GlobalSign Blog

09 Apr 2014

3 Reasons Digital Signatures Are a Perfect Fit for the AEC Industry

While many in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry have adopted electronic workflows, there is still one component that is often stuck in the paper world - signatures.  Many still rely on printing and physically signing.

Fortunately, there's a better way! Digital signatures are a tried and true alternative to wet ink signatures. Let's take a closer look at some of the reasons you should consider using them in place of wet ink signatures.

1. Reduce paper waste

Don't worry. We're not going to lecture you about the environment, but this is an important point that shouldn't go overlooked.

"A typical $100m building project generates 150,000 separate documents: technical drawings, legal contracts, purchase orders, requests for information, and schedules." (source)

Even if only a quarter of them had to be signed, and given the type of documents listed above that seems like a conservative guess, that’s still 37,500 documents - for a single project!

If the “go green” mentality isn’t compelling enough, think about the costs associated - the paper itself, printers (and the inevitable printer maintenance), ink, toner, storage, etc.  Which brings us to our next point…

2. Decrease overhead costs

Once you have those documents printed and signed, you still have to get them over to the recipient, which drives up the costs even more.

"It can cost up to 31 times the original cost to send information on paper (printing, copying, postage, storage, filing, recycling, etc.)." (Source)

If you want to bring the documents back into your electronic workflow, you’ll need to scan each document back into your computer before you can send it along to the appropriate people.  The time it takes to scan one document might seem trivial, but when you consider the average number of documents per project pointed out above, this can be a real drain on your internal resources.

Instead of scanning, you decide to keep it old school and physically mail your documents.  You eliminate the time spent scanning, but you’ll still need to spend time preparing the shipment and you’ll have the costs of the shipment itself.

"The AEC industry spends an estimated $500 million or more each year moving plans from one discipline to another via such courier services as FedEx." (Source)

No matter how you go about it, you’re looking at some significant additional costs to get those signatures where they need to go.

Other, perhaps less obvious, costs arise from going back and forth between electronic and paper workflows. Manual re-entry, due to the use of paper and electronic files in tandem and receipt of paper design changes from external organizations, has been estimated to cost $463 million during the design phase and $28 million during the construction phase (source).

3. Shorten project timelines

We’ve discussed the costs of the extra steps involved with paper signatures, but equally important is their effect on project timelines.  It takes a long time to print out the document, track down the necessary signer, and then scan and email or mail the document to the recipient...and that doesn’t take into account if multiple signatures are needed! It’s been estimated that cutting out these extra steps by implementing a seamless electronic workflow could compress schedules by as much as 10 percent (source).

Reducing document delivery time was one of the main reasons our customer Clough Harbor Associates (CHA) implemented digital signatures.

"Just the other day a partner signed a 150-page document that was immediately delivered to a client in minutes instead of days." Read full case study

Reducing paper usage, cutting costs, and speeding up document delivery are just a few of the reasons the AEC industry should make the move from paper-based, wet ink signatures to digital signatures.  Are you currently using digital signatures? What made you switch? Let us know in the comments!

aec industry

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