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Featuring Seth Cheever of Stiles Construction

A construction software case study investigating how one of Florida’s leading commercial development companies is employing the latest in construction technology on building projects.

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Tell us about yourself.

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.

 

Tell us about your company – what do you build and where?

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.

 

Describe the preconstruction process at Stiles – from Prequal to Bid Day, including the number of employees, subs, plan files, etc. involved.

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.

 

How did you handle invitation to bid before SmartBid?

Initially we utilized manual database and fax solicitations. We started using other bid solicitation/preconstruction management web-based software in 2006.

 

How long has your company been using SmartBid?

We have been using SmartBid since the beginning of 2011.

 

What features of the software influenced your purchase decision during the buying phase?

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.

 

Which employee roles use SmartBid within your company and how often?

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.

 

If any of your users have downloaded the SmartBid mobile app, how do they assist in mobile preconstruction?

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.

 

Describe the most recent project in which SmartBid was essential for preconstruction.

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.

 

What other technology did you or are you using for this project? How does SmartBid fit into the mix?

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.

 

How has your company’s use of technology evolved since you first started working there?

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.

 

Over the next decade, in what ways do you hope to see construction technology evolve, particularly at your company?

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.

 

 

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As a founding member of the Construction Open Standards Alliance, JBKnowledge (makers of SmartBidNet) works with 20+ other construction software providers on developing data exchange standards for the integration of independent software solutions.

By using a software built on COSA standards, you're able to:
- Incorportate all your favorite software into one high-performing, multi-function construction software
- Eliminate errors and omissions associated with faulty integrations.
- Eliminate manual and spreadsheet data transfers between software.

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All SmartBidNet users can utilize the integrated ConsensusDocs 721 form for subcontractor prequalification. Users can further customize those forms with the Prequal Pro add-on module.

SmartBidNet users are able to use ConsensusDocs to:
- Request standard subcontractor prequalification information at the click of a button.
- Keep subcontractors' qualifications up-to-date with easy-to-manage ConsensusDocs forms.
- Keep sensitive information private with ConsensusDocs 721 digital forms.

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The Virtual Planroom Network (VPRN) partnership allows users of SmartBidNet to view, select and bid on thousands of public project opportunities from VPRN – impacting market coverage and ultimately revenue.

The VPRN is a collaboration of builders' exchanges that have been delivering construction data, news and information of opportunities at various stages of the construction process for over a century.

With this partnership, SmartBidNet users can benefit by:
- Publishing public bid projects from SmartBidnet to the VPRN Online Planroom.
- Pulling projects and documents from the VPRN Online Planroom into SmartBidNet for private prequalification and bid management.
- Accessing industry news easily within VPRN that our commercial building clients depend on daily.

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Dun & Bradstreet is collaborating with SmartBidNet to improve the quality of data integrated from the SmartInsight contractor network. D&B solutions assist in data cleansing and verification by running SmartInsight subcontractor data through the world’s leading source of commercial data, analytics and insight on businesses. D&B’s global commercial database contains more than 240 million accurate business records.

Through our integration with Dun & Bradstreet, SmartBidNet users are able to take advantage of verified commercial company data integrated from SmartInsight by referencing a D-U-N-S number for each subcontractor. This integration also gives general contractors confidence in the validity of subcontractor data listed within the SmartInsight network.

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ShareFile, our recommended cloud storage service, integrates into SmartBidNet for a seamless connection between both systems - allowing users to keep their project documents up to date within both platforms.

By integrating a ShareFile account into SmartBidNet, general contractors are able to:
- Upload bid project files and documents from ShareFile directly into SmartBidNet and vice versa
- Quickly add and remove project documents with real-time synchronization
- Always keep your plans within reach for any shared subcontractor in SmartBidNet or ShareFile

 

Our partnership with Plans4Less allows SmartBidNet users to get the most affordable pricing for same day printing and shipping for plans from the SmartBidNet online plan room.

With the option of using the integrated Plans4Less feature, SmartBidNet users are able to:
- Give subcontractors access to the reprographic services offered by Plans4Less as they view plans in the SmartBidNet Online Planroom.
- Take advantage of fixed pricing with no minimum orders required.
- Print & ship daily direct to your office or construction job site nationally via UPS.

 

With the STACK Estimating (formerly Cloud Takeoff) integration into SmartBidNet, all SmartBidNet users can easily open plan files and quickly perform basic quantity takeoffs from your SmartBidNet plan room.

By becoming a STACK Estimating customer, SmartBidNet users can:
- Experience real-time, collaborative estimating takeoff with your project team and subcontractors.
- Use detailed reporting to calculate the cost and quantity of materials to pull back into SmartBidNet.
- Take advantage of STACK’s pre-built catalogs to help you quickly calculate costs for specific trades based on your own rates and historical experience.

 

SmartInsight is an online construction network that helps general contractors find, verify and connect with subcontractors and suppliers. The full SmartInsight database of contractors is integrated with SmartBidNet for general contractors to tap into when sending project communications.

By using the SmartInsight construction network, general contractors in SmartBidNet can:
- Access a quality, up-to-date database of subcontractors for additional bid coverage.
- Locate qualified subcontractors that match your project requirements.
- Access a platform focused on streamlined prequalification with subcontractor scoring available from industry leading risk analysts.

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Cloud Storage Integrations


In addition to our preferred cloud integration with ShareFile, our users’ SmartBidNet online plan room can also integrate with these cloud storage solutions:

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ShareFile

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Box

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Google Drive

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OneDrive

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Egnyte

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SharePoint

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OneDrive
for Business

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CMIS

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Alfresco

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AWS S3



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