Autodesk are taking the piss

One of the most frustrating things about working with BIM tools is how pathetically bad they are, especially tools from Autodesk. Take Revit for example, it was the love child of an old, but smart, for its time, architectural tool called Pro Reflex which had its roots in the 1980s, and parametric mechanical CAD with its constraints and relationships. Its developers maintain that there is no Pro Reflex code in Revit, despite taking the source code with them when they left PTC to establish the Charles River Software, later renamed Revit Technology Corporation.

The guy who sold Pro Reflex to PTC, and therefore knows what he’s talking about, disputes the Revit developers’ claim that no code carried over into Revit, and has documented proof that there are definitely traces of 1980’s Pro Reflex code and design in Autodesk’s flagship BIM tool.

Whatever the merits of both of these claims, the fact is that as a parametric mechanical CAD tool, it is primitive and slow when compared to the modern ACIS 3D kernel from Spatial or Siemens’ Parasolid engine. And as an architectural tool, it does not allow architects to develop the buildings they want to design without resorting to developing special tools to make Revit do what they have asked Autodesk to make it do, but they have refused to spend any money on it. This, and price gouging on licenses, led to the Letter to Autodesk from prominent UK architects demanding action from Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk’s CEO, and covered in detail by Martyn Day in AEC Magazine. Things have got so bad that HOK, who are a Revit house and BIM pioneers, abandoned their Enterprise Agreement with Autodesk and are evaluating alternatives to replace Revit.

Those of us that work in large firms know how hard Autodesk are squeezing the balls of their EBA customers, the price of a usage token has risen over 70% in the past 3 years to more than 1.10 USD (Revit is 6 tokens a day), which has focussed the minds of CFOs and COOs in the tier 1 companies, many of which are formulating strategies to teach Autodesk a lesson. Autodesk University meetings will be very frosty this year.

Navisworks is another Autodesk product not developed in-house, but by a company in Sheffield, UK called Lightworks, that developed Navisworks to allow 3D models from multiple incompatible vendors to be combined in a single application. It was acquired by Autodesk in 2007, and has been a cash-cow ever since, receiving minimal updates and new features. Another example of Autodesk taking the piss. iConstruct wouldn’t exist if they weren’t taking the piss out of their customers, and remember that Navisworks Manage was one of the most expensive tools they sold.

But my biggest beef with Autodesk is that they have all these tools and products, and rather than making sure that they are able to be used collaboratively as a priority, few products are able to be used together except on a very basic and limited way. Revit’s monumentally stupid coordinates system for example is the cause or more lost unproductive hours than just about any feature on any piece of professional software.

Revit’s coordinate system will take it’s toll on almost every project, no matter how well you craft the execution plan or provide templates and strict instructions on how to link models together. On a recent project, the architect created his initial model, from which all other models in multiple applications (Revit, Plant3D, Civil3D and Bentley tools) took reference for the location of the model. A couple of months into the project, the architect decided to lower his his model by roughly 300m as they fucked up the original coordinates. As a consequence, chaos ensued and many many manhours were spent accommodating the fuckup by the architect, in some apps this meant starting again from scratch.

Autodesk’s cloud BIM collaboration platform is not much better. Trying to get models uploaded has brought document controllers to tears on one project, and the latest model collaboration integration with Navisworks promises much but doesn’t deliver. Want to collaborate models from other applications than Revit, sure they said, you can use IFC. What they don’t tell you upfront, is that it will only accept IFC models generated from 4 applications, and 2 of them are Revit, and MagiCAD for Revit.

Want to link in a Plant3D reference into Revit? It’s a horrible kludge of a process. Link an IFC model from Bentley Open Buildings into Revit? Not possible. Navisworks into Revit? Useless. Open a Revit model in Formit? Not a chance. Infraworks? Inventor? 3DS Max?

Autodesk is a $3+ Billion company that acts like a snake oil salesman, peddling tools that promise much but deliver little in the way of value of compatibility. It will soon discover how much is customers hate them.

How to Polish a Turd

The deadline is fast approaching, I have an angry PM glaring at me and telling me to hurry up, my wife is waiting for me in the restaurant and I’m still not done with my sludge digester. What to do?

“I know”, thought Mr Wong of multinational engineering consultancy beginning with the letter A, “I’ll pop in some illustrations of Japanese paper folding and add dimensions. No one will ever even notice!”

Mr Wong completed his task, left the office and made it to the restaurant on time. Hurrah! A win win championship result of results, surely? Well not quite, and don’t call me Shirley. The story of the deadline beating Mr Wong is pure fiction, but the methodology is not. The assumption here is that someone was in a real hurry and decided to fill up some drawing sheets with any old nonsense. So how do you get your project information out the door on time, every time? How do you make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? How do you polish a turd?

