Can small MicroStation sites save time with add-on software?

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  • In any company — but especially in small companies — every production minute contributes to the overall viability of the company. Every dollar spent must produce significant results in order to justify the expense. With that said, a profit-conscious CAD manager at a small company can’t afford to pass up innovations that allow his designers to accomplish their work faster and more efficiently. But how can he be sure a tool, such as MicroStation Productivity Toolkit, will increase profits sufficiently to justify its cost? Can a small company use utility software enough to justify its cost? I could just tell you “yes”, but then this article would done with and you would just roll your eyes and stop reading.

    Small and large businesses both deal wi thheavy time constraints. Surveys show they can alleviate the burden with the right add-on software.

    So instead, I decided to share with you some data on small sites using MicroStation Productivity Toolkit. We consider a site “small” when they have less than 10 MicroStation users at that site. Other common characteristics of small sites are: extra attention to every dollar spent, just enough resources to “do the job” and no time to investigate new technologies without sacrificing some kind of project deadline. Having such considerable obstacles, how can “small siters” ever pull themselves away long enough to check out cool and helpful utility software?

    I am glad I asked myself that question.

    When can Toolkit help?
    Often, users don’t even know they have a problem. Lots of times, the problems are small annoyances that don’t stop production, but just slow it down. Problems can also manifest themselves as redundant and time-consuming tasks. Since a production bump in the road can feel like an earthquake at a small site, handling these problems swiftly frees up the site’s limited resources considerably. Enter the collection of tools in MicroStation Productivity Toolkit. Let me throw in some scenarios here.

    Quantity Sheets
    Here’s one we see routinely. A MicroStation user spends 15 minutes re-importing a spreadsheet into his sheet files any time the quantities in the master spreadsheet change. Not only that, but he has to import the spreadsheet in two pastes, as the clipboard can’t handle all the data at once. If this happens twice per week (very common), he is spending roughly two hours per month handling this. With Microsoft Office Importer, you only have to import the data into MicroStation once and whenever there are changes made to the master spreadsheet, the data is automatically updated in the design file. What’s more, you can import the spreadsheet in just one paste (even huge spreadsheets). This whole process would take no more than three minutes, thus saving one hour and 57 minutes per month on this task alone. Now multiply this by every user in the shop who has a similar task. When every minute counts, this is a sizeable amount of time.

    Your Design File is Hosed
    Here’s another one. We have a customer who works at a small firm that was contracted by a large government agency. On the Monday of the week the firm’s section of the project had to be submitted, he came to work hoping to be able to get right to finishing the project. The design file supplied by the agency was a V7 file and his firm was working in V8. The problem started when he converted the V7 file to V8 and two-thirds of the file went missing when it was opened. He almost had a heart attack, but because he had seen an online demonstration about FileFixer and MicroStation Productivity Toolkit all he had to do was ask his boss for the company credit card. (Most companies can’t approve purchases nearly that quickly.) He was back up and running in less than one hour.

    What else can Toolkit do?
    Here is a short list of the many areas in which MicroStation Productivity Toolkit can come in very handy for a small team, especially when a deadline is hours away and your resources are very limited:

    • Importing spreadsheets in one paste and automatically updating the data inside the design file if the source spreadsheet changes, thus keeping all bills of materials and quantity sheets always in synch in both places.
    • Fixing “broken” design files (unopenable or misbehaving), thus eliminating 1) time spent figuring out why MicroStation is acting weird and 2) the need to redraw work you have already spent time on.
    • Graphically comparing different versions of a design file, thus eliminating time spent trying to figure out what changed between revisions.
    • Spell-checking and correcting of multiple design files at once, thus eliminating the mind-numbing task of spell checking each file, one at a time.
    • Jumping back and forth between a master file and any of its references (keeping the master file fully visible), thus eliminating the need to use the exchange command and making reference-file-editing tasks faster.
    • Ensuring that all elements placed in a design file adhere to the project’s CAD standard, thus eliminating the possibility of drawing rejections due to CAD standard violations.Deleting duplicate and near-duplicate elements that may have been erroneously created by doing “one too many fence copies”, thus eliminating extra elements that may ruin your plots or bloat your design files.

    The list could go on, but I think you get the gist of what I am trying to communicate here.

    Post-delivery Value
    The initial software costs and immediate man-hour savings are not the end of the line. You always have to weigh the “post-deliverable” value of software, which is the perceived value of your firm producing a deliverable on time, on budget and error-free. This value is priceless, as a firm’s reputation and perceived quality of work are its most precious assets.

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