UK consultant shares how he completes weeks of hard work in a few hours.

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KEYNSHAM, ENGLAND — As a consultant, Nigel Davies of Evolve Consultancy delivers solutions to common (and not so common) problems that slow MicroStation production.

Nigel has over 15 years of extensive experience in the AEC industry, slaving as CAD Development Manager for several major engineering consultant firms, and now as a consultant to several of the world’s leading architectural and engineering design firms. When he is not helping his customers become empowered and streamlined, Nigel contributes to the quickly blossoming EatYourCAD.com (a Web resource for CAD managers) as the resident AEC expert.

Nigel took a break from his busy day to tell us how he uses Axiom utilities such as RefManager to eliminate the wasted time and effort of his clients.

MicroStation Today: Please give a short background of your CAD history.
Nigel: I started working in building design in 1989 with a design-build firm as a structural technician, originally on a Unix system. I moved on to Buro Happold in 1991 to set up their new CAD system, which was then on Macs. I stayed there nearly nine years. I started out as a structural technician, but ended up managing the CAD systems full time. I joined whitbybird in 1999 and began their migration to 3D-based operations. I left to form a consultancy team in 2003 and I now offer CAD management and BIM (building information modeling) migration services to the architectural and structural community in the United Kingdom. I have assisted and worked with BDP, Bentley Systems, Feilden Clegg Bradley, Foster and Partners, KPF, Richard Rogers Partnership, Sheppard Robson, whitbybird and many others.

MST: What is your title? What are your daily duties?
Nigel: Principal. CAD Manager. CAD Consultant. Daily duties? Way too many to list. I do what people need me to do, from business strategies, systems management, standards design, procedure and process coordination, implementations, roll-outs, 3D modeling, advice, recommendations, support, training…

MST: How do Axiom tools help you in your work?
Nigel: They provide efficiencies that simply aren’t always possible to achieve otherwise. You can often come up against problems that are very labor-intensive to solve, just because of the many different ways a CAD file can be set up. More often than not, Axiom has a tool that is designed for exactly those kinds of situations. It’s not that you couldn’t do it with MicroStation alone, but it would take very considerably longer.

There’s a great example I’m currently working on: A proactive structural engineering firm, Clarke Nicholls and Marcel, is going through a major reconfiguration of systems and procedures to streamline their efficiency and service offering. As part of that, the project servers are being reorganized and a series of standards are being introduced to help create, manage and track project data. As part of the introduction of a standard file naming convention, they decided that the superceded or unnecessary files should be archived and moved to a new mapped drive.

The implications to the reference file attachments are immense; potentially we could be faced with every drawing losing every reference. While the careful configuration of PCFs (or Project Configuration Files, text files that contain the settings and variables for a project) can solve pathing, the problem of file renaming and archived references still remains. Axiom’s RefManager seemed the only solution that could deliver both a simple method of reattaching the renamed files and stripping out unwanted attachments at the same time.

MST: How much time and money would you say Axiom tools have saved you?
Nigel: That is very difficult to measure accurately, but if you consider that the manual task of reattaching a renamed reference file could take somewhere around 30 seconds [for each file] and RefManager can complete numerous files in that time, it’s not too hard to quantify the efficiency gain. Not only that, but RefManager can be left to get on with the job while paid staff carry on with their design work so there’s very little overhead cost. If a typical project has anywhere from 200 to 500 files and you use RefManager to complete the reattaching, then after being used on only one project RefManager has paid for itself.

On whitbybird’s BBC Redevelopment project, where the client’s CAD standards were changed two or three times to enable closer collaboration between the design team and contractor, Axiom’s solutions paid for themselves many, many times over. Over 2000 files were renamed and reattached within a matter of hours rather than weeks — twice.

MST: What is your favorite TV show?
Nigel: As a 30-something bloke growing up in the United Kingdom, the show that I watched religiously nearly every Saturday evening through my formative years has to be “Dr. Who”. There’s something about cowering behind a sofa as some upside-down dustbins glide onto the TV shouting “Exterminate, exterminate!” That has left a resounding impression. Great show. Typically British.

MST: If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or deceased, who would it be? What would you talk about?
Nigel: Too obvious to say some great historical figure, musician, author or filmmaker, so I’d have to say my grandparents. I’d tell them how well their great-grandchildren are doing and how they would have loved to have met them.

MST: What would be the first thing you would do if you won £10 million in the lottery?
Nigel: Delete the e-mail and update my virus protection software.

MST: Thank you, Nigel.
Nigel: Thank you!

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