The Construction Boom becomes a Business Boon for Smile BPI4 Aug, 2005 By: Darrell Amy imageSource
The Construction Boom becomes a Business Boon for Smile BPI
Business is booming for the
construction industry. It’s an opportunity that Joe Reeves, president of the
independent copier dealership Smile Business Products, Inc., recognized in his
rapidly growing hometown of Sacramento, California.
“Our construction market is exploding,” pointed out Reeves, who also has
dealerships in Stockton and Santa Rosa. The eight-year-old company is an
authorized Sharp, Oce and KIP dealer. “We were excited about the ways we could
help construction companies manage their paperwork more efficiently and cost
And as with any paper-intensive industry that is thriving, the construction
business presents a tremendous opportunity for document solutions resellers.
From blueprints and spec books through safety documentation and permits,
documents drive a successful construction project.
Sacramento-based HMH Construction manages multi-million dollar commercial
construction projects such as hospitals, office buildings and casinos. With
projects that can take up to five years to complete, managing documentation
through the construction process is critical.
“Walking onto a HMH construction site is like walking into a small city,”
explained Reeves. “Every contractor has their own trailer, creating a tremendous
opportunity to sell a variety of solutions.”
In 2003, Dave Wright, a sales representative for Smile BPI, first introduced HMH,
which was a current customer, to the concept of digital copiers. HMH had a fleet
of approximately 50 copiers distributed in its home office and remote job sites.
The analog copiers that HMH was using could not handle all of the work, so most
large copy jobs were sent to a reproduction company.
“We were buried in paperwork,” remembered Jane Castillo, office administrator
for HMH Construction. “I had no idea digital was out there until Dave came along
and said you can do this better without all of the headaches.”
HMH initially installed Sharp multifunction systems to allow HMH to bring the
work in-house. About a year after the installation, Wright introduced the
concept of adding scanning to the multifunction systems to streamline the
distribution of documents.
“We realized that HMH had a tremendous burden in distributing and accessing
documents out to their job sites,” Wright said. “I decided to approach them with
the concept of implementing a scanning and document management system into the
Castillo was happy to entertain any ideas that would help with its document
challenges. “Dave has certainly earned our trust,” she said. “Whenever he comes
to us with an idea, we take a serious look at it.”
Wright engaged Todd Venneri, manager of the Smile BPI Network Services Division,
to explore how document management technology could help.
Smile BPI’s Network Services Division specializes in document management
systems. The company, which entered the software solutions business in 2003, is
a provider of Equitrac (www.equitrac.com), LibertyNet (www.libertyims.com),
Doc2Net, LaserFiche (www.laserfiche.com), and Fabsoft (www.fabsoft.com)
Over the following months, Venneri worked with Wright to recommend and implement
a LaserFiche document management system to compliment HMH’s existing fleet of
Sharp (www.sharp.com) digital MFPs. LaserFiche is an electronic document
management system that provides secure access to both paper and digital
The implementation of this solution spanned several years. “We started with a
basic scanning application and built off of it,” Wright said.
Once the need for document management software to manage emails was identified,
Smile BPI engaged its network services team to review the customer’s network
infrastructure and configure a specific solution.
Venneri recommended that HMH put the LaserFiche server in its home office.
Remote job sites access the server through T-1 data lines. This allowed HMH to
centralize document storage.
Smile BPI also provided training to the end users through an unusual method—a
mobile showroom. Smile BPI has a customized RV that houses a full network of its
hardware and software solutions.
“Our mobile showroom has made it easy to train users at the job sites,” Reeves
Castillo pointed out that the training requirements were minimal compared to the
“It is a relatively simple process to learn how to use this system that will
really save so much time for the user in the long run,” she said
As new construction projects are added, Castillo anticipates implementing
similar solutions at job sites with small and wide format MFPs complimented by a
The following are five issues that the technology resolved for HMH faced:
1. Improved Accounts Payable with Scan-to-Email
One of the challenges HMH faced was managing invoices from sub-contractors.
“We had to send out invoices to the job sites to get approval,” Castillo said.
“It was never the top priority for project managers.”
Construction companies depend on sub-contractors for a project to go smoothly.
When payments to subcontractors were delayed, it strained relationships.
Wright recommended scan-to-email to deliver the documents to the job sites. With
this, the invoices were scanned to the appropriate project manager where they
could be approved quickly and emailed back to the corporate office.
To do this, scan kits were added to the existing Sharp MFPs at the main office
and the job sites. Each job site already had Internet access, so the
installation process was simple. The result was a much smoother invoice payment
“We get the invoices turned around the same day,” explained a satisfied
Castillo. “Our billing is going much more smoothly.”
2. Streamlined Communication to Job Sites with Wide Format MFPs
Next, Castillo recognized that scanning technology could revolutionize
communication between the job site and the home office.
“We started using the multifunction systems to scan job information and drawings
out to the job sites,” Castillo said.
Wright recommended that each job site be equipped with two multifunction
systems: a small format and a wide format.
Smile BPI is an authorized dealer for KIP (www.kipamerica.com), a manufacturer
specializing in wide format systems. The wide format systems from KIP are
multifunctional. This means blueprints can be copied, printed or scanned.
“One of the daily challenges on our job sites was the delay in reproducing
drawings,” she said. “Wide format jobs were outsourced to a local blueprint
company. With wide format systems on the job site, when a sub-contractor needs a
drawing, we just copy or print one.”
