Keith Sands of URS Corp in Tampa talks about increasing productivity with proper training and the future of CAD.
Clearwater, Florida, USA — Keith Sands of URS Corporation in Tampa stopped by the Axiom office here in Clearwater the other day. He talked about the many road projects around the Tampa Bay area, using 3D and 4D in the design and construction process, his 18 years at URS and his push for proper CAD training.
MST: As an experienced CAD Manager for a major civil engineering player (URS Corp), what are some of the problems you encounter?
Keith: I am the Roadway Group CAD Manager. We normally have 55 to 60 full-time employees in our group. I also support the MicroStation users in the Surface Transportation Planning Group and the Landscape Group as well. We have approximately 450 to 500 people in the Tampa office.
Problems? Well, one thing people don’t realize is that if we have X number of pages that show the finished product of say, the Spruce Street interchange, here in Tampa, we might have anywhere from three to seven times as many pages for maintenance of traffic (the roads you build to handle the traffic during construction).
But really what I want to talk about is training. I think most people you interview for these articles tend to talk more about the technical problems encountered in MicroStation and how MicroStation Productivity Toolkit and its various utilities help them to overcome these problems. I believe that training is a bigger problem to overcome due to the time it takes and the costs that can be associated with most training choices. Those choices involve either sending people to training sessions at another location or taking someone else away from their production to train, instead of producing plans, etc. For several years, I conducted in-house classes in MicroStation that would last four hours per session and would take place after my regular workday was completed. The training would last for 40 hours at which time the attendees would be “ready” to start working on projects. The problem with this approach is that I was continually taking time to refresh the newly trained individual’s memory of how to do things they couldn’t remember from the classes, again pulling me away from production work. When I was promoted to CAD Manager, one of the first things I started searching for was software that could take the place of instructor-led training. After using another company’s software for a few years, I started seeing the Axiom product advertised and arranged to have a demonstration at our site. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the product and decided to replace what we were using with the LearningBay software. We have been using LearningBay for the last couple of years to train our new employees in both MicroStation and GEOPAK. I have been very pleased with the results. The software gives the new users a solid foundation to start from and an excellent resource for review.
Another feature of the LearningBay software is that an individual can be designated to the role of instructor, thereby having the permission to review the progress of the students and view the test scores for each class that a student completes. Several experienced users are also taking advantage of this training to learn new techniques, and methods of resolving design problems for both MicroStation and GEOPAK. This also is realizing a substantial amount of savings in our training budget every year, while improving drafting and design skills of our personnel.
MST: Where do you think CAD is going?
Keith: I believe that we will eventually design everything in 3D and information from the 3D model will in turn be able to be used to actually run some of the equipment that is used in building roadways and other construction, especially earthwork. (This is already being tested). I believe that 3D simulations will be used to find design problems before they are discovered during construction. What I envision is an actual 3D model, derived from the proposed design, being used in conjunction with software that has yet to be developed. This could simulate a drainage condition of a specific amount of rainfall over a given time span that could actually be set in motion and the results viewable in real time. Or perhaps a simulation of vehicular movements along a proposed interchange to determine if certain defined vehicles are able to negotiate the turning radius as designed. Another hot topic is 4D which involves the use of CAD files and scheduling software to visualize the construction process and make sure everything works together as intended, before construction begins.
I also believe that Intelligent Transportation Systems will evolve into a more sophisticated element of roadway (highway) design, involving the use of more advanced computers built into our automobiles and utilizing even more the power of Global Positioning Systems to guide traffic and decrease congestion. It will also help to decrease the frequency of auto accidents and help traffic find detours around troubled areas of travel.
MST: What do you do when you are not working?
Keith: When I am not at work, I like to involve myself in home improvement projects, golf, art projects with my wife, photography or kayaking around the great waterways in this area of Florida.
MST: How did you get into CAD?
Keith: I worked as a land surveyor for 15 years and then migrated into civil engineering roadway design, as the two fields work closely together. I’m originally from Pendleton, Oregon, a small town in the northeastern part of the state. I moved to Florida in 1984, to get away from the depressed economy in that part of the country.
MST: What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
Keith: It would be great if I was able to be retired and working on enhancing my artistic abilities, relaxing and having the resources to travel.
MST: What’s a book you wish you’d written?
Keith: Are you serious? I have never had any desire to be a writer. I do love to read though.
MST: If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would it be?
Keith: That would be my wife. I would love to be able to see things from the perspective of the person I love the most. The person that I consider my best friend and that I trust above anyone else.
MST: Thanks, Keith.