By Jack Stubbs
In the current age of commercial real estate tech, many industry professionals are continually looking to streamline their web-based platforms in order to enhance efficiency and collaboration between team members.
Plans4Less, a platform founded in September 2015 in Beacon Falls, Connecticut, allows designers, engineers and construction managers to order printed construction plans from the Plans4Less web site.
We spoke with Brian Burke, founder of Plans4Less, about the company’s web site and overall strategy, where the company is headed, and how the company is seeking to impact the construction industry.
What can you tell me about the Plans4Less platform and web site (where and when it was founded, current goals of the platform, etc.)?
Plans4Less was started two years ago, born from an idea I had fours years ago about providing full size printed plans at a fixed rate. It was founded in Beacon Falls, CT while running a typical brick and mortar office. The thought was that I could build a network of print partners across the United States that who we could send print files to. This allows us service clients anywhere. I like to refer to us as the Florists’ Transworld Delivery [a floral wire service, retailer and wholesaler that helps customers send flowers remotely on the same day using florists in the FTD network] of reprographics. Our current goals are to continue to integrate with construction and design software platforms.
What does the software allow industry professionals to do?
Plans4Less allows any designer, architect, engineer, construction manager or subcontractor to order sets of full or half size plans right from our site. We then print those plans in black and white or full color and ship [them] directly to their office or job site. We take the guess work of pricing per plan and when their order will be delivered. That is all spelled out on the site before they commit to the order. We wanted to make it simple [with] fixed rate and next day delivery.
Where does Plans4Less predominantly operate geographically and who are some of the primary clients of Plans4Less?
We are headquartered out of Connecticut, but with our network of print partners we operate in every state. We are currently providing plans for general contractors in North Dakota, Texas and Vermont, which are three leading states currently. Our primary clients are construction managers, subcontractors and architects. We currently are providing plans for the largest general contractor in the U.S., but a the same time, we are also providing the same level of service for any smaller subcontractor.
How is Plans4Less contributing to changes in the construction industry?
We fixed the rate of plans, no longer is pricing based on quantity discounts or rates based on volume. If a contractor has multiple locations, each location pays the same price and the site allows for multiple users from each firm to use the site. Prior to now, and currently most reprographic firms charge on a per job, per sq. ft. amount. We found this model to be antiquated and difficult for our clients to understand. The savings for general contractors & subcontractors who are bidding on multiple jobs per month have found a tremendous savings using our system. They can bid more, and win more.
How does the product enhance and increase collaboration between people at all levels of the construction process? Can you expand upon this idea of collaboration, transparency and efficiency that Plans4Less allows?
Plans4Less has been integrated with SmartBidNet, a leader in invitation-to-bid software for general contractors and subcontractors, and Procore, a leading provider of cloud-based applications for construction, two of the leading software platforms construction managers use to bid and run their construction projects.
The integration allows us to be on the same page as the owner, general contractor, design team and all the subcontractors on the project. We are all working on the same platform and, most importantly, the current issued or revised sets. Our users don’t have to log out of SmartBidNet or Procore to utilize our system. We can fulfill their orders while working off the same set of documents. This makes it a true collaboration and exceptionally efficient.
In the current day and age, rapidly-advancing technology—and continuous technological innovation—means that products need to be continually reinvented. How will Plans4Less ensure that it remains ahead of the curve and ahead of other competitors in the construction industry?
Yes, that is correct, and we have been making those changes to our business model. We are looking to add a QR code to each printed plan. That way, someone in the field could scan using their iPad or phone and know which revision the printed plan is. The scan will direct them back into the software platform and they will know if they are working off the latest set.
We are also doing 1×1-inch scale printed plans as full size mock-ups (printed wall paper) of rooms to be built in hospitals. This is an inexpensive way for the owner, design team and contractor to do a review prior to building the rooms. We are now printing floor plans and site logistics plans as dry erase boards for use during morning team meetings at job sites as a way to coordinate the day’s work flow. We call these L.E.A.N boards. Lastly, we are now offering full color plans printed full or half size also a fixed rate.
Thus far, what has reception and usage of Plans4Less been like? Does the company have future plans to expand to other markets (such as commercial, residential, industrial, etc.)?
Currently, we are providing services to each of those markets as well. In 2017, our site experienced 30 percent growth in usage of our site, and we have added hundreds of new users. Best of all, 95 percent of our users continue to use our service after their first order.
Looking ahead, what do you foresee for Plans4Less in particular and the construction industry in general? Are web-based products becoming more of a necessity rather than a preference for users? How will you ensure that Plans4Less continue to evolve over time, and are there any particular challenges that lie ahead?
Moving forward, web-based products are becoming more of a necessity. We do feel that we will continue to be important part of the construction Industry with our integrations. We are very excited about two additional integrations we are working on. Firstly, the Autodesk BIM 360 Construct connect—Autodesk is the world’s leading software for designers. Secondly, we are partnering with Bid Express, who operate and manage 34 of 50 states’ Department of Transportation bidding projects websites.