Design Technology Evolves: The Formation of a New Practice Group

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Feature by Eric Westergren

McMillen Jacobs Associates is proud to announce the creation of the Design Technology group. This new practice group in the Underground Division allows a crossroads of technical information sharing, best practices development, and resource leveling across all of our regions and around the globe. Design Technology comprises more than just 2D CAD, 3D modeling, and Building Information Modeling (BIM). It is an environment for the ever-evolving process of implementing a broad range of platforms required to achieve complex solutions unique to underground projects.

To understand the importance of Design Technology, it is helpful to consider its evolution. In the past, drafters operated as supporting developers, meaning they converted information into technical drawings. “Convert” implies drafting resides at the end of a process where bottlenecks form and stresses gather prior to deadlines. Next, computers were added to the mix, giving way to Computer Aided Drafting (CAD), and the leap in production was significant. The value became clear as:

  1. The ease of edits and revisions was increased
  2. The burden of repetitive drafting steps was reduced
  3. The consistency of drafting standards was improved
  4. Geometry calculations became more efficient and accurate
  5. Coordination errors were reduced

And the list goes on. However, despite huge advances in computing power and application functionality, traditional workflows stayed unchanged, with CAD remaining at the end of the chain.

Then, next generation applications emerged. 2D CAD and 3D modeling tools evolved and joined forces with cloud-based data management solutions. Together they formed predictive, collaborative environments that changed traditional workflows. Sheet files containing lines and arcs were replaced by federated 3D models that capture design knowledge in a single-source environment.

Today, teams assemble around this virtual space, shifting design content from the end of the chain to the center of the circle. Drawing sheets linked to model data contemporaneously update with each model edit, alleviating end-of-cycle bottlenecks. Design Technology Specialists have evolved from “drafters” to “facilitators” as we support the design team’s interface with this next generation approach.

Formation of the McMillen Jacobs’ Design Technology group enables greater success for our clients and project teams through integrated technology and collaboration. Please keep an eye out for future Segments articles as we showcase how this paradigm shift has benefited specific projects. For further reading, check out “Expanding Our Services with UAV Photogrammetry” to learn how McMillen Jacobs Associates utilizes UAV photogrammetry to create 2D/3D topography and digital surface models for design analysis and documentation.

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