Tight budgets, increased costs, environmental responsibility – a variety of factors are moving government agencies and private companies toward paperless office practices. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and its Community Noise Reduction Program’s Residential Sound Mitigation Services (RSMS) are reinventing the model for workflow efficiency by attacking this challenge head-on.
RSMS provides sound-mitigation treatments to single-family homes located in neighborhoods within the noise-impacted areas surrounding Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. To help expedite each phase of the program, the RSMS team has implemented a document management system, or DMS, enabling the paperless transfer of project plans for review and comments among team members. The system has been instrumental in advancing the design phase of RSMS.
Saving ‘gas, time, shipping and parking fees’
The document-management system now is used by multiple RSMS project partners, including the RSMS consultants, the city of Phoenix’s Development Services Department and the city’s Engineering and Architectural Services Department. This marks the first time that the city has implemented such a comprehensive electronic method of submittal and review. The “pilot program” eventually may become the norm for processing plan checks and permits throughout the city of Phoenix.
RSMS recently expanded the document-management system to allow the neighboring city of Tempe to access project plans – a move that is producing positive results for both Phoenix and Tempe. Gerald Koziol, city of Tempe senior plan check engineer, views the DMS as prime example of how city governments are trying to do more with less.
“The almost instantaneous notification of changes, electronic transfer of the documents and the electronic paper trail have compressed time and distance, which, in turn, has saved everyone gas, time, shipping and parking fees,” Koziol explained.
The interdepartmental and dual-city collaboration speeds up the entire plan-check process without sacrificing established quality and code standards.
“The system allows for good central control,” Koziol said. “There’s a record of who changed what and who added what. That’s important.”
The system also serves as a central storage database, storing the most current project data and tracking any changes. Chris Gates, city of Phoenix environmental quality specialist, uses the system to electronically collect diagrams and plans to send to his subconsultants.
Gates noted that the user-friendly system is an efficient alternative that is helping him save time and energy.
“I now have freedom of work hours,” Gates said. “I no longer have to wait to speak to a project manager. I can access the information I need, when I need it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
FAA officials can review documents remotely
RSMS has given the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Western-Pacific Regional Office the ability to review program documents remotely through the document-management system, which is designed to help speed up the FAA approval process. Rather than the chaos of multiple e-mails, faxes and phones calls, if FAA representatives have questions, they now have the ability to make notes right on the drawings.
The system also saves the RSMS team time and money. Instead of mailing the FAA environmental specifications and drawings (an average of 500 pages for each bid set), they are uploaded for review onto the central storage database.
According to Shari Hill, city of Phoenix civil engineer, the speed and ease of electronic plan review also is improving the city of Phoenix’s customer service commitment.
“Extra people drain counter time. Our No. 1 complaint is long lines,” Hill said. “Because of this new process, customer wait times have decreased.”
Learning curve wasn’t an issue
Any technology upgrade can be met with resistance, especially if employees fear learning something new. Not so in the case of the document-management system, according to Koziol.
“The training time for me and my employees was short,” Koziol said. “It was simply a matter of getting them to see how easily it can be worked into their system.”
As government agencies continue to deal with tight budgets while meeting their commitments to citizens, the use of DMS technology plays a key role. The willingness of Phoenix and Tempe, along with FAA, to venture into this form of paperless technology paves the way for future uses of green processes such as this one.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport provided this case history. The city of Phoenix owns and operates the airport.