Plan Reveiw Software

Dear Management Doctor:

I work in a zoning review section of the Development Service Department. Your Management Doctor article called Software (click here to read this article) was sent to me by my supervisor for further analysis. I am not familiar with this product ("Synergy") or the company associated with the information related to it.

After reading the information on the following website I am hoping that someone can provide me with more information on how this product could assist my department in the plan review process. We are at a point where we have begun to accept plans for review in Eformat. At this time we are in the infancy stages of this new process where only a few staff reviewers have been provided with a dual monitor system. We are using one of the tiff viewers to view the eplans and then we write our comments in a word document.

Is this product something that would benefit staff when reviewing plans online or even utilizing a local network that would house the eplans? What are the other functions or possibilities that this product may provide? How would it save the department in terms of time and cost? What is the initial start up and how long would it take? Obviously there are many questions but these are some of the most important ones at this time.

Is there a website that I can go to and see this product in action?

Thank you for your time and response,

David Rivera
Tucson, AZ

Dear David,

I asked my technical expert to respond to your email and his response is below. Your questions tend to be a bit more detailed than I can handle as the Management Doctor. I am working with a number of communities that are underway with e-based permitting. I see three components that need to be considered.

  1. Receipt of Plans
    Most of the newer permitting systems have a built in way to receive e-plans. Most are by pdf but a few will also accept Auto Cad. Pdf files are likely the preferable choice.
  2. Plan Check
    The biggest issue is how to handle the plan review. There are new software programs on the market specifically designed for this function. They do a good job of version control, i.e. keeping track of changes and doing mark-ups on plans. I would suggest you go this route instead of some of the other make-shift efforts some are trying. Plan reviewers need to make the transition from paper and I would give them good software. Also, I suggest 40-inch screens. A second screen is also useful to display the permitting system or other related files. As an option, this second screen can be added as a display on the larger screen.
  3. Storage
    Part of the advantage of going electronic is plan storage, getting rid of all the paper, and the preservation of trees. As with receipt of plans, the newer permitting systems have features to attach plans to files.
I hope some of our emailers that are underway with electronic plans can add to this.

The Management Doctor

My Technical Expert's Response:

As described in the vendor's website, Synergy is a utility program that allows a single workstation (PC, keyboard, monitor, and mouse) setup to simultaneously access and manage several different PCs at the same time. A user can create a large virtual work area that contains the "desktops" of each computer, and data can be dragged and dropped from one to another.

Size of monitor is not a technical limitation. As the user moves the mouse off the screen, the monitor pans left, right, up, or down to bring into view a new area containing the display information of a different computer. It is like having a very large virtual window with many computers' desktops positioned on it. It is especially handy for users that must work with several different computers during the course of a day; instead of having several keyboards, mice, and monitors, on your desk, you can work with one.

I'm pretty sure that Synergy will not satisfy David's requirements for performing e-plan review. Most plan reviewers I know of require just one PC with as large a monitor as possible--not multiple computers. (Microsoft offers a free Windows add-on called the "Virtual Desktop Manager" that allows you to toggle between four different virtual desktops, all running on the same computer. This helps you to better manage multiple programs and windows, but it doesn't actually enlarge the virtual screen size.)

If the department is unable to acquire any new monitors, David may be aided by other software that can provide a single virtual desktop that is much larger than the resolution of the actual monitor. As you move the mouse to the edge of the monitor, it pans to the next area. This will allow the user to work with larger drawings or multiple documents. For some reason, however, this type of software has become much harder to find; he'll have to look hard.

I think the best solution for performing electronic site plan review is to get a 32-inch or larger monitor. Target has one for $400.

Reader Response

Please see:

Or email: Wendy Kotkosky

We do not have this software yet. We were looking into getting it with the bottom fell out. The County of Maricopa in Arizona is using it.

I think you will be impressed and others on your mailing list would like to know about it.

Stephen Hicks
Supervising Plan Examiner

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