Sharpe Images Acquires Car-Vir

Sharpe Images is pleased to announce the acquisition of Car-Vir. Car-Vir, located in Goldsboro NC, is an electrical distribution company specializing in the di-electric testing of gloves, sleeves, blankets and line hoses for electricians and utility lineman. As a certified di-electric tester, Car-Vir has been servicing clients throughout the country for over 40 years.

"We have a lot of the same clients for different services so it seemed like an excellent opportunity to cross sell services and clients." says John Beachem, Sales and Operations manager of Car-Vir.

Sharpe Images will relocate Car-Vir to a larger facility in Goldsboro in the coming months and add printing, safety supplies, equipment, and software capabilities to the location. "We want to make sure we are able to provide all of our services to eastern NC. The addition of Car-Vir will allow us to increase our capabilities and footprint to better serve our clients." says Zane Sharpe, Vice President Sharpe Images.

Sharpe Images is a 65 year old family owned business. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, Sharpe Images also has offices in Raleigh, Charlotte, High-Point, Indian Trail and now Goldsboro. Sharpe Images provides printing, equipment, safety supplies, and customized software platforms, for the AEC communities. (,

NextPlans releases Version 2.0 of NextPlansMobile iPad application

Version 2.0 of our app is available today! This complete re-design of our application give users a clean, easy to use interface with a few new bells and whistles...

Improved syncing of documents between your device and the NextPlans Cloud

Updated annotations interface and 100% compatibilty with Adobe Acrobat annotations.

Within the Planroom and Collaboration sections there is a NEW area called the WorkDesk. You can use the WorkDesk to keep documents readily available while you are working with them. Think of this as your digital drafting table.

Existing users click the link HERE to download the Quick Start Guide today
Not yet a user? Click below to purchase the app in January 2014 at the reduced price of $4.99!
NextPlans Mobile iPad App

Smiling and Dialing


NextPlans new service featured in CE Magazine

Construction Estimators Magazine

NextCall was launched in June of this year as a call service built in to the pre-construction module of NextPlans. Estimators can identify where they have not gotten good initial response and prompt the call service by trades needed for that project. Local call center representatives then contact subs on behalf of the General Contractor to determine whether or not the subcontractor is going to bid the project. That information is then put back into the bidder call report in NextPlans for the estimator to review and have for future evaluation.

Construction Estimating Magazine sat down with Stephanie Hinson a Program Manager for NextPlans to discuss the service and it's progress

CE Magazine: NextCall was launched in June, but just now seems to be gaining strides, what's changed?

Stephanie: We worked hard to promote the service to our existing clients and through that marketing and inner soul searching by our clients we have really picked up momentum these last 2 months.

CE Magazine: What do you mean when you say inner soul searching by your clients?

Stephanie: There were a few concerns or obstacles we needed to overcome:
1) Clients were concerned that there would be scope specific questions that a sub would want answered that we wouldn't be
able to.
2) Many clients were tasking these initial call responsibilities to their entry level estimators or estimating assistants
3) It would take away from the personal touch of calling a sub yourself for their pricing.

CE Magazine: How are you addressing or have you addressed these concerns?

Stephanie: We custom prepare the call script with our clients before calling subs. So far the script has been fairly consistent between our clients using the service. We ask the sub if he is interested in bidding "project x" If he/she says "yes" we update the reporting and include any additional comments. If they say "no" we ask if they can expand on their "no" response and we
update that information in the reporting as well. Any scope questions we refer them back to the invitation and the estimator for the project from our GC client.

CE Magazine: What about concerns 2 and 3?

Stephanie: These concerns are where the real inner soul searching comes into play. Our clients have to feel like the calls they need to be made aren't being made. A lot of money can be spent in pre-construction before the GC even has the job so they really have to evaluate their time & cost versus the NextCall service. If you can put together pricing on 2 projects in the time it would ordinarily take you to do 1 it seems like a good fit. You aren't wasting any time calling for clarification of bid intention, you are calling to answer scope questions, sway someone off of the "Undecided" list, or follow-up on a quote that's due.

CE Magazine: So, no personal touch gets lost from using the NextCall service?

Stephanie: None what-so-ever. If you look at it like a sales pipeline, we are warming the leads. An estimator will know who to call to give that personal touch too. A good example we see a lot of; "Not sure yet", "We have a lot going on", "Please have the estimator contact me". These are people on the fence where personal touch is needed. Senior estimators can better train entry level estimators by immediately being able to go into in depth conversation with a prospective subcontractor.

CE Magazine: Is there any other information an estimator should know about the service?

