Friday, 14 August 2009

Bus drivers, welders, CAD professionals - spot the odd one out...

What do bus drivers and welders have in common that CAD professionals don't?
Not sure? The answer is simple; bus drivers and welders need to demonstrate their professional credentials on a regular basis throughout their careers, in order to be allowed to do their job.

Bus drivers (and lorry drivers from next month) have to pass a 'certificate of professional competence' in order to drive their vehicles in the UK .
Here's the background; the CPC was developed as a requirement of the EU Directive 2003/59, which is designed to improve the knowledge and skills of professional LGV and PCV drivers throughout their working life. There are two parts to the legislation:
- An Initial Qualification that must be achieved by new (LGV and PCV) drivers along with their vocational licence to enable them to use their licence professionally.
- Periodic Training, which involves all professional drivers undertaking 35 hours of training every 5 years.

Now let's look at the humble welder;

Welder certification are specially designed tests to determine a welder's skill and ability to deposit sound weld metal. The tests consist of many variables, including the specific welding process, type of metal, thickness, joint design, position, and others. Most certifications expire after a certain time limit, and have different requirements for renewal or extension of the certification. Once a welder passes a test (or a series of tests) their employer will certify the ability to pass the test, and the limitations or extent they are qualified to weld, as a written document (welder qualification test record, or WQTR).

So if the driving industry has a recognised benchmark for performance and if the welding industry won't allow its members to pick up a blow-torch without first demonstrating they have the requisite skills, then why on earth does the AEC industry let anyone with a pulse loose with a CAD license??

A recent story on highlighted the dangers of unqualified staff working on projects. A warehouse in Philadelphia suffered a major structural collapse, resulting in damages of $3.5M USD. A building-collapse expert concluded, 'The team committed several engineering errors of "amazing proportions" that caused the Philadelphia warehouse to fail under the weight of snow'. He found that the warehouse had only one-third of the steel roof framing it needed.

Someone using analysis software grossly underestimated the quantity of materials, the error went unnoticed, the building was constructed, the snow fell... and they firm got hit with $3.5M in costs. Plus a bunch of people got hurt when the roof fell in. Ouch! Suddenly a few extra bucks on testing a person's proficiency using engineering software, plus a few hours training, seems like a good use of the company resources!

A CIO at a large US design firm recently said to me; “The minute you give someone a CAD license on their desktop – you are effectively giving them full access to your end product. You want to be sure they know what they are doing!”. This firm doesn't allocate a CAD license to someone's desktop unless they have first met the minimum threshold competence level for CAD performance, as identified by the firms CAD administrators (using CADsmart, in this instance).

A bus company doesn't give someone the keys to its shiniest double-decker without making absolutely sure that they have the current skills required to drive the vehicle. Isn't it time that the AEC industry recognised the need for clear skills certification in core authoring, BIM, Civil and analysis software packages? And a continuous improvement program for design and engineering professionals to demonstrate their credentials to their employers on an ongoing basis?


Wednesday, 5 August 2009

CADsmart goes to MCMC Kansas

Well, I’ve been kicking my heels in the UK for the last month since returning from RTC ( Revit Technology Conference ) in Melbourne. It’s now time to escape the wet British summer and go on another trip, this time to Kansas, where CADsmart is sponsoring the MCMC (Mid-Continent MicroStation Community) event at Overland Park. You can find more about it here.

This is the second year CADsmart have sponsored the MCMC conference and we’re looking forward to being back in Kansas. Hopefully this trip I’ll get a bit of time to have a look at downtown Kansas, and see some of the over 200 fountains.

The MCMC conference is one of the main meeting places for MicroStation users in the USA. Lasting 2 days, the conference has multiple strands covering all the latest developments in MicroStation and workshop classes as well. If you’re attending please stop by the CADsmart booth and say hello.


Monday, 3 August 2009

Interesting times at CADsmart..

Gosh, there's been quite a bit happening at CADsmart over the past few weeks. Where to begin?!

First, huge congratulations to Ed & his wife, who recently presented a new baby girl to the family household. To add to the growing brood, my wife had twins (little girl - Erin Rose and little boy - Finnigan) . I think our new philosophy is to grow the team from within and save on hiring fees! :) All are doing well, although I think it's fair to say that Ed & I are not at our sharpest right now, given the reduction in sleep across the board!

Next, we just moved our UK HQ office to a brand new location - Paintworks - one of the premier spots for creative firms in the Southwest (

To add to the mix, I thought it would be a good idea to move house - we need more room to accommodate the new arrivals - so that's my next project in the coming few days! Life certainly isn't dull around these parts!

Next up, work is underway on our new service, which we discussed with our customers at the recent CAD Focus Group. In order to cater for a range of new CAD applications (in particular, in the BIM, Civil and Analysis tools space), we've been looking into additional ways to generate meaningful metrics across these platforms. Too many of the new tools are not especially API-friendly, including many of the core BIM tools, hence the introduction of 'CADsmart i-Skills for AEC' (the 'i' stands for 'interactive', in case you were wondering ;) ). So, with the inclusion of some exciting new technology, including MS Silverlight, heading your way, we feel confident that we will remain at the forefront of AEC skills assessment. It's too early to give you a sneak preview, but we'll keep you posted as we get close to an acceptable beta release.

Last, we just passed our financial year end. It's been quite a strange year, what with the recession and general malaise affecting wide areas of our industry. I've never seen anything like it; such a steep fall away in momentum, revenues and cash flow across an industry the size of the world construction market is truly a one-off event; a market correction on a scale we'll likely never see again. Looking at many of the key firms in our sector, a recurring pattern of 25-35% drop in revenues is commonplace. For us, in truth, the recession hasn't come at too horrible a time; a year later would have been better, a year earlier more damaging. On balance, I guess we are where we are, and that's OK. Our read on the market is that we have 9-12 more months of pain, before we gradually get back on an even keel. It's ironic that the banks are posting huge profits again, but keeping the bulk of the cash to shore up their own balance sheets, before helping SME's and individuals to restore their own finances. Some things will never change! Looks like bankers are the new lawyers (attorneys for our US friends)!

Our summer sale has just a few more weeks to run - it ends this month. The response so far has been tremendous. It shows that, whilst budgets are tight, firms are still looking for opportunities to increase productivity where they can. The simple fact is that, with staff numbers down, firms need to get more work from less resources (staff, licenses, hardware, etc.).

We're looking forward to our annual trip to Kansas City later this month; we're sponsoring the Bentley MCMC conference again - one of the most fun events of the AEC calendar year.

So, these certainly are interesting times at CADsmart! Hope to see you at an upcoming event very soon..