Beyond Installation: Implementing New Software
It is that time of year again when Autodesk “ships” its spring releases of the many flavors of CAD software. AutoCAD® 2019 and Navisworks® 2019 came out in March; AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2019, Revit® 2019, and InfraWorks® came out in April. These are just a few of the latest releases.
If you use any of the Integrated BIM tools for building design, civil infrastructure, and construction, then you may be wondering “what are the next steps?” In other words, how are you going to implement the latest software version?
Although there have only been very subtle changes to each of these software products in the last few years, there have been some extreme changes in the workflows used to create projects. The biggest changes incorporate BIM workflows. If you are still using each product by itself, you need to rethink your software implementation approach. Anytime you implement new software, you should be asking yourself the following questions:
- Which new features will reduce design time or eliminate the need for customization?
- How can the new software improve project margins?
- What changes need to be made to our workflow?
- What training will each of my teams require to get up to speed faster?
Which New Features Will Reduce Design Time or Eliminate the Need for Customization?
Autodesk releases new versions of the software so often to make your job easier and reduce design time. However, not every release provides everyone who uses the software with new tools. Sometimes, the improvements to the software incorporate stability enhancements. By making the software more stable or by improving processing time, it reduces how much time you spend waiting on the software to load or regen, or recovering drawing files.
Other times, the improvements only affect design teams working on specific types of projects. For example, the AutoCAD Civil 3D 2018.2 release gave us many new design efficiency tools for anyone working on roadway projects and projects that require pressure pipe networks. Here are just a few new features/enhancements:
The AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2018.2 Enhanced Roadway Tools
- Profile layout direction
- New subassemblies
The AutoCAD® Civil 3D® 2018.2 New Pressure Pipe Tools
- 3D solid crossing appearance control for section views
- New pressure parts
If you are doing roadway design of any kind, these two features alone can save you hours of design time and are worth looking into. The new profile layout direction enables you to draw the profile in the direction you choose. You are no longer forced to draw profiles only from left-to-right. The new subassemblies provide you with several new options for road designs. By incorporating these new subassemblies into your typical cross-sections, you can reduce the number of custom subassemblies your team has to create for projects.
Figure 1: New curb subassemblies included in the AutoCAD Civil 3D 2018.2 update
If your specialty is laying out pressure pipes, then the new pressure parts may be just the thing you need to reduce how much customization you must do to AutoCAD Civil 3D before you can implement it. They have included new elbows, tees, couplings, reducers, and much more. These, combined with the new section styles, gives you more control on how your pressure pipe network parts appear in your drawings, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: 3D solid crossing appearance control in section views
How Can the New Software Improve Project Margins?
As BIM becomes more mainstream, it increases the importance of looking at your software implementation across the entire project lifecycle, from conceptual design through construction and even into use. It has been proven that project margins can be improved by reducing construction risks through the consideration of the project in the context of the real and unique project conditions. Rather than just implementing the latest version of AutoCAD Civil 3D, you might want to consider looking at the entire AEC Collection.
When taking advantage of the AEC Collection, a shared model helps designers, owners, and contractors use a central location to troubleshoot issues that impact the constructability and costs on the projects for which they are responsible. Before one blade hits the ground to start grading, compromises can be worked out that reduce change orders and surprises to the bottom line costs.
For example, tools found inside Vehicle Tracking can help your team more effectively determine if the roads you design in AutoCAD Civil 3D need to be widened or if the bridge you designed in Revit or Structural Bridge Design needs to be raised for better clearances. You are also able to check parking lot spacing to ensure that both delivery trucks and passenger vehicles can safely maneuver through the proposed development.
Figure 3 explores one possible workflow. Note that it includes BIM 360 tools as well as the entire AEC Collection to improve coordination and reduce project costs.
Figure 3: BIM workflow from conceptual design through construction
Keep in mind that these new features and enhancements to the software, which give you a better project margin, might not be available in the software version you are using.
What Changes Need to Be Made to Our Workflow?
As you add additional software to your workflow in order to incorporate a BIM workflow, you may find it necessary to make subtle changes to how you currently do things. For example, when you implement Navisworks into your workflow, it may require you to think about the way you attach external references (xrefs) to your drawing files. Changing from absolute paths for your xrefs to relative paths in your source software will save you valuable time during the model consolidation process inside Navisworks. This ensures that links are not ignored and that other team members see what you see, no matter what drive they put the source files on.
What Training Will Each of My Teams Require to Get Up to Speed Faster?
The answer to this question will vary from year to year and from organization to organization. Depending on the amount of features implemented in the software or changes made to the workflow in any one year, you may need to train the entire team or you may need to train only one or two people. How many team members you send to training and what type of training you send them to depends completely on the individual and how much your workflow changes. At the very least, you should consider having a continuity log created that documents your workflow. This document should be a living document that gets updated each year as new software is released and/or added to your workflow.
Do not assume that face-to-face training is your best option! Some people learn so well on their own that a face-to-face class is just an opportunity for them to get out of the office. Online training or a reference book may be all that is required to get them up to speed. Others may need the face-to-face training to fully understand the new workflows. The point is, get to know your team members and their needs. Find out what kind of learners they are and provide them with the right tools for learning. After all, the faster they get up to speed on the new software or workflow, the better the ROI on your software purchases.
Implementing the newest release of the software should not just be figuring out when to install it to minimize down time. You should be taking advantage of all the software in your field to improve project margins. Then, ensure that your team understands any new workflows you plan to implement. Staying up to date each year can seem daunting, but the payoff is worth it in the long run.
Michelle Rasmussen started in the Air Force working in the Civil Engineering unit as a surveyor, designer, and construction manager in the early 1990s. She has worked for both municipalities and consulting engineering firms as an engineering/GIS technician where she completed transportation studies, environmental impact studies, and drafted subdivision and site plans. Michelle has been training people on Autodesk products since 2000 and is currently an author for ASCENT (ascented.com) where she writes books for Autodesk infrastructure software products such as AutoCAD Civil 3D, Autodesk InfraWorks, AutoCAD Map 3D, Autodesk Navisworks, Autodesk BIM 360 products and general AutoCAD.