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From CAD User AEC Magazine Vol 18 No 01 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2005
John Doogan of The Miller Partnership explains how the use of Archetype has enabled his practice to retain control over the growing mountain of information being handled by a successful architectural practice.
The Miller Partnership is an architectural practice in Glasgow, with about 50
staff, that has a varied case load that includes small to medium residential
projects, schools (a lot of school projects are currently in progress in
Scotland, at the moment – the result of the Governments PPP scheme) and Sports
and Leisure facilities. These are, perhaps the most prominent of their projects,
and include such well-known clients as Manchester United, Coventry Football Club
and the Oval cricket ground in London.
The practice has been using Archetype’s document management solution for the last three years, and has been one of the most pro-active of customers, suggesting a number of improvements that needed to be made to earlier versions of the software – and which have been taken up by Archetype to good effect.
John Doogan, one of the partners of the practice, perhaps most intimately involved in the adoption of the software, and its implementation in the practice, spoke to me about the contribution it had made to the general running of the practice, and the benefits they get out of it.
Prior to adopting Archetype, the partnership relied on manual filing systems, and standard computing tools. Maintaining the records of upwards of 400 projects, of which half a dozen are currently in progress, and being able to access and cross-reference information, contact and other details from them, was a problem that was gradually increasing in magnitude. What they needed was a solution that unified the data, enabling them to maintain tighter control over the documentation associated with each project, and to simplify the production and distribution of drawings, schedules, reports, certificates etc. And, of course, to provide a more accurate time-recording and work logging system to bill their clients. Archetype was selected as the most appropriate solution, and it was duly tested on 3 of their projects.
John was enthusiastic from the start. ‘We worked closely with Alec James in the early days – even assisting them with some of their demos to other clients – and we were able to provide significant input to Archetype about the operation of some of the functions, and how they could be improved’. His staff, at first, were a bit nervous about the significant changes that the software would bring to their way of working, but had now realised the enormous advantages it was bringing to the practice. ‘One guy’, said John, ‘has 15 projects to control. He has now got them under his belt, and has immediate access to snagging lists, technical queries, hazards, risk assessment, inspectors reports, instructions and certificates for each one of his projects’.
‘On the drawing side,’ John continued, ‘ we can immediately see the status of each drawing in the Drawing Register – seeing which drawings are in progress, which are ready for issue, who is working on them, and, as they are all tagged, preventing two people working on the same drawing at the same time.’
‘Title blocks can be updated from the database – and backwards if you like, and whenever drawings are amended, we can check which other drawings are also affected – even xrefs!’.
Schedules are another feature of Archetype that John has found to be most useful. ‘We are able to save considerable time copying such things as door schedules from one project to another –perhaps saving ourselves days of work, especially with the stadium projects which could include hundreds of doors.’
The human aspect of projects often creates problems within a large practice, as it is often difficult to keep a track of who is working on what. Archetype solves that problem by linking personnel to each project. When a user logs in, he or she is presented with just those projects that they are personally responsible for, simplifying the task of logging work to specific projects, and preventing misplaced allocation of work done. John has linked this to the Time Sheet. ‘When someone has finished working on a particular project, they can’t log off until they have filled in their time sheet!’ This is, of course, not a mandatory procedure, and like some others, can be switched on, or off, to suit the client.
Other facilities that John finds useful are the handling of correspondence – the creation of PDFs (a new feature for Version 8) from letters, emails and so on, which, converted to zip files and much reduced in size, can be posted on Bulletin Boards to be accessed by others within the project –creating an instant record of conversations and workflow. Workflow is also the feature of Project Plan, which includes Gantt charts, providing users with an instant overview of work in progress. John prefers this to Microsoft’s Project software. ‘We find that to be too complex, requiring someone to be fully occupied in its maintenance, when all we need is a spot check on what is coming up, needs to be done, or is falling behind.’
Archetype Version 8
Other new modules which have been developed for the latest version of Archetype include the Calendar facility - which John finds particularly useful – which works in a similar way to Outlook’s Calendar. With it, users can book appointments for themselves, as well as others, linking them into staff and equipment schedules. ‘You can book people into a specified room for a meeting – and then allocate the resources that will be needed for that meeting – laptops, projectors, screens, whatever. And all of this can be handled from just two screens! On top of that, attendance time at the meetings will be allocated to each person’s Time Sheet.’
Project Planner enables users to assign the different types of staff – architects, technicians etc., - and all time stages to specific projects. These can then be defined for each job, and checked against other jobs using the gantt charts to see if there are any overlaps on jobs, or busy and quiet periods. Time allocation can be set against projects, from which Archetype can compare against actual time taken, whether the projects are over or under budget, and to provide an estimate of the percentage of the work actually carried out.
Another new module is the Incoming Register which allows users to track all incoming documents received by consultants on a job whether they are paper, email or on disk, and then allows actions associated with these files to be tracked, to see which are outstanding etc. This module will also control revisions of received drawings, allowing the superseding of older files, produce a history of revisions and subsequent action.
The Miller Partnership is currently finalising a contract with a Scottish City Council which is in the process of implementing Archetype. According to John Doogan, this was excellent news for them, as it simplified the sharing of information between the two partners. ‘Archetype forces a set of beneficial rules on you. To have your client working under similar rules makes the lives of both of us so much easier.’
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