I have been working in the building industry for 14 years. I started working in Preconstruction at Stiles Construction in August 2002 after receiving my bachelor’s degree in construction engineering technology from Florida A&M University.
Stiles Construction was established in 1951 as a small residential general contracting firm. We have since grown into a full-service real estate firm adding divisions for services such as acquisitions, architecture, financing, leasing and brokerage, and property management. Stiles Construction builds for our own Development division as well as third-party clients. Our product types include all facets of construction including office, retail, automotive, sporting facilities, governmental, industrial, healthcare, parking, educational, hospitality, and residential. We build primarily in South Florida, but travel outside of the region for our various clients and partnerships.
The majority of our work comes from negotiated contracts. Those projects are usually assigned to a Senior Preconstruction Manager (Sr.PCM) who leads a team of 3-5 PCMs working on specific trades. On a competitive bid we may bring in additional PCMs and sometimes Project Managers from the field to help manage the additional incoming bids.
We are more selective in our bid invitations for our negotiated work, inviting between 200-250 subcontractors. On competitive bid projects we might invite upwards of 450 subcontractors.
We prepare bid documents then post them to SmartBid and then notify the potential bidders of their availability. We repeat this process for addenda and RFI responses as they arrive.
Initially we utilized manual database and fax solicitations. We started using other bid solicitation/preconstruction management web-based software in 2006.
We have been using SmartBid since the beginning of 2011.
We were first attracted to the ease of use of the system! The simplicity of the system enabled a fast roll-out that was logical to our users. We were also attracted to the reporting abilities and the ability to simply manage our subcontractor database while within a project without interrupting overall workflow. We kept finding more beneficial features and abilities in the system after spending a short time exploring the capabilities of the system.
Senior Preconstruction Managers, Preconstruction Managers, and the Preconstruction Assistant use SmartBid daily. Depending upon their project involvement, departmental Directors may use the system every few days.
The SmartBid mobile app allows us to access our subcontractor database while out of the office, and enables us to keep project documents on hand in the event we need to access them at a presentation or at an off-site meeting. It also saves time and uncertainty by keeping associated documents handy as well. As an example, we can ensure better coordination with a site contractor on a site visit by being able to check a corresponding fire or plumbing drawing, which they may or may not have considered or checked… plus, it’s easier to manage a mobile phone or a tablet than a set of plans on the trunk of a car.
SmartBid is the key conduit for ALL of our preconstruction projects. It is the vehicle that we use to deliver our project documents and to communicate with our subcontractor network.
For preconstruction, we are mostly preparing documents in PDF format as a combination of drawings with annotations and other word processing software. The other key technology that we are utilizing in preconstruction is the preparation of Building Information Models into a format that is available for our subcontractors to review and evaluate. SmartBid fills the key role of the efficient and reliable mass communication and distributor of these essential project documents.
In the last 12 years, we have gone from manual takeoffs with rulers and a digitizer to using computer based on-screen takeoffs that are able to be collaborated on by the entire department. We have also changed our bid solicitation system from isolated components (i.e. fax machines, a complicated subcontractor database directory, and untraceable paper plan deliveries) to SmartBid, which simplifies all of those individual processes and components into a unified platform. Of course BIM has moved to the front of the line of construction technology evolution. We’ve gone from blueprints, to plotted drawings, to on-screen 2D images to 3D models. We’re now getting into 4D simulations and 5D model-based cost estimating.
I expect that BIM will take an ever-increasing role in construction in general, being the primary aspect to evolve the most significantly. We are currently positioning ourselves to prepare for this with the addition of the Virtual Design & Construction division at Stiles. I expect that the level of expertise in this realm will change the way that our Preconstruction and Operations departments function. The other aspect of construction that I expect to evolve most meaningfully is mobile computing, perhaps more so out in the field than in Preconstruction. That said, I expect to see benefits of mobile computing trickle into the office in ways that we haven’t yet thought of, that might change some of the day to day functions.