Stephanie: Definitely. We find a lot of times after the call service has been requested on a project that a lot of the contact information in the GC database is outdated. We update the information, and resend the invitation for the client. That information is then entered into the reporting interface for their reference.


Contact: Christopher Franchi, Regional Manager - NextPlans

Resources and time are critical from one construction project to the next. Every business aspires to utilize limited resources in order to produce or execute an efficient and cost-effective operation. True to form, a big percentage of total cost on construction projects is allocated to time and administration. Document control is an area of admin that begins at the onset of a project, and lasts long after the tools are collected off a job-site. For instance, architectural firms may base 35-45% of their fee on the time exhausted on managing construction documents alone, and another 25-30% on administration during the construction phase according to the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Likewise, the Houston Chronicle reports that engineering fees breakdown to final design services and paperwork at 45 percent and construction administration at 20 percent. Subsequently, Project Close out is the last major phase of a project's life cycle where collecting, completing, and archiving project documents is one of the most significant in terms of time and resources used.

It would seem that since document administration is a relatively known and necessary issue to tackle during a construction project that there would be many more tools out there catering to the needs of small and large contractors, design firms, and engineers. The concern is clear... a construction firm, in whatever capacity, builds buildings. Their wheelhouse is not document control, nor should it be. In the face of this dilemma, companies turn to the abundance of technology drowning the marketplace in one file sharing service after another. The hope, is to get on board the digital revolution and assuage some of these trivial troubles. In reality, what happens is the opposite. Lean construction takes a back seat to loading up office engineers and field staff with resources that simply drain more and more of an employee's billable time. Valuable time that could be devoted to greater efficiency of the construction itself, not towards quality control, indexing, and naming of the document packages that are issued for the project; Not towards the collection of information from Subs, and the distribution of information to project participants.

Did you know that the IRS offers tax tips that state a construction company can deduct General & Administrative indirect costs? These costs are those associated with running the company, but not tied to a specific job. In that case, wouldn't it be nice to have an added general administration service that saves both your employees time, labor, and cuts down on direct costs that are currently being utilized on a job, while creating added financial benefits for the company?

Many web-based tools on the market merely create more cumbersome processes, and take an abundance of time to navigate and provide the appropriate end user support. Isn't this just what construction managers don't want? What's missing from all of these systems is the human element. These technologies are propositioned as a solution when really they only increase the burden on what may very well be a busy and overworked staff already.

The NextPlans system is one of few that it is completely designed for the construction industry alone and is a tremendous solution for this over-reaching problem. It provides total accountability, quality control, reliability, and efficiency when it comes to document control procedures. It simply integrates with a company's current business practices in order to deliver the most effective execution of project administration from pre-construction to Close out, facilitating the admin so you don't have to. Incorporated within this, is a team of professionals that are completely focused on end user support and outstanding service.

Interview with a Construction Manager

Are you wasting time with technology?
We were recently onsite with a project team from a US Top 10 Healthcare Construction Management Firm.

This project team has a multi-project contract with an owner that will run for the next 5 years. This project team is responsible for pre-construction and operations for each project. Our goal was to get a complete understanding of how their cloud-based technology infrastructure was benefitting their job site team for pre-construction and project management collaboration.

We sat down with two members of the team that had built a document management folder structure on a cloud based program called Box. This solution included an extensive folder structure with access to information such as RFIs, Submittals, Progress Sets, and even bid documents for each project. They were accessing the information via their iPads and bringing up on dual big screen TVs in their job site trailer.

Read the interview below to see how suprised we were to see that this system has actually created bottlenecks in their workflow and actually decreased their efficiency.

NP: First, let's talk Pre-construction. One of our most frequently heard pains is that it simply takes too much time to contact the subs to find out whether they intend to bid a project. How do you solicit subs?

A: We add the subs email addresses manually to Box and send them a link to the project files.

NP: How many subs per trade do you invite?

A: We try to invite 5 to 8 subs per trade but have to make sure we can find that many. Often times because we are relatively new to the market we have to use other resources to find those subs.

NP: How do you know if a sub intends to bid a project?

A: We can see if they previewed the documents or downloaded them through the reporting in Box.

NP: If they've previewed the project, does that confirm that they are going to bid?
A: No, We have to call all the subs in the critical trades and most of the other trades depending on how our coverage looks already.

NP: How do you document bidding intentions in Box?

A: We track responses in Excel. We input the information manually.

NP: That sounds like a headache. How much time do you spend making these phone calls and tracking these responses?

A: On the last project we spent two weeks on the phone with subs.

Does this sound familiar? If so, check out our Bid Reminder Services at NextPlans. One easy set up allows you to send automatic reminders to your subs on any schedule you choose. Our tests have show that this service drastically reduces time spent on phone calls and increases response rates by as much as 500%.

