Passing the Torch

January 1st, 2013

Autodesk® Navisworks is one of greatest technologies to grace the AEC industry in a long time.  Properly used it allows BIM managers to proactively find solutions to problems that wouldn’t be discovered until field installation.  Yet most of this value will be lost if the rest of the project team members are not properly leveraging the information gleaned during the coordination process.  To ensure that the time spent in coordination is maximized, the team executing the work must be trained to use Navisworks effectively to make sure that problems solved virtually are correctly executed in the field.

Class Size

One of the biggest goals of your training should be for your students to retain as much of what you teach as possible, which is why class size is so important.  Resist the temptation to get all of your office trained at once.  It will likely be more work in the end.  Keep the class extremely small—even one person, if possible.  Include only those who will be utilizing the technology soon after training.  This sounds obvious, but bears repeating as you might be surprised at how often this can derail an otherwise productive training session. 

Training Methodology

First, give the student or students an overview of what you will be teaching them and why it is important. For example: “In this part of the lesson we will be covering how to use Navisworks saved viewpoints to identify issues that I feel could affect  both budget and scope." 

To make sure the student is already familiar with the high-level topics, prepare an agenda and issue it a couple days prior to the training session. Make sure that you leave plenty of space for note taking between bullet points.  Give the approximate time commitment for this portion of the lesson so your trainees know what to expect.  

Once you have set the stage you can walk the employees through a simple three-step methodology: See, Instruct, and Experience.  During the See portion of the training you will be using Navisworks while explaining to your trainees what you are doing.  Explain each step as you go and be sure to emphasize the important parts of the task by explaining the reason behind why you are performing them: “I’m going to pin the Viewpoint Dockable Window onto to the canvas by clicking on this pin icon.  I always make sure that I do this whenever I’m learning a new Autodesk product. That way it saves me the time and frustration of looking for it until I’m completely comfortable with the program.”   Answer any questions that the students may have that are related to what you are doing, but also don’t be afraid to defer questions that don’t relate directly to what you are teaching until the end of the session.

During the Instruct portion of the training, when you have completely finished the task that you expect the students to be able to accomplish, you will have them instruct you how to complete the task.  You should still be using the Navisworks tool as they instruct you, step-by-step, on how to complete the task. 

This accomplishes two things. First, it reinforces what was learned during the first pass of the lesson, and second, it forces engagement from the student. Make sure that students are allowed to “stumble,” and only help them when they are no longer able to proceed. 

Lastly, after the students have completely instructed you on how to complete the task, they are to complete the task themselves.  Be patient—all the repetition and instruction is no substitution for actually using the software.   Once this step is completed, review the material covered and move to the next topic. Make sure to spend a few moments discussing what was learned.  As you will be completing each activity three times, it is essential that you prepare the material to be in time denominations no longer than a few minutes each.

Model Preparation

Preparation is the key to success in just about any endeavor, and training someone with no BIM experience to use Navisworks is no exception. As a BIM manager one of the most powerful communication tools you have to relay issues to management are the Navisworks saved viewpoints.  They are easy to use by people that may not have a lot of experience with 3D tools, but can also be exceptionally frustrating if not prepared correctly.  Nothing is more frustrating than bouncing through 500 viewpoints that make up only 30 issues due to duplication and items that should have logically been grouped together.  Navisworks provides a very efficient tool for grouping and organizing items into concise issues called filter by selection so that this should never be a problem.

To turn a list of clashes in to a concise group of issues, first make sure you have  Highlight all clashes selected in the Clash Detective pane and select and control click all the items involved in an “issue” then press filter by selection.  This will isolate all the clashes involved with the selected items including duplicates. 

Figure 1: Clash Detective Dockable Window

Item 1 – Filter selection button

Item 2 – Highlight all clashes checkbox

Hit the new group button and drag and drop the clashes into the new group.  Click on the group and make sure that you annotate the group.  This will accomplish two things. One, it will anchor the view (ensuring that subsequent views will not be inadvertently adjusted cannot be inadvertently changed due to panning and zooming), and two, it will communicate the issue to the person you will be training.  Write the report to viewpoints with the everything option.  This will provide an overview viewpoint with the annotation that will help sum up the issue succinctly and show that you are respectful of everyone’s time. 

