QR codes and their benefit to CDE

24 June 2022

One issue with the digital construction world and its use of CDE’s is that of accessibility. For those who do not often access the various CDE’s linked with the projects they find themselves working on, it can be quite easy to struggle to navigate them, especially when quick access is required to check on either the status of a document, verify information or to check if a document has been superseded.

It is easy to imagine being in a situation on site with little to no access to Wi-Fi which makes the digital data environment inaccessible. Imagine being in this situation and discussing plans and then not being sure if the document you are currently looking at is the latest version of the document, well isn’t that what revision codes are for? Well, yes, but does the revision code P05 really tell you if you are looking at the latest version? No, this only tells you that it is the fifth revision, so you know there are four older revisions but there is nothing about if there has been a sixth, or even seventh revision.

We need to be able to quickly access and check this information before delays or errors can be made. Delays can cause panic to meet deadlines, and errors can be incredibly costly. How can we overcome this? The answer is simple; QR codes.

For those unaware, QR codes are the little black and white boxes resembling barcodes that have been popping up all over, from posters on bus stops to receipts. They allow someone to scan with their phone and then be instantly shown text or taken to a specific webpage that they would not have otherwise gone to. The excellent part about them is the speed at which they do so, simply scan and press go. Convenience has long been king for businesses, the more streamlined a process comes for a customer the more likely they are to use it. How many of us use our phones to use Apple pay rather than open our wallets, and stick the card into the machine reader before entering our pin and waiting a few moments for this to be approved? This is the same principle, being able to swiftly take clients or subcontractors to drawings within the CDE is both quick and convenient.

The question then becomes ‘How do we implement this into the CDE?’. Fortunately, certain CDE’s, such as Asite, already allow for QR codes to be enabled on projects in a quick and easy manner, and as stated earlier, convenience is king.

The QR code functionality on Asite, it should be noted, only currently applies to files within the PDF format. This should be expanded to other file types in the future. This may hinder the effectiveness of QR Codes within a project should the BEP state files should be provided in a non-PDF format, such as word, PowerPoint or even within a live 3D model, although the latter would likely struggle to be effectively shown on a mobile phone, the device best suited to using QR Codes.

This isn’t to say that the file will be displayed when a QR code has been scanned. The file may be accessed from the QR code, but this is an optional extra that will further be limited to Asite users as to access the file, not the QR code link, the user must be signed into Asite. This same level of optional access can also be given to the revision notes. This helps maintain a level of security, as certain restricted projects may not be open to people being able to access possibly sensitive information so easily.

One key part of the customisation options within the QR code set up is the placement of the code in and of itself. Asite allows for the codes to be placed at the top or bottom, and left, right and centre. There is also the option to displace the codes, so they can be placed neatly within a border and preventing the printers cutting off the edge of the code which would make their inclusion redundant if they cannot be scanned in the first place. This enables for the codes to be organised as best suited to the project, although it should be stated that keeping the placement consistent would make them far more effective.

The codes are a blanket rule within a folder, so once assigned, all QR codes will be placed into the same positioning. It can be made different for different folders; however, this would drastically increase the time it takes for a project to be set up and thus the lack of a standardised place within a project could lead to unnecessary delays.

Something readers may already be thinking is that not all drawings and documentations are the same size. Fortunately, Asite have already anticipated this and the codes will scale to match the document size. This will make setting up templates a more laborious process as templates that factor in the codes may need to be changed in order to place the codes within the specified location in a more suitable way, but the alternative would be far more problematic. If the codes were a uniform size, regardless of document size, then either the largest documents will have an incredibly small code, or the smallest documents will be at risk of being more code than actual documentation. Both scenarios could lead to the code being difficult to scan, thus becoming obsolete as they not only would fail in their purpose, as well as no longer being the convenient option that would make their use such a potentially powerful tool.

The goal of this post was not only to inform readers of the existence of the QR code functionality within a CDE, but to highlight the various options and uses that it may have. From personal experience, many individuals within the construction industry can be somewhat apprehensive towards the transition to a mostly digital construction space and so giving them a convenient and tangible demonstration of the uses it provides, such as being able to quickly check is a drawing is the most current version available, has the potential to familiarise people to the world of digital construction, making it far more accessible and convenient, alongside highlighting the many possibilities it has towards making the construction process far more streamlined.