We continued our discussion, moving on to their method (using Box) for project document management and collaboration.

NP: Your folder structure is very organized and detailed for storing documentation during the construction process. How do you use it to exchange information between project team members?
A: We actually just share information with team members through our site.

NP: Can those team members share information back to you through the site (Designers, consultants, subs, owners)?

A: No. Mostly information is sent to us via email from project team members and then we log it in Box.

NP: Is Box, then, more of an internal mechanism for you to store information?

A: Storing and sending out information at this point. We have been unable to fully collaborate through the system.

NP: Speaking of collaboration, can all participants annotate and comment within Box on project information?

A: No, we actually use Bluebeam to annotate. I am sure that others annotate within their own mark-up tools or mark-up hard copies.

NP: So, without a fully integrated file exchange system and a check-in/check-out annotation process because all project team members are using different annotation tools, you are not really collaborating in Box?

A: No, I think the benefit is more for us internally at this time.

NP: We noticed that you have standard sheet names on the drawings, do you have to keep a drawing log for the project?
A: Yes, we keep a drawing log and track the information in our Construction Management software.

NP: Who is responsible for the file naming of drawings and specifications?

A: We do that before we upload the information to Box.

NP: How much time does that take?
A: It depends on the amount of information that has to be named. The more documents, the more time it takes to name them.

NP: On a multi project contract, how do you anticipate managing all of this in addition to you other responsibilities once you have more than one active job.

A: We anticipate bringing in an Office Engineer or two if it becomes too much to handle.

Want to know more? Schedule a demo...
Click Here

Flatten Your Digital Annotations!

Why Flattening PDFs is Important?

Digital annotations are no longer a thing of the future, but understanding how to use them effectively may still provide a learning curve for the AEC market. AEC firms can spin up a pdf from Autodesk products, they can add digital stamps or mark-ups in things like Bluebeam or Adobe Pro, but not too often are we taking that extra step of flattening the pdf. PDF files can contain two types of information graphics or annotations. Graphics files like images, text, etc. are considered static. Stamps, digital mark-ups, sticky notes are all considered annotations that are typically associated with a graphic.

Annotations contain some interactive features and can be very useful in certain situations, but in scenarios like submittal processing or change order request it is imperative to flatten the pdf and turn your annotations static on the document. Without flattening annotated pdfs there is no insurance that all annotations will be visible to participants on their work-stations or mobile devices. In instances where you are using an app to access marked up information after the fact, it is almost a certainty that annotations will not appear if the file has not been flattened before sharing. This can create considerable issues when trying to create a digital work-flow for COR (change order requests) or submittals during a project.

Certain programs like BlueBeam provide you with the option to flatten annotations within their program so that the additional layer that you have created is visible to all project participants regardless of the device or pc being used to review the information. If you are doing your annotations in Adobe, I am providing you with a link to a plug-in that not only allows you to flatten your annotations but it also allows you to get mark-up specific as to what you would like to flatten. This way you can have both interactive and static annotations, but more importantly insure that your comments are visible on any mobile device, app, or workstation for any user.

Click here to read about and/or download the free Adobe plug-in:

Alternatively, Adobe provides this "action" below that can be installed as a plugin to your version of Acrobat that will flatten all of your annotations.

NextPlans Partners with Cadnetics

Contact: Stephanie Hinson, (866)215-0428, Charlotte, NC - March 29, 2013

NextPlans, an industry leading provider of construction performance management software and tools, is pleased to announce a partnership with Cadnetics. Cadnetics is a firm that offers CAD, BIM, 3D Laser Scanning and other consultative services. They are headquartered in Pittsburgh and do work throughout the United States.

Zane Sharpe, Vice President of NextPlans said, "We are excited to be able to offer our end-users access to a company that can fulfill an immediate need. " Sharpe also added," With more and more project utilizing modeling for coordination, subs and vendors can use Cadnetics as a turn-key resource rather than absorb new software and overhead costs."

Jim Mauler, President of Cadnetics stated, "NextPlans provides service to over 100,000 end users in just about every market-sector of construction. Our experience in the Southeast on wide-range of projects makes this a good partnership."

Click here for more information on Cadnetics.

NextPlans For Educators

Collaboration Generates Real World Experience in the Classroom

Recently, Robert Ford, a construction management professor used his influence in the construction industry to persuade NextPlans, an on-line data management service provider to collaborate with him and allow him access to their services to use in the project based curriculum associated with two of his courses; a fall CM 424- Facility Management and a spring CM 231- Code and Plan Reading course. Robert is a non-traditional educator that worked the construction and manufacturing industries for twenty years before getting a college education. His past experience at the supervisory level in many different applications has instilled in him the ability to evaluate learning performance and outcomes better than most educators. Robert understands that to build knowledge it takes applying fundamental layers of instruction and mentoring to generate positive learning outcomes.