Also helpful, but beyond the scope of this article, two additional attributes can be set that will further help communication, visibility, and material appearance.  More information about this topic can be found in the help menu under Default Viewpoint Options. 

Figure 2: Group of clashes annotated to for use by project management.

Training Day

Finally after all this preparation we are at the point where it is actually time to train your team.  Train them in the order you intend them to work.  This will ensure that when they begin to use the tool it will be congruent with the training that you provided and you will receive fewer support calls.  For this exercise we will take the employee through reviewing issues using saved viewpoints, navigating the issue with the full steering wheel tool, and using the measurement tool assess the situation if further investigation is needed.

For normalization purposes I will make the assumption that you are using the Navisworks 2013, and have the Extended Workspace loaded up (see Figure 3).  On the right-hand side of the screen, hover your mouse pointer over the Saved Viewpoints tab.  Once the Saved Viewpoints dockable window has appeared on the screen click the pin icon located in its upper right hand corner to fix the position of the window.  Use the plus symbol to expand the child elements of the clash batch.  Expand a clash group and select the overview view of the group.  This view will contain any annotations linked to the view. 

Figure 3: Annotated overview viewpoint.

Once you have finished navigating to the issue, it is important for your student to be able to further investigate the issue. On the right hand side of the Scene View, hover over the Navigation bar to make it visible.  Once the Navigation bar is visible start by giving a brief explanation of each tool (Steering Wheel, Pan Tool, Zoom Tools, etc.) and end with the tool you will be using.  In my case it will be the Full Navigation Wheel.  Use the drop-down menu and make the option menu visible and go over each of the choices very briefly.  Switch to a different steering wheel to allow the user to see that the Steering Wheel icon on the Navigation Bar changes to reflect the current selection.   Using each of the eight tools on the steering wheel navigate to all sides of the issue explaining each tool as you go.  Once it is time for the user to navigate the scene view have them spend extra time navigating around the issues.  Make sure that they use the saved viewpoint to navigate to the original viewpoint a few times.

Figure 4: Navigation bar with Full Steering Wheel selected.

Make sure your student can perform a few basic measurements to better assess a situation if needed.  On the left hand side of your interface, hover over the Measure Tools tab to make the dockable window visible.  Use the pin icon in the upper right hand corner of the window to fix the position of the window open.   You can also select the Review tab on the ribbon and select what is called a Measure Options tool launch which looks like an arrow pointing down and to the right.   There are about 9 different measurement tools. 

Two that I feel are very useful and easy to use are the Shortest Distance and Two Points measuring tools.  To use the Shortest Distance tool control click two objects in the model and select the shortest distance button.  Select the measure between two points tool and show the difference between the two tools.  Let the user spend some time measuring items in the model to become comfortable with the tools.  Wrap up with a commitment to follow up with your student in one week to see how they are doing.

Figure 5: Measurement Tools Dockable Window.

A quick note of caution: Make sure that you explain how to set the display units in the Options tab. It would be a shame for your users to open their own interface only to find that they can only measure in meters.  To set the display units simply click on the options button in the Measure Tools Dockable Window, select display units use the setting shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Display units options.

By providing some really basic training to your project and field management team members you will not only help your company fully leverage the power of Navisworks, but you may also find that you learn a few things yourself and wish to further your study of the documentation.  Navisworks is such a powerful tool that it would be a shame not to fully realize its potential by letting its importance phase out during the build out phase of a project.

Jesse Ocon is the CEO of The Ocon Company.  He is responsible for the overall the strategy and vision of The Ocon Company and their flagship product Instant PlanSite™. Prior to founding The Ocon Company, Jesse was the Director of Virtual Design and Construction for Scenario Virtual Project Delivery where he focused on product management and developing strategic alliances with industry partners.

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