Over the past 20 years, Bluebeam software has become one of the mainstays in the toolbox of the architecture, construction and engineering industries. While its basic capabilities are widely in use within those disciplines, harnessing its full potential remains a goal of technology leaders like Kraus-Anderson’s Andrea Blair and Abigail Heimel.
Blair, a BIM specialist, and Heimel, a project manager, downloaded some insights from the 2016 Bluebeam Extreme national conference held August 15-17 in San Diego.
Q: For the uninitiated, what does Bluebeam do?
ABIGAIL HEIMEL: Its skeleton use is as a PDF reader and editor. But beyond that, the program has been customized for use in the architecture, construction and engineering (AEC) industries. It’s specialized for plan reading, documentation workflow and collaboration. Bluebeam has revolutionized the PDF from what most people think of it as- a 2D sheet of paper- to a resource that’s really more like a bucket, with many rich layers of information like hyperlinks, embedded videos, tags, markups, comments.
Q: What are Bluebeam’s credentials?
ANDREA BLAIR: They’ve been around since 1997 and basically chose the PDF file format to revolutionize. Bluebeam is a pioneer in the Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Design Construction (VDC) techologies; they developed CAD to PDF creation technology for aerospace engineers. Today their PDF creation, markup and editing software is implemented not only in the AEC industries, but also in government agencies, among PC users, educators, accountants, lawyers.
ABIGAIL HEIMEL: And their Lean approach is evident in their continuous improvement process. Each year their programmers further integrate the software with other platforms such as Autodesk, Box, Microsoft, Dropbox, Sharepoint, etc., so it becomes more powerful, and effective, with each integration.
Q: Who attends this conference?
ABIGAIL HEIMEL: About 75% were general contractors, another 10% engineers, 10% architects, and the rest were owners. Think of the techno-geeks in your work environment, those eccentric thought leaders and IT innovators. Now imagine an entire hotel filled with hundreds of those intense personalities!
Q: For the past couple years you two have been promoting Bluebeam through a series of trainings for our employees. How does attending the Bluebeam conference complement or supplement your own knowledge?
ANDREA BLAIR: This is my second time at the conference, and with my focus on BIM/VDC and training tips and tricks to bring back to KA. I’m looking for ideas of how to more effectively share 3D PDF’s with project managers and those contractors without the BIM software. Overall I just find it a really inspiring being immersed in the tech talk and interest levels and similar challenges to those we experience at KA. It’s great to share ideas and problem solving with peers.
ABIGAIL HEIMEL: This was my third time attending, and this time I decided to forgo the training sessions and attend the various industry specific round-table discussions. We talked about topics like closeout, and giving our clients what they actually want vs. what they need. For example, handing a client an iPad with BIM modeling on it when they aren’t really immersed in that software understanding may not be as meaningful as providing smart PDF’s with the same information. And we talked about Big Data- how to use aggregate experience information to factor trends or make meaningful predictions relating to perhaps costing information, or safety risk factors. Bluebeam recorded the sessions for use in their product development.
Q: What were your takeaways from this year’s conference?
ABIGAIL HEIMEL: One big takeaway for me was the power of owner-driven change. Again, owners were in the minority at the conference, but their voice is such a powerful catalyst for change in the industries.
ANDREA BLAIR: The biggest takeaway was, understanding that everyone is in the same boat. We were all there to help make this software better and also understand the software better to improve the work we do in our companies. It is all about sharing ideas and processes to better each other, even if we are competitors.
Q: What’s on your Bluebeam to-do list for the coming year?
ABIGAIL HEIMEL: Definitely a top priority is developing a Bluebeam for Superintendents training. And I’d love to follow the lead of our Lean Coffee group and launch a monthly, informal Bluebeam Hour- just a casual opportunity to get together, geek out about the cool new features relating to things like punchlists, quantity takeoffs, ask questions, and so on.
ANDREA BLAIR: I’d also like to introduce a monthly tips & tricks e-mail blast for those who don’t have the extra time for additional training. There is so much to Bluebeam and they have periodic updates that continually add new and exciting features.
Q: You both have taken on the responsibility to promote Bluebeam, on top of your already busy jobs. What motivates you?
ABIGAIL HEIMEL: I am motivated everyday by KA employees who have attended my trainings and give me feedback on how it has helped their workflow. Even if it is just small tips and tricks, the little things add up to time savings and efficiency. I love taking calls with quick questions (or sometimes not-so-quick discussions) knowing that I’m helping someone make their job just a little bit easier or less stressful that day.
ANDREA BLAIR: The thing that motivates me the most is people intrigued about Bluebeam. Asking questions, wanting to dive deeper. The whole point of teaching Bluebeam classes is to make “us” better. When we can all help each other out and improve our processes, it is a win-win.