Reducing Costs for Homebuilder

Fulton Homes taps service to automate its paper-based construction bidding process

Fulton Homes taps service to automate its paper-based construction bidding process

San Rafael, CA, and Phoenix, AZ — August 18, 2003 — Last year, Phoenix-based Fulton Homes built 1,400 homes and this year it is on track to build 1,500. In 2004, the company plans to build 2,000 homes. To keep step with such growth, most developers might see a concurrent rise in costs related to design review, project planning and bidding.

Not so with Fulton Homes.

The building firm, after implementing the Buzzsaw Web-based project collaboration service from Autodesk Inc., said it has actually decreased its bidding costs, even as it has expanded production.

Fulton Home's use of the service to better manage the bidding process and improve communication among extended team members represents a growing trend among large homebuilders that are looking to Web technology for process improvement.

In April, economists at the National Association of Builders' (NAHB's) construction forecast conference predicted that single-family homebuilding in 2003 will surpass last year's 1.7 million units — an increase largely fueled by low, long-term mortgage rates. In order to support the predicted growth, homebuilders like Fulton Homes are turning to technology to automate and better manage the construction process.

Fulton Homes originally expected that the Buzzsaw service would enable it to cut the time spent managing the bid process in half. However, according to Chris Harrison, vice president and general manager of Fulton Homes, "We have reduced the time spent managing the bidding process by more than 70 percent, which will be especially beneficial as we boost production. In fact, our printing costs have been reduced by about $5,000 per bid process. When we multiply that by the number of bid cycles we manage annually, generally 10 to 12, we are saving us almost $60,000 per yea on printing alone."

The process of soliciting bids from contractors is a notoriously inefficient and expensive. For Fulton Homes, a single bidding cycle can bring input from more than 60 different trades for items and materials including windows and trim, dry wall, siding and flooring. Prior to using the Autodesk service, Fulton Homes said it printed and sent appropriate plan sets to each bidder, and when plans changed, new sets had to be printed and faxed or delivered via courier.

Now when bids are solicited, Fulton Homes said it posts all relevant plans on Buzzsaw and creates bid groups for each construction discipline. Each bid group is given access to the plans it needs and submits bids online through the service. When contractors have questions, they can e-mail the purchasing team for quick clarification. And bidders who need paper plans at any stage of the process can order and pay for them directly through Fulton Homes' reprographer using the Buzzsaw site. For Fulton Homes, and for many of its contractors, paper is entirely eliminated from the process. Additionally, the company no longer relies on delivery services.

Amar Hanspal, senior director of Autodesk building collaboration services, said, "Just as the Web has brought cost and time savings to industries such as retail, banking and financial services, it is now benefiting the building industry as well."