “off-site” at our production centers. Because of that, we knew how much printing work was being done for “a” project, and, if we had very close relationships with our A/E/C customers, we could predict how much business (printing work) we were going to do in the near term future. Nowadays, difficult, if not impossible, to project. It was mentioned, somewhere in the article or on PlanGrid’s web-site, that printing costs total up to as much as ½ of 1 percent of total project cost. That may have been the case 15, 20 and 25 years ago, but I don’t think that’s the case now. Probably more around half of what it used to be.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like it is really catered mostly for the “during construction” communication. Seems like everyone must have an iPad “app” to share the information between the cloud to other iPads.

    That might work between members from the same company, but not when working with subs. How many of them with have an iPad or even just a smart phone?

    I see some of the features here that Adobe can do, but the cloud sharing and alerting team members of changes looks easy to use. The pricing also looks restrictive for some larger or multiple projects.

    I still don’t see how this will replace a full or half size hard copy sheets of paper and pencil/markers. Maybe for some things, but how many people in the field with rugged hands, with gloves on and cold environments are going to mess with an iPad versus good ole’ paper!