CAD Manager’s challenge: Upgrading 400 users to MicroStation V8

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CAD Manager, Greg Hruby, upgrades to V8 and implements new standards without interrupting workflow!

Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA —Greg Hruby, CAD Manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT), is focused on keeping users productive. Sometimes making that happen requires extraordinary effort. We asked Greg about one of those times.

>Greg Hruby, CAD Data Standards Manager, Minnesota DOT

MicroStation Today: What’s the career challenge that topped them all?
Greg: That has to be when we engineered the conversion of our entire agency — over 400 users — from MicroStation V7 to V8 two years ago. Our intention, as the central support group, was to handle the conversion in a manner so as to not take any office offline for more than three days to a week. When it was all done, we wanted to be able to say to each of the 400 staff, “You’re a V8 user in one week and working as easily as you did one week ago.” Simply put, we wanted to accomplish the conversion and maintain the business function. I think we did that.

MST: How did you pull it off?
Greg: We planned ahead, developed our own conversion tools and worked within each site’s time constraints. Prior to conversion, we gave users a “hit list” of tasks to do to clean up their files. We left the legacy data intact, bringing it forward only as necessary. In a matter of days, we converted all the project files at any given district and updated them to a revised naming convention, plus re-referenced all of them. Our system worked great 85% of the time. When it didn’t work, there was usually file corruption or shared cells were being randomly created. That’s where Axiom tools came in.
I guess you could say that Global File Changer, SpecChecker and FileFixer are “the big three” in terms of our agency’s use. They give my users the greatest amount of independence. With these Axiom tools, users don’t have to go looking elsewhere for help.

MST: Did you have an army working on this initiative?
Greg: A team of four guys did most of it. My part was coming up with the level convention and translation methodology. Our programmer coded the VBA so it could be tailored on the fly to suit a specific district’s needs. [Editor’s note: Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) is used for developing Windows interfaces and is widely used for in-house application program development.] Another member of the team rewrote all the GEOPAK tools to work with the new structure. Everybody took their turn as trainers, conducting one-day, on-site user training sessions. A team of two to three guys would go to a site and do the training and conversion activities. Others remained in the main office to handle new issues and support the on-site team. By rolling things out in this way and including tools and education to minimize the learning curve, we were able to maintain the same level of productivity under the new standard [MicroStation V8] for each of our functional groups.

MST: What was the most successful part of the whole process?
Greg: Pre-planning. We took a realistic look at what our user base would require. We published what we were doing and how we were doing it to all involved, including consultants. We took their input and modified the process as needed. The result was agreed upon and workable for everyone. All in all, it took about nine months of planning and nine months to execute a full implementation of MicroStation V8.

MST: That’s well done! Can you tell us about some of the day-to-day problems you encounter in your position?
Greg: MNDOT has a fairly stable CAD environment. We have the burden of legacy data that has evolved through different file versions, different CAD standards, different user tendencies and different delivery requirements. Most of our problems occur in two general ways. First, files go corrupt. Second, users apply valid processes on files but in an undesired order and the data becomes disorganized.

MST: Have you used Axiom tools to deal with these problems?
Greg: Yes. Axiom’s FileFixer provides us with a method for resolving unknown corruption and provides the individual user the ability to personally handle known corruption. It shortens the turnaround time for problem resolution since we don’t have to escalate it to higher-level support channels. Global File Changer provides the individual user with tools to selectively update legacy data to our current standard. Also, with shared “standard” Global File Changer key files, our users can correct known undesirable conditions in otherwise non-corrupt data. Lastly, Axiom’s SpecChecker has allowed our Right of Way groups to share a common tool for evaluation of their mapping, prior to submission for review. [Editor’s note: “Right of Way” is a division of roadway design in Department of Transportation agencies.]

MST: What sort of work has brought you to where you are today?
Greg: I started as a pen and ink draftsman in the Bridge office. Then I went to the Photogrammetrics unit. [Editor’s note: Photogrammetry is the process of making maps or scale drawings from photographs, especially aerial photographs.] After that, I joined the Central Support group. I’ve supported GEOPAK for several years, but now I focus on the MicroStation, Iplot, Descartes and Axiom products. Currently, I also manage Central Office’s CAD servers, MNDOT’s CAD data standards, licensing and installation. I am now working on an MNDOT project to evaluate Bentley’s ProjectWise.

MST: What do you predict will be the “next big thing” in CAD?
Greg: One thing I would like is to see is a uniform, comprehensive and fully open-source file format. Or, it may be useful for general application and file efficiency to have a series of stepped file formats, such as a very low-level “sketch” standard, a slightly higher 2D standard, then a 3D standard and finally a 4D standard. That way, a user at a low technical capability (but perhaps high visionary level) could generate a sketch that was passed up to a 2D design for general development or to 3D design for more of a modeling look and finally to a 4D standard for a walk-through. In addition, that same drawing could be passed back down the chain so the original “sketcher” can view the end result of the design process locally on his system, in a familiar format and presentation method. Either fantasy would be nice.

MST: What would you like to be doing in ten years?
Greg: Visiting small towns in Spain, Portugal, Oregon, Newfoundland and just hanging out — maybe painting and definitely doing some biking. I buy lottery tickets whenever it gets over $200,000,000. (That could cover retirement.) Otherwise, I will probably be biking locally and pretending to be a tourist in the Twin Cities. Places seem a lot nicer when I’m “on vacation”.

MST: Thanks, Greg.

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