BHB Structural Engineers Streamlines Workflows with Cloud Collaboration
Today’s online cloud-based project-based collaboration tools have come a long way from the early days of the Internet, where bandwidth to share and collaborate on models proved a stumbling block for some. Advancements include compression for large model viewing, collaboration tools such as Wiki’s and redlining capabilities, as well as using the computing capacity of hosted servers to speed model rendering.
There are a number of cloud-based collaboration packages available that aim to fill the gap that’s present in all project workflows. With the use of advanced BIM technologies the complexity of projects is only increasing, and the number of collaborators also are expanding. Thankfully, a new generation of project-based collaboration tools are aiding the information exchange, providing a shared view of the model while also making the stakeholders more accountable for project timelines.
For BHB Structural Engineers, their projects are typically multistory office buildings, high schools and large warehouses. They work in teams with architects and mechanical engineers, and others–providing the structural engineering work to meet the project’s design. They have been using Autodesk A360 Team for a little more than a year now, on any projects where the architect hasn’t already assigned a collaboration tool.
“It’s about making sure people have what they need when they need it,” said Jay Miller, principal, COO, CAD Manager at BHB Structural Engineers. “We all need access to the evolution of the design.”
Hosted and Accessible
There are distinct advantages to a cloud-based approach for firms of all sizes. With a hosted project-based collaboration capacity that is charged on a per-user basis, this technology is accessible for any size firm, and even any individual as there is no need to invest in any hardware or software. Autodesk’s A360 Team comes with a tiered offering where even those that don’t use Autodesk software can be involved to view the models and participate in timeline and information exchange.
Having a central repository for data makes it much easier to find the documents and drawings necessary to complete each task. The accessibility to this this detail is also extended to a mobile application that allows you to access models, tasks and project timelines.
“The Wiki is something that we’ve been using internally to share standards, folders, and to keep track of seminars and training,” said Miller. “It can get to be a rats nest of folders and files, and by combining and sharing this information in the wiki with hyperlinks, it’s much easier to work with and ensures that we all have the same information.”
The A360 Team offering supports more than 100 2D and 3D design file formats for easy import and online viewing, without the need for browser plugins. This translation of model formats into a shared model viewer that can be zoomed and turned and manipulated as well as marked up, is one of the advantages of A360 Team.
“The large model viewer is one the tools that’s really handy,” said Miller. “A detailed Revit model can take a long time to open. With it the model translated into A360, it can be viewed quickly. We even use this feature a lot internally to access the model and discuss our work.”
Autodesk’s A360 starts with defining a project, and inviting collaborators. Individual user roles and access can be defined, and portion of the project can either be open or closed to each participant.
With engaged team members, the model is shared quickly and there are great speed advantages to the work where questions about the model can be marked and shared, with answers returned in near real-time.
Autodesk’s A360 Team has been tested by a large number of customers, and is now available across North America. The flexibility and accessibility of this next-generation project-based collaboration tool with its central login for a large number of capabilities, adds a great deal of efficiency to any project.