By: Wenhong Zhang, Senior Software Engineer; Casey Chamberlain, Manager & Architect
At Trimble PPM (Project & Program Management), we are constantly driven for new and better ways to improve construction project productivity while reducing errors and costs. One primary area of our focus is on drawing management, as nearly all project managers we’ve talked to report a common challenge: loss of visibility and lack of control over design and documentation versions.
The ability for users to easily navigate a set of drawings is a huge part of ensuring visibility is not lost. ProjectSight intelligently finds and links all published drawing callouts, and ensures those hyperlinks are always pointing to the correct versions of the referenced drawing sheets. We have designed ProjectSight to ensure callout hyperlinking is seamlessly integrated into the drawing publishing process. There are no extra steps required by users.
When newly approved drawing sheets are published, ProjectSight scans those drawings for callouts. Previously published drawing sheets are also scanned for callouts to the newly published sheets, and links are either added or updated to refer to newer versions of previously published drawings. For example, if drawing A.01 has a callout to drawing B.01, when a newly approved revision of B.01 is published, drawing A.01 will now link to that revision.
While keeping drawings correctly linked may sound like a pretty straightforward process, there is actually a lot of complexity involved. One significant area of complexity is in accurately identifying callouts, and placing the hyperlinks in the correct position, on a drawing sheet. Another significant challenge is when there are hundreds or thousands of drawings on a project: it’s imperative those links are available as soon as they are needed by anyone on the project.
So what makes automatically identifying callouts difficult? In short, callouts can be anywhere on a drawing, and there are many, many, ways to represent callouts and identify the referenced drawing sheet. Here are some examples:
- Callouts can be marked with different shapes (circles, squares, …) or nothing other that the referenced drawing sheet identifier. The text may be inside or outside of the callout shape.
Here is an example showing a callout with the drawing sheet reference DA4-0C outside of the shape:
- The callout text can also be in any direction, or orientation: horizontal, vertical, diagonal etc.
- Callouts don’t always use the same naming when referencing other drawing sheets. For example, the sheet A-1 may be inconsistently referenced as A1, A.1, A-1, or A 1, but ProjectSight correctly links all of these.
As shown above, accurately identifying callouts is complex on its own. But, doing so quickly is especially challenging when publishing new drawings into a project that already has hundreds, or even thousands, of published drawings. You can probably imagine that finding and relinking all callouts in a situation like this would be a full-time job prone with mistakes for a person if it was a manual process. Even with modern cloud computing, a significant amount of processing time is still required. Therefore, to provide the best possible experience, we employ several optimization strategies in ProjectSight.
Most importantly, we don’t make you, the user, wait for this process to happen. Instead, ProjectSight does this work for you behind the scenes. Next, ProjectSight immediately updates existing hyperlinks to any newer revisions being published to ensure you are always linked to the correct version of the drawings. Then, since the newly published drawings are likely to be the center of attention, all the callouts present on the new drawings are hyperlinked to other drawings in the project. Finally, all project drawings are then scanned for callouts back to any new drawings.
All of this work happens on ProjectSight’s highly scalable cloud architecture. On this architecture, ProjectSight is able to simultaneously scan many drawings at the same time. Simultaneous, also known as parallel, processing is how companies like Google, Microsoft, and Twitter provide seemingly instantaneous, and up to date, information. ProjectSight utilizes the same methods with drawing hyperlinking, to the point where it usually only takes minutes for this whole process to complete.
We think the drawing hyperlinking feature is a great example of helping to improve construction project productivity while reducing errors and costs. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort building and testing the accuracy and performance of this capability, so you can spend your time confidently managing and working on your project. A process that at one time required manually flipping through hundreds or thousands of paper drawings is now a simple, trustworthy, click.