The answer to all your problems, if you are not aware, is folding. Paper folding, to be precise. In fact, to be even more precise, lots and lots of dimensioned origami birds on a drawing sheet. Alles klar, as they say in Deutschland? All right? Well, you may as well be in Germany or anywhere else for that matter, because it is not only paper that is being folded but the fabric of space and time itself. Or at least that was how my head felt when I first witnessed the madness of A1 drawing sheets, all properly entitled and set up, checked and signed by the PM, but with nothing shown but origami paper cranes. Howsaboutthatthen?

There were several different paper crane “designs”
Birdy go tweet tweet
A typical unrolled polished turd
Only design intent, not something really accurate? Phew! Thank goodness for that.

So, just like the origami solution, it turns out that the Japanese had the answer all along; dorodango. The same technique applied to night soil has the same effect.

BIM skills 101: AtTeNtIoN tO dEtAiL

Email #1

From: BIM Weasel
Sent: Friday, 24 April
To: Important BIM Project Manager (IBPM)
Cc: Gary
Subject: Monthly report – example

IBPM,

In response to your previous comments on our monthly report, would the attached be more aligned with your expectations? I have copied in Gary to keep him informed.

Regards,

BIM Weasel


Email #2

From: IBPM
Sent: Tuesday, 5 May
To: BIM Weasel
Cc: Gary
Subject: RE: Monthly report – example

Hi BIM Weasel and Gary,

Went through your attached document a couple of times, we are unsure of which previous comments of ours were you referring to.

As the file name suggested, it is a comparison report between two reference projects (Project A and Project B), and appears to be showing:

Quality checking of BIM model (The report says the quality check of the BIM model by comparing it with some other reference projects.) and

Summary of improvement, regarding modelling and drawings generation, the combined model or individual models of different disciplines can be made (mainly those generalized in Section 2, with examples under Section 4 in the report).

Cheers

IBPM


Email #3

From: BIM Weasel
Sent: Tuesday, 5 May
To: IBPM
Cc: Gary
Subject: RE: Monthly report – example

IBPM,

Sorry to give you the run around, but I thought that I made it clear that what I sent was only an EXAMPLE and is actually taken from another project (with sensitive details redacted). Since your previous comments majored around your opinion that the monthly report was more of a plan, the point of sending an example was to get your response on the general approach and tone before reconfiguring our monthly report. I think that some parts of our report are still relevant (such as the referencing of monthly meeting minutes, to show the actual issues that were discussed), but the format and content could be rearranged more inline with the example I sent you and Gary.

Bearing in mind the above, is my example more or less aligned with your expectations?

Regards,

BIM Weasel


Email #4

From: IBPM
Sent: Tuesday, 5 May
To: BIM Weasel
Cc: Gary
Subject: RE: Monthly report – example

Hi BIM Weasel and Gary,

Your intention of the example is noted.

Generally, presentation using tables make reporting effectively, easier to track and lives easier for all. Any particulars can then the written and described, and things like meeting notes (sic – such attention to detail here too – BIM Weasel)

I am sure that there are reference samples which George might be able to share with you as references, of course with any sensitive matters should be redacted where necessary. George, please kindly look into this.

Please draft out a table of content for the Monthly Report to get things moving. In terms of the “tone” or “polishing needed” of the report, George should be able to help similar to that of your draft R to C on the BIM Plan.

Please feel free to call and discuss with me on this matter.

Many thanks

IBPM


Email #5

From: BIM Weasel
Sent: Tuesday, 5 May
To: IBPM;
Cc: Gary
Subject: RE: Monthly report – example

Thank you IBPM, Gary,

Just one question; who is George?

Regards,

BIM Weasel

When is a Questionnaire not a Questionnaire?

Consulting for the lazy

Hong Kong’s Construction Industry Council (CIC) are tasked with implementing the government’s BIM initiatives and have employed US bean counter led engineering consultancy AECOM to drive the development of a case requirement study for 3D and BIM Data.

Never one to spend a dollar on a task if they can get someone else to do it, and gain an unfair advantage at the same time, AECOM have basically asked the BIM people invited to make up their own questions, to provide them with valuable data that would allow them to bid for and win future projects more efficiently.

Tell us what you know about BIM, so we can do it better. Example 1

Not content with finding out what you know, they also want to find out what would make their bids more effective for future projects by identifying gaps in the current processes they can exploit and wow the clients with their boundless knowledge and BIM chops.

All your base are belong to us