Soccer and MicroStation

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Aaron Powell, Senior Mechanical Engineer and Soccer Coach gives advice on both.

DAYTON, OHIO, USA — How do you increase efficiency when working on diverse MicroStation projects that rarely have things in common with each other? How do you speed projects up without compromising quality? Does designing in 3D really help or is it a hindrance? We asked Aaron Powell from Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon (BWSC) to give us his insight into these questions.


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Being more efficient at work helps Aaron Powell take time to do some of the important things in his life like help coach his son’s soccer team.

MicroStation Today: Increasing efficiency is something virtually all companies are looking to do. How do you do that in your company without compromising quality?

Aaron Powell: Our projects include designing hangers, army-reserve centers, dining facilities and even child day-care facilities. Because we don’t do the same types of things over and over, we have to look at how to improve our processes.

Over the years, we’ve moved from designing systems in 2D to doing virtually everything — from the start — in 3D. When you start in 3D, you have to really visualize what’s actually there. You catch things like a support beam being out of place or a conduit not lining up correctly that you might miss in 2D. It’s often more difficult to work in 3D but the potential time savings can be great.

We also use the right tools for the right job. For instance, most of our projects require some sort of schedules. Without Microsoft Office Importer, we’d end up spending hours making these look good and keeping them up to date on every project we work on. Microsoft Office Importer a real time-saver. We also have other tools from Axiom that we use. Global File Changer comes to mind. While we don’t use this on every project, it’s nice to know that we have a tool like that available. For instance, we had to turn a bunch of levels off across hundreds of files. Global File Changer can do that quickly without having to go into each file and turn off the levels manually.

Ultimately, you have to provide what the client wants. Having the right tools mdash; and using them mdash; can really speed up a project, get it done faster and ensure that the end result is what the client wants.

MST: What kinds of projects do you work on?

Powell: We serve a wide variety of industries across a several markets including industrial buildings, energy, environmental, aviation, water services, private development, surface transportation, civil site design and federal government initiatives.

BWSC is a multidisciplinary architectural and engineering firm with nine different offices in Alabama, Ohio and Tennessee. We’re consistently ranked in the top 500 engineering firms in the United States.

My office in Ohio focuses on military-type work including work for the Department of Defense. So, our projects include designing hangers, armyreserve centers, dining facilities and even child day-care facilities. It’s a pretty wide assortment of projects.

MST: Sounds like it would be hard to get bored with so many different projects to work on.

Powell: Exactly. Also, even though our office specializes in government-type work, we’ll also help out with work that any of our branch offices have as well. For instance, right now I’m working with one of our offices to help design a steel mill and an assortment of 15 other types of industrial buildings.

We never really work on the same stuff twice. It’s a challenge and it keeps us on our toes.

MST: What’s your function at BWSC?

Powell: I’m the Senior Mechanical Engineer. I lead the design for HVAC and plumbing systems. In addition to overseeing the drafting, I do a lot of the designing and drafting myself, including laying out the ductwork and piping. Much of that work is done in 3D, which, while challenging, I enjoy doing.

MST: You mentioned that you use Axiom’s tools. What’s the biggest advantage you get from these?

Powell: They’ve increased our efficiency of being able to perform tasks whenever MicroStation is involved. When we need to make a change in a design file, we can make the changes to multiple design files at the same time. Axiom tools giveus a streamlined method of making the changes. For example, we use Microsoft Office Importer on every project we work on. It’s a really good way to fit our schedules into the drawings and be able to make updates to the schedules without having to open every version of the schedule separately. Global File Changer is another product we use. That one’s very handy to have whenever you need it. We don’t always use it on every project, but it’s the kind of tool you want in your tool belt. If you have to make the same type of changes in a lot of files such as changing text or turning on or off levels, it’s so much faster doing it with Global File Changer than it would be to open up each file individually to make the changes.

MST: What advice do you give your soccer team?

Powell: The “advice” that we give the kids is pretty much limited to “go out there and have a good time”, “kick the ball” and “you’re going the wrong way!” I’ll work on having advice with a little more substance as they get older.

MST: Where do you see the future of CAD going?

Powell: We’re leading the way with the government with a lot of the 3D projects we’re working on. They’re kind of looking at us to guide them in how projects are designed. Some of the things that we’re seeing is a potential interaction between the different 3D CAD systems, making it easier to convert between projects done in something like Revit and projects done using Bentley products.

More and more people are drawing in 3D. It’s more of a “ooh and ahh” to present to the building owner. I see it in the future as kind of being a tool that the owners can utilize. Say, if they’re looking to change a filter on their air-handling unit, they can just go to the model and find out what size filter they need for a particular piece of equipment. Information associated with that piece of equipment would be in the model. I think that’s going to be an increasing focus for building managers, especially for building managers who have maintenance in mind.

MST: Who’s your favorite fictional character and why?

Powell: I always liked watching MacGyver when I was growing up. The guy would be faced with a variety of situations and he would always come up with a way to diffuse a bomb or something using a toothpick. That’s engineering at its greatest and that’s always intrigued me. I loved watching that show when I was young.

MST: Thanks, Aaron MST

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