The first step in the collaboration was to locate accessible as-built drawings that did not have the usual confidentiality clauses attached. The Information Technology Director with NextPlans realized that public funded projects could be obtained through a right to know clause and he was able to upload several as-built data sets which included the drawings and specifications related to completed projects conducted on campus. Having the as-built data sets relate to local projects led to a better understanding of the lesson plans for the students. Once the site was developed and the data uploaded the next process was to register all the students on the site as new members of the project team. They were able to register as sub-contractors and were assigned secured login credentials that allowed Robert to track their activities on the site, eliminating any excuses concerning the milestones that had been initiated for grading purposes.

The first application of this study was introduced to a Facility Management course where the lesson plans followed the course textbook materials. Acting as the general contractor Robert would issue request for qualifications (RFQ) that required the students to brainstorm on what the necessary requirements would be to qualify for the administrative roles of a facility manager and the necessary support staff they would need. Chapter 1 of the text covered such requirements.

Once the administrative qualifications were set, Robert issued Request for Proposals (RFP) in segments related to the layout of the text chapter outline. If students had questions they had to upload a request for information (RFI) just as if they were in the real world. After all the necessary RFPs had been completed and all the milestones had been met the students were assigned a group and through a collaborative effort they developed a proposal to present to the class trying to convince them that their particular strategic plan would be the best to implement. The learning outcomes were very obvious to Robert and all his expectations concerning the students and the application of the curriculum plan had been met.

The spring Codes and Plan Reading curriculum plan includes two sets of as-built renovation projects that were implemented on the campus. The students were introduced to the history of building codes and introduced to the function of the 2012 International Building Code reference book which will be used as the course textbook for the study. They will be challenged to learn who to determine the occupancy code associated with the data sets, relate the different drawings to relevant applications covered in the various sections of the reference book, and be able to simulate the actions of a code inspector on the two sets of data for the final project. So far the lesson plans and related milestones are on schedule and the final learning outcomes will be evaluated and released in the final presentation of the study results.

According to Robert this on-line service could be the turning point between the 20th and 21st century approach to construction education. If a program wanted to make a positive change for the future they could introduce this service and application at the introductory level and continue to upload related data to it until the course work had been completed. During the senior capstone experience, that most programs require, the educator could up load a larger project and assign the same requirements the students had experienced during the program to complete allowing the students access to completed work for reference. The same approach would be developed issuing milestones and monitoring their activity until completion.

If you have any questions or concerning please feel free to contact the following collaboration partners:

Educator: Robert Ford,

Service Provider Vice-President: Zane Sharpe,

Service Provider IT Engineer: Chris Perkins,

NextPlans releases NextPlansMobile for iPad in the US iTunes App store

Contact: Chris Perkins, (866)215-0428,
Winston Salem, NC - November 28, 2012
NextPlans, an industry leading provider of construction performance management software and tools, is pleased to announce the release of their iPad app for NextPlans. With NextPlansMobile your iPad is your gateway to view, store and annotate the documents you access on the NextPlans project delivery system.
Eric Benson, lead developer of the app and architect of NextPlans states, "The evolution of construction document distribution and management continues with the iPad. Most other apps lean towards project reporting or analytics for contractors, which doesn't solve the problem of having a full set of project documents available anywhere at anytime. NextPlansMobile allows users to download and store documents on an iPad, annotate them and re-distribute the annotated documents from virtually anywhere using a cellular network or wifi."
NextPlans offers a suite of web-based construction project management tools for communication, collaboration, document management, vendor and subcontractor qualification, and bidding management. The utilization of NextPlans tools can be utilized by all members of a project team and NextPlansMobile is another service that will continue that trend.
"We wanted to start the foundation of our app around maximizing utilization of the iPad touch-screen, and walking the jobsite with drawings at your disposal to quickly edit and distribute is the clearest intent for the utilization of an iPad in construction," said Chris Perkins, NextPlans' Director of Technical Services. NextPlans' development team reviewed several construction industry related studies that indicated that Construction firms justified the purchase of iPads and other tablet devices specifically for field personnel. Chris Perkins added, "As we continue to develop releases for our app, we will prioritize them around the needs of our clients' and their most mobile personnel."