HMH can also email CAD drawings directly to the job site instead of having to
send them to a third party to be printed and delivered.
“We also recommended scanning modules on the wide format devices,” Wright
pointed out. “This allows blueprints to be scanned to email, burned to CD ROMs
or stored and archived in digital format.”
3. Managed Email and Job Information with Document Management
Every job site generates a tremendous volume of records that has to be archived
and retrieved. With more and more communication in email format, HMH faced a
growing challenge of archiving and retrieving project-related emails.
“Subject lines of an email rarely contain the actual content of an email
message,” said Castillo. “So when we would need to go back two years later and
find information on a drain installed in the west wing of a hospital project, it
would take hours to locate the emails relating to the topic.”
Venneri instantly recognized an opportunity to streamline the process with
When an email is received that needs to be archived, project managers move the
email directly into a LaserFiche folder. When the email is imported into
LaserFiche, the entire content of the email message becomes searchable. To
retrieve archived emails, authorized users can enter keywords to search the
entire text of archived messages.
Castillo is enthusiastic about the benefits: “Years from now if someone not
related to the project needs info, they can go back into LaserFiche and find the
documents in the same filing format as the parent company.”
HMH also uses the LaserFiche system to archive other information related to a
job site. Paper documents are scanned in using the MFPs. Digital documents, like
spec books and spreadsheets, are also stored in the same job folders with
With LaserFiche, Castillo has created a virtual replication of the paper-based
filing system mandated by its parent company. This means that documents will be
easy to find in the future even if a new employee who was not involved in the
construction project needs to find information.
4. Ensured OSHA Compliance with Document Management
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is closely involved in
construction projects—particularly hospital construction.
HMH is required to provide a fully-equipped office for OSHA inspectors on the
site. Inspections are a daily part of the construction process.
“A hospital has incredible issues dealing with OSHA,” Castillo explained.
“Hospitals have to be beyond any criticism. Our record keeping has to be
The LaserFiche system helps HMH manage records, improving communication with
OSHA. With records categorized in searchable folders, information can be found
and reviewed quickly, helping streamline the OSHA inspection and approval
5. Shortened Job Closeout with Document Management
The final phase of a construction project is called “Job Closeout.” The job
closeout phase is highly document intensive. Detailed documentation for every
part of the project is turned over to the owner and the architects.
“Every sub-contractor has to provide some kind of documentation for the
mechanical people,” Castillo said. “They give detailed drawings detailing every
pipe and faucet.”
In addition, documentation for warranty and repair on each detail of the
facility is gathered from sub-contractors.
Castillo envisions the closeout process going much more smoothly since the
documentation for the project is already categorized inside folders in their
In addition to the process improvements and regulatory compliance enhancements,
HMH has enjoyed substantial cost savings as a result of the new technology.
1. Reduced Outsourcing Expenses with Multifunction Systems
One of the large financial burdens on a construction company is reproducing
drawings and spec books. With both small format and wide format multifunction
systems in place, HMH can now do much of this work in-house. The net result is
lower costs and faster turnaround times.
2. Reduced Copying and Printing with Scanning
Instead of shipping copies of spec books they are now scanned in and distributed
in digital format. This has significantly reduced shipping expenses.
“We can send a digital copy of the spec book directly to a contractor and they
get it instantly,” raved Castillo.
3. Time Saved with Fast Retrieval
“We have saved a tremendous amount of time by being able to pull up information
from the LaserFiche system,” she said.
Now that the systems are in place, Castillo expects to develop additional
applications for LaserFiche including managing corporate administrative
“Companies shouldn’t be afraid of the new technology,” she said. “It’s easy to
use and easy to learn. It is going to save so much time and save us so much
“People in our company are getting over their fear of the technology,” Castillo
continued. “In the beginning, I got a lot of comments from people asking, ‘why
would we do this? This is just an extra that we don’t really need.’ Now people
cannot live without scanning. It has changed the way we do business.”
As the owner of Smile BPI, Reeves is excited about the new direction of his
“The enhanced document management services that we are able to offer allow us to
have an even more meaningful impact in our clients’ businesses. We see this is a
large component of our growth strategy in the next few years.”
Essentials to Selling Electronic Document Management to Construction
1. Emphasize Document Retention. Construction companies keep their
project files forever because of potential product liability issues. An
Electronic Document Management System provides both mass storage and easy access
2. Demonstrate Search and Retrieve. Long after a construction project is
over, specific documents may need to be retrieved. Construction company
attorneys love the full text search functionality of the system.
3. Explore Email Storage. A growing part of documentation related to a
construction project is communicated by email. Being able to archive, search and
retrieve email is an important feature to construction companies.
4. Mimic Existing Project Structure. Most construction projects have a
typical structure for the phases of the construction project. The Electronic
Document Management System file structure can be configured to follow these
phases. This makes the file structure intuitive to end users.
5. Highlight Multiple File Types. Construction companies deal with
multiple document types beyond scanned sheets. Electronic Document Management
Systems can typically handle any type of file format the construction company
uses including CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) files, emails, spreadsheets,
project files, and digital photos.
6. Recommend Wide Format. Installing wide format systems on job sites
enables workers to get the drawings they need without waiting for them to be
delivered. Drawings can be copied or printed. Written revisions and notes on the
drawings can be scanned for archive or approval.