I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been spending time with our data management team. Part of what we are doing is taking another look at how data moves through a Civil Engineering project.
We’ve been talking about the reports, analysis, plotted sets, excel files, images, correspondence, transmittals, and other glorious bits and pieces that go along with the “real work”. We’ve also been digging into the mechanics of how the “real work” is shared.
Back in Civil 3D 2006, we were faced for the first time with rethinking how we shared data with data shortcuts. When Civil 3D 2007 came along, it brought with it the possibility of using Vault (who can forget the landmark post in July 2006 from James “Why is Vault Better?”).
At that point, we really had to think about how we worked. How we split our projects. If we were going to move forward with model based design, it was going to require more than just a new box of software.
In those early days we didn’t know what we wanted yet. We started with a modified LDT or CAD style workflow- a mix of XREFs, minor data sharing, and tentative breaks from the normal process.
Here is how it worked: we’d do most, if not all, of our modeling in one master base plan. We’d set up our styles to match our current forms of layer control and label in this model drawing. Then, we’d XREF this model into sheet drawings, where we would cut viewports and create layouts. While some people can get out of control with layouts, most people keep it around 5-10 layouts per drawing, with drawings broken up into “families” (all of the sanitary sheets in one, all of the grading sheets in another, etc.)
Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it was the software, and we learned how to deal with that. But if we are really honest with ourselves, sometimes the problem was between the seat and the keyboard. If we wanted to dig into the real power of the Civil 3D model, we probably had to do more than just swap XREFs for DREFs. We needed to look deeper and change the way we think and the way our teams interact.
I came up with something vague like this:
I remember when the Civil 3D 2008 with Vault whitepaper came out. I remember we took a look at its proposed file structure and immediately freaked out. A single drawing for an individual object? Seriously? Where are my smelling salts!
Three levels of drawings?? Why would I need that when I can just have two base drawings and XREF the whole caboodle together and have forty layout tabs?
Three years later, everything is the same and everything is different. We’ve come a long way as Civil 3D users. We’ve begun to stop resisting the idea of BIM. Our workflows have matured, and while data shortcuts are great, we have the nagging feeling that there might be something more to take us to the next level. Maybe we don’t really need forty giant surfaces in one drawing. Maybe it would be easier to share work with another office. Just maybe….
I was amazed this morning when I sat down to read that Civil 3D 2008 with Vault whitepaper that some of it actually made sense and some of it gave me ideas on how to fill in the gaps in my personal workflow. I suppose after four years (or is it five?) of working in a model based world, I am beginning to get it.
I’ll be spending a lot of my time on this over the next year- so I want to know your thoughts. Please comment on what has worked for you. If you have a documented file organization or data sharing plan for your office, I’d love to see it. Feel free to email me (email@example.com) with your documents, visios, pdfs, jpgs, etc. that map out workflow. Tell me what has resonated and what hasn’t been easy for users to digest.
We’ve all come a long way since Civil 3D 2007. Many who took the plunge couldn’t imagine working any other way. Mark Spatz recently posted this on Civil3D.com:
As of today we are up to 303 Civil 3D projects in Vault, company wide, and we just passed our one-year hallmark of our Civil 3D rollout.