Download From App Store Here

Tips for Selecting Construction Software

Construction software is a hot topic these days for design and construction firms. There are hundreds of different construction software packages and solutions available. Each promises to save money, improve efficiency, and improve project delivery. Selecting the right product for your company can be very challenging. To ensure that your firm is making the right decision and getting a return on your software investment, take a prudent approach. Define your business challenges and diligently review the competitive offerings.

Defining your needs
Start by addressing the business challenges you are trying to achieve. Do you need solutions for: estimating, collaboration, document and project management, cost accounting, invitation to bid, preconstruction, etc. Defining the core functionalities and capabilities of a software program is a critical step in the process. The key is to identify the software solution that works best with your company's unique activities and processes.

Consider the Cost
Cost is a key consideration of any software purchase. With construction management software, there are a wide range of products and even more pricing options. Far too many contractors buy more software than they need. Construction software vendors will typically offer licensing agreements based on the number of users, product volume, company size or a combination of variables. Consider these cost factors when making a decision.

Engage the users
No construction software tool will be effective if it is not used. When beginning your review process, develop a core team within your firm that is representative of potential users. Include finance, IT, project management, design, project controls, preconstruction, procurement and others that might be using the system. These team members can help better define your needs, offer diverse perspectives, and will more likely be bought in to the final selection.

Ensure your vendor offers customized training
Purchasing the software is the easy part. Be sure to choose a vendor who includes a full team of training and technical staff that can provide customized instruction and implementation support. Ask the vendors about their training approach and construction industry experience. Specifically ask them what the average training time is before someone can start using the system.

Understand how you will be supported and how custom development is handled

Construction management software should not be a cookie cutter package. Each design and construction company is different and each construction project is unique. Your construction management software should be unique, too. Your construction management software partner needs to be relied upon as a member of your team. This includes availability to quickly develop effective solutions without charging you for every modification. In addition, make sure the support is U.S.-based and included in your purchase price.

Don't underestimate the human-element
Often times software packages are sold on the premise of automation. With so many variables and moving parts during a construction project it is inevitable that there will need to be human-interaction for certain aspects of an interface. Make sure that provider allows for continued end-user support and service management so that you do not create an additional list of tasks for your personnel.

Select a firm that knows construction
Many firms are new to the construction industry. When selecting your construction management software solution, look to a vendor that is stable, established, and knows the construction industry. Make sure your vendor has people who understand construction, workflows, and how design firms and contractors make money.

Make sure you are in good company
Be sure to review the vendor's customer list. When reviewing vendors, look for firms that are in similar markets, have similar revenues, and share common factors with your firm. When talking with your sales representative, ask them specifically how their product has impacted their existing clients. Ask for concrete examples and case histories. Also be sure to ask for references and call them! If the vendor refuses to provide you with references at their client companies, that is a red flag.

Not all software is created equal
With all of the construction software packages out there, not everything is created equal. Packages that might be great tools for document management and collaboration might be lousy for job cost accounting. When reviewing construction software vendors, find out the specific areas in which the vendor excels. These areas should be in close alignment with your firm's specific needs.

Safe and secure
Many construction software packages are cloud-based and may put your information at a security risk. When reviewing vendors, ask about where your data will be hosted, if there is redundancy, and how they address security.

Beyond the demo
Demonstrations are great opportunities to get a feel for the system, navigation and features. Most construction software systems are based on industry best practices and can be adaptable. Use the demonstration as an opportunity to ask about your specific situation and challenges. Typically, the demonstrations focus on the software's "bells and whistles." Ask your vendor if they are willing to give you a free trial or a money back guarantee. In reality, you cannot determine if the system works for your firm until you've started using it on actual projects.

Don't "overbuy" the software
Too many companies select systems for the "bells and whistles." While these features may be appealing, they do little to impact company performance and the bottom line. Make sure you choose software that you will use to its fullest capacity. Many firms invest in a costly technology solution and only end-up using 10% of the functionality.

Construction software offers tremendous promise and potential, however, there are many pitfalls for design and construction firms. By defining your needs, engaging your users, and thoroughly reviewing vendors, you can find the right solution for specific needs, increase productivity, improve profitability and demonstrate a return on investment.

Zane Sharpe is Vice President for He can be reached at 866.215.0428 or

About NextPlans NextPlans is a web-based construction performance management service that facilitates project information management and information distribution for owners, architects, engineers, general contractors, and specialty contractors throughout the United States. NextPlans creates customized solutions that allow our clients to centralize information, reduce administrative costs, mitigate risk, and improve efficiency. NextPlans is one system with all-inclusive components that creates transparency and accountability on a project from schematic design to facilities management. For more information on NextPlans, visit or call 1.866.215.0428.

More Entries