Director of Asblt, Michael Frost, a hydraulic, fire and civil consultant says he is responding to an all too frequent problem he has encountered in 36 years of building industry experience.
“I realised there was a definite need for a reliable archiving system to cover building plans,” he says.
“Consider these scenarios. A new tenant is moving into your commercial property and you need to rewire the premises. Or there’s a burst water pipe and the plumber urgently needs information about the water supply. Or there’s a police emergency and they need a layout of the premises.
“There are dozens of different reasons why it’s important to be able to access vital information about your building. But often these plans are difficult to retrieve immediately or they’ve been lost, mislaid or are out on loan with no record of who has taken them.
“We take all the plans for a building, covering architecture, structure, electrical, hydraulics, air conditioning and lots more and provide a complete archive and retrieval service for the building,” he says.
“A large structure can have anything from 2,000 to 5,000 plans and, as time goes by, they get mislaid, new employees lose touch with who did what to the building and how long ago. And of course contractors can lose plans, close their businesses or retire.
“In the case of heritage buildings or even older office blocks, the plans will usually be in hard copy format. Some companies maintain entire warehouses to store their plans, resulting in employees having to travel to the warehouse, find the plan and then copy it, sometimes taking hours.
“Lost plans can be even more expensive. It then becomes necessary to draw up new ones which can cost thousands of dollars per site.”
Frost says that Asblt originally planned to offer a service to store plans in electronic format, using their own special attributes system to enable rapid recovery and issue copies on request.
“As we were developing the idea however, we began talking to Océ about purchasing a wide format scanning system and they suggested we look at their software package Océ Engineering Exec.
“Within minutes it became obvious this was a far better solution than anything we’d envisaged. With their help we developed the system that Asblt now uses.
“We scan all drawings using an Océ TDS600 scanner which are then tagged, identified and organised using Océ Engineering Exec and stored in our doc vault for instant retrieval. Each document carries at least five or six archiving attributes and we can add others at the customer’s request.
“The benefits of the system are immediately obvious to any facilities manager. We can begin storing their architectural and engineering digital plans before new buildings are even completed. If it’s an old building which doesn’t have AutoCAD digitised plans we can convert the hard copy plans by scanning and then store them digitally. There is no need for customers to store duplicate files and the retrieval times are almost instantaneous.
“Using a laptop computer, a contractor can call up drawings while working within the building. If he can’t locate what he’s looking for he can open the appropriate plans on screen to study them.
“Where plans need to be changed, customers can upload the new file to replace the old one. Access is on a 24/7 basis, which is extremely convenient in an industry with so much work at nights and on weekends.
“All information is backed up on magnetic tape with backups stored offsite. In the event of a fire destroying our main files, we could resume operation with the backup files within 24 hours,” Michael Frost says.
The Océ TDS600, equipped with patented Océ Image Logic technology, is able to correct marked or damaged drawings during scanning to provide a result often better than the original.