Newforma Konekt is a brand-new solution that has emerged from the acquisition of BIM Track, the popular web-based application for BIM coordination, by Newforma, developer of the first PIM (project information management) application for AEC, Newforma Project Center. It makes Newforma Konekt the first solution that combines the detailed design collaboration and issue management capabilities that are required at the design and construction stages of an AEC project with the broader process-related workflows such as document management, RFIs, submittals, email management, and so on, that are involved in bringing a project to fruition.
The acquisition — which was actually of the company, BIM One, the maker of BIM Track — happened in 2021, and after a couple of years of development effort to integrate the capabilities of the two separate applications — Newforma Project Center and BIM Track — into a seamless whole, the joint product, Newforma Konekt, was launched last month (Figures 1 and 2).
The name, Konekt, comes from the word “konekti” in the Esperanto language (see https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/konekti#Esperanto), which means “to connect.” It is a fitting name for an application that connects what have been two entirely different kinds of processes so far: detailed design coordination, which gets into the “guts” of what is going to be built, i.e., the product; and project information management, which is focused on how it is going to be built, i.e., the process.
Unlike Newforma Project Center (NPC) which is a client-server application, Newforma Konekt is a fully cloud-based application, which means that it is accessible via a web browser and all of its data resides in the cloud. There is no software to install or IT infrastructure to maintain. This allows it to be easily adopted by AEC firms of all sizes, ranging from a single person to hundreds of employees. From that perspective, it is similar to BIM Track, which was entirely cloud-based. It also has a modern, streamlined look and feel that takes advantage of all of the latest web development technologies, making it intuitive and easy to use (Figure 2).
While BIM Track as an independent application no longer exists — its functionality is now available as a module within Newforma Konekt — Newforma’s original PIM application, NPC, is still available as a stand-alone application and will continue to be developed. This is because many of NPC’s customers work on large government projects that need to be hosted on-premise for security rather than on the cloud. For those who can and do want to switch to Konekt, Newforma is working on the ability to migrate projects from NPC to Konekt.
In addition to being a SaaS (software as a service) application, Newforma Konekt has been developed to work with a wide array of commonly used applications for building design and construction as well as the increasingly cloud-hosted project models and documents in platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint and Autodesk Docs. It makes Newforma, as a technology vendor, much more “plugged into” the AEC ecosystem as a whole.
Logging into Newforma Konekt opens the Project Hub that was shown in Figure 2, from which the user can choose which project to work on. Selecting a project from the Hub takes you to its dashboard, shown in Figure 3. Here, you can get a concise snapshot of everything that has happened on the project, including who did what and when, the number of users who worked on the project during a specified duration, issues that have been updated, outstanding issues, and so on. The Activity Timeline, which shows everything that has happened on the project so far, can be filtered in many different ways to show specific information.
From the project dashboard, you can jump to any of the project modules listed on the left hand side, including Issues, Submittals, RFIs, Emails, and Files. The File Manager has been built from scratch in Konekt, allowing files that are hosted in SharePoint, Autodesk Docs, and other data stores to be referenced into Konekt. Newforma is also working on the capability to connect to files on a local server. The File Manager allows the files to be organized into folders (Figure 4) as well as searched, sorted, renamed, moved, downloaded, deleted, and shared with others on the project team. The main benefit is that all the project files can be managed from one central place without having to move them from where they’re located or switch between applications to work with them.
The Emails module within Konekt, shown in Figure 5, allows project team members to browse, filter, and search for/within emails and for associated file attachments that have been filed to the current project from Microsoft Outlook. As with Newforma Project Center (see its recent review in AECbytes), the key aspect related to email management in Newforma Konekt is the add-in to Microsoft Outlook, which allows project team members to quickly file email messages to Newforma Konekt projects from Microsoft Outlook. Given how much of the work in executing a project is done by email, the automatic filing of emails to their respective projects is a critical component of a project information management (PIM) application, and the Newforma Konekt add-in to Outlook not only infers where an email should be filed (Figure 6), it also follows a user as they access their email from any platform or any device, including the Outlook client on a Mac or PC, Outlook on the web, or the Outlook app on a tablet or smartphone.
