Moving Day: Are You Ready for This Transition?

I remember years back when cell phone technology was already commercial, but still in its infancy. I heard first-hand discussions among my father and his friends about how new technologies were evolving faster than expected and the difficulty of keeping up with them. From having a clear understanding of what, when, and how to jump onto the train of new products/devices to using them logically and efficiently in our lives, it seems that we are always facing learning challenges. It’s like a never-ending cycle of supply and demand.

So what does this mean for our demanding infrastructure industry—whether you are an architect, a surveyor, an engineer, a technician, or even more complex, a company that provide services in some of these fields or perhaps all?

The last few years have seen a rapid and consistent growth in the number of products available, assisting with our daily routines (preliminary conceptual work, design tasks, or project documentation), but leaving us to ponder what tools to use and how to apply them efficiently and proactively.

By definition, implementation is the action that follows any preliminary thinking in order for something to happen. After you make the decision to either switch to a new platform or to acquire a new set of tools for developing work, there are important elements that you must take into consideration for successful application of the newly invested programs.

When researching Autodesk’s Infrastructure Design Suite packages and Infraworks 360, you must first consider the requirements for running these programs efficiently—meaning the hardware configuration to optimize your current workstation for CAD/BIM applications. This process includes asking fundamental questions such as: Will I be using visualization tools? Modeling complex structures?  Rendering 3D models? Creating high-quality images from designs? Performing drainage and structural analysis? Creating traffic simulations? Keep in mind that these answers and the many others that are specific to your needs have a huge impact on the hardware required for efficient workflows.

From the comfort of my desk chair as I’m writing this article, it is impossible for me to determine all the uses you will have for CAD applications, as only imagination and creativity sets the limit of what you can accomplish. But I will share what I have found to work decently for a good optimization of Autodesk’s Civil 3D, Infraworks 360, Storm and Sanitary Analysis, and 3ds Max.

AutoCAD® Civil 3D® runs mainly on a single processor core and you will want to make an investment in the fastest processor with the highest cache you can afford. A quad core Intel-Xeon E3-1505Mv5 (8MB cache, up to 3.70 GHz) will fit the bill for this component. In order for this new processor to perform at its best, you need sufficient RAM. I strongly recommend acquiring as much as your budget allows, but at a minimum no less than 32 GB (16+16 DDR4). Since Infraworks 360 and Civil 3D corridor models are usually large files, it only makes sense to complete your new processor and RAM with enough SSD to run your OS and software applications, supplementing with a conventional hard drive for extra storage (500 GB SSD plus 1TB HDD is a decent set up).

Last but not least, you will need to select a graphics processor unit (GPU). With so many options and many of them above the quadruple digit mark ($,$$$), this decision can be complicated. I have found that the NVIDIA Quadro 4000M (4GB) or higher performs well. There are also heated debates regarding gaming video cards, NVIDIA GeForce, and AMD’s Radeon, to name a few, but we’ll save that discussion for another time.

Another factor to consider in moving to the Autodesk world of possibilities is the actual commitment from management to the change. It has been proven true many times that this includes not only saying yes to buying new computers and purchasing new software, but understanding the transition needed to make your work more efficient, resulting in a return on investment that is quantifiable in a timely manner.

I would advise management to consider these questions: Does my company do survey work, environmental work, land development, transportation design, traffic analysis, hydrology/hydraulics? Do my projects include some degree of architectural design? Do we include landscaping design? Do we have a need for video presentations? To simplify, what is it that you want to accomplish by using Autodesk products? Determining the key components of your daily workload will tremendously help the chances for success in implementing the new platforms, finding the right team members, and selecting the optimal programs for purchase and training.

In summary, a general implementation approach to Autodesk platforms, specifically Civil 3D and Infraworks 360, should consider the following:

  • Hardware specifications: have the precise equipment to take advantage of the applications, tools, and workflows that the software offers for different needs within your projects.
  • Management buy-in: ensure that management knows and understands the difference between modeling and CAD; modeling is a tool for design and engineering applications, not just another drafting tool.

  • Handling resistance to change: identify internally the staff members who typically refuse to accept new technologies and prefer to stay with old platforms (e.g., “This has worked well for the last 10/20/30 years or so, why do I need to change it?”); engage them intelligently and patiently.
  • The learning curve: define your firm’s scope, identifying the needs that will be met by Civil 3D and Infraworks 360. Find the right team members, assign proper resources for training purposes, define logical timeframes and milestones within your current project workload, and allow for the creation of proper workflows and templates standardization based on clients’ preferences and/or requirements. 
  • Selection and designation of a BIM CAD manager: fill this position with a manager who has decision-making authority for the benefit of the organization, who can assign autonomy and responsibilities for CAD standards, and allows the freedom to determine the right processes to be implemented based on the current needs of projects/clients.

Only you can set the limits of what can be accomplished with Autodesk programs, from preliminary design to final project documentation. The selection of the right tools and the right team will determine success in performance and quality deliverables, but only if you encourage your organization to accept new challenges and equip them for changes.

Good luck with your move!

Oscar Castaneda is a Transportation Design Engineer at Infrastructure Engineers Inc. out of its Orlando office in Florida. With more than 10 years of experience in the industry, Oscar is a practicing Designer (EI), and recently he has spent his time leading Infrastructure Engineers’ transition into Civil 3D and Infraworks 360 with their current design workload, making the most from Autodesk’s Suite Packages, and attempting to break barriers between Bentley and Autodesk products users. Oscar can be reached for questions/comments:

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