by Dr. Thomas P. Rothrock
I recently watched an excellent presentation from the FHWA EDC-3 Regional Summit in Phoenix back in October. The topic was e-Construction and it featured what I think is the best effort thus far to crystallize that term. It also featured two state transportation agencies (MDOT and FDOT) and their efforts to-date to implement an e-Construction program.
FHWA says that e-Construction is the collection, review, approval and distribution of highway construction contract documents in a paperless environment. It includes:
- Electronically capturing construction data
- Electronic submission of construction documentation
- Increased use of mobile devices
- Increased automation of document review and approval
- Use of electronic signatures by all parties
- Secure doc and workflow management accessible to all stakeholders on any device.
I have spent more than 30 years leading Info Tech’s efforts in developing software to serve the transportation and infrastructure construction industry. During that time, much progress has been made in replacing paper-based processes and documentation with digital processes and electronic documents. The move from mainframe to PCs in the 80s and 90s and to web and mobile in the 2000s, coupled with the maturing of encryption technology and the wide acceptance of both electronic and digital signatures is finally providing the technical and legal foundation to eliminate the majority (if not all) of the paper required for managing the full life cycle of a construction project.
Capturing data electronically and eliminating paper has been a primary goal of Info Tech from the very beginning. We have many successful examples of this in bidding and contracts dating back more than 20 years. In 1992, we developed the Expedite software which allowed highway contractors to prepare their bids electronically and submit them on a floppy disk. In 1999, we introduced the Bid Express service as a way to transmit a digitally signed bid proposal via the Internet, eliminating the need for submitting signed paper proposals. This past year, we introduced the Doc Express service which provides the capability for the agency and contractor to execute the contract documents electronically, eliminating the need for large amounts of paper to be passed around. It allows all construction documents from material certifications to shop drawings and change orders to be routed, accessed and electronically signed by all project stakeholders online.
Info Tech also has successful examples with electronic construction project administration for nearly two decades. In the mid-90s, we introduced the FieldManager construction administration and inspection software featuring a laptop component for field data collection. The introduction of this eliminated the “orange” field books, which were utilized for a significant amount of time. Today, we offer the Mobile Inspector app to provide for data collection in the field on a smartphone or tablet, and our web-based Appia service for construction administration and inspection, which can run on any mobile device. The use of web and mobile technologies allows for easy access anytime, anywhere and with increased transparency.
Even though we did not coin the term “e-Construction,” I can trace almost every effort in the evolution of our software to the bullets above. This has been our goal for many years and it validates our corporate strategic goals, confirming that our team is positioned to continue to serve this industry.