Continuing with the example of the submittal filed using the Outlook add-in shown in Figure 6, the submittal can be seen in detail in the Submittals module back in Newforma Konekt. This is where a new submittal can be logged and all existing submittals can be managed. Selecting a submittal that has been logged, such as the one that was done using Outlook earlier, shows all the information associated with the submittal in the pane on the right, including the details of who filed it, the files attached to it, the date it was received, its entire history, and all the individual steps in its workflow (Figure 7). The next steps for a submittal are easily accessible, including forwarding it or closing it when required, and the change in its status is indicated by a color code that is immediately updated.
The RFIs module in Newforma Konekt operates in a similar fashion (Figure 8) with the ability to log new RFIs and manage existing RFIs.
The two main components of Newforma Konekt used for detailed design collaboration of a project are the Viewer and the Issues modules. The Viewer can house both 3D models in the IFC format as well as 2D PDF drawings (Figure 9); it is fast-loading and lightweight, allowing them to be opened quickly. While the Viewer is a critical component of the Issues module, it is also invaluable in and of itself as it allows all project stakeholders to be able to view the models without access to BIM/CAD software. All they need to view a model is a web browser and the link to it that has been shared with them. If there is a model and PDF turned on at the same time, they are overlaid with each other, which can be used to create very informative views (Figure 10).
In addition to viewing models and drawings, the Newforma Konekt Viewer includes the ability to browse through the issues that have been created and view them in the context of the model, as shown in Figure 11. Newforma Konekt is able to do this irrespective of the platform in which the issue was created. You can review the details of the issues, add comments and attachments, and close it in Newforma Konekt when it has been resolved. There is also the ability to create a new issue in Newforma Konekt, if required, either from a 3D model or a 2D drawing.
The key feature in the issue management capability in Newforma Konekt is the bidirectional integration it has with several BIM/CAD applications such as Revit, Navisworks, AutoCAD, Archicad, Vectorworks, Tekla Structures, Solibri, and many more (the complete list is at https://www.newforma.com/our-solutions/newforma-konekt/newforma-konekt-app-marketplace/). The integration is through an add-in that allows an issue — which can be a question, comment, clash, RFI, etc. — to be created and viewed in either application and to always stay in sync with each other. So, for example, the project shown in Figure 11 came from Revit, and Figure 12 shows the same list of issues viewable in Revit through the Newforma Konekt add-in. You can select an issue from the list and zoom into the model to view and edit it.
The synchronization of issues between the BIM application — which is Revit in this example — and Newforma Konekt is happening through the IFC format. It allows issues to be created in Revit, for example, to be brought into Konekt by being linked to the IFC file that was originally published from Revit to Newforma Konekt through the Newforma Konekt plug-in. Any new issue created in Revit or Newforma Konekt is associated with the IFC model and can be seen and acted upon in either application. If the model is changed in Revit, it would need to be republished to Newforma Konekt as an IFC file, so that it be updated (Figure 13). The issues that have already been created are automatically updated to connect to the new version of the model.
And finally, the Issues module in Newforma Konekt not only allows the issues to be viewed and managed as in the Viewer, but it also provides additional capabilities to view the metrics related to the issues and generate customized reports that can be scheduled to run on a regular basis, say weekly. This can be very helpful at the peak of the BIM coordination activity when the design is being finalized to keep track of the issues and their resolution.
Up until now, the design coordination piece of AEC, focused on what will be built, has been developed and implemented on a separate track from the project information management piece that is focused on how it will be built. It is good to see the two being integrated into one solution, allowing the design as well as construction teams to collaborate more closely in conceptualizing the project and bringing it to life. With the deep expertise of both Newforma and BIM Track in their respective fields, their marriage in the form of Newforma Konekt promises to be one that is “made in heaven.”
Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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