April 22 2021
Leadership at Every Level: Automation Ace Andy Ion
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Entuitive’s commitment to being creative, collaborative, and advanced manifests itself in our drive to seek out better ways of doing things. Indeed, it’s this entrepreneurial mindset upon which the company was founded.
This attitude is exemplified by Senior Technologist Andy Ion and his leadership when it comes to future-proofing Entuitive. Andy has been championing production process automation so that our talented people are freed up to do the creative, challenging work our clients need most.
We sat down with Andy to talk about his work.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Andy. Can you tell us a bit about your role(s) at Entuitive and how they relate to your work as an automation champion?
Andy: Thanks for having me, and for sure. I wear three hats at Entuitive. As a Senior Technologist a significant portion of my time is spent on project work. I’m also a member of the Quality Control Committee, as well as the BIM Knowledge Centre. All three of these roles follow various processes and steps in order to deliver the highest quality projects to our clients. I began to see and understand that many of the manual steps we go through during our production process and quality control reviews could be automated.
I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who cringes at the thought of tedious, repetitive tasks. But it goes beyond simply eliminating them. By freeing up that valuable time (time that ultimately our clients pay for), we free ourselves up for the creative problem-solving that we’ve been hired to perform in the first place.
As such, we’ve been developing various automation tools that help speed up those otherwise manual processes. And once we have a tool for one project, we can easily adapt it to future projects as well.
That sounds great! In a knowledge-based industry such as ours, it’s paramount to ensure we’re always working as efficiently as possible so that we can spend the maximum amount of time on solving engineering challenges. Can you give us an example of one such automation tool?
Andy: Of course. With the support of Belinda Wong, Somerset Jarvis and I developed an automated data transfer process that transferred steel beam data from RAM to Revit. We did this for the New Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility that is being built in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. This project comprises hundreds of steel beams to accommodate its complex geometry, and automation was a key component in saving time and reducing human error during the data transfer process.
The old way of doing this meant Somerset would have had to design the structure in RAM and then manually copy all the beam sizes and parameters into Bluebeam for me to draft in Revit. Talk about time-consuming and inefficient. Instead of this manual process, Somerset used the Integrated Structural Modelling (ISM) software that can be used as a plugin for both RAM and Revit. ISM reads and locates all of the design information in RAM and stores it in a repository in a process called mapping. The repository can then be opened in Revit, and everything about the beam, from its size, camber, and loading type, to shear reactions and number of studs, can be imported into Revit.
“95% of all the beams successfully transferred into Revit, saving us hours of redundant work.”
We’ve also already done the same for column schedules. We’re simply utilizing tools that are already out there and writing programs to help us.
Wow, it sounds like developing this tool more than paid off. Can you tell us how automation comes into play in your role as a Quality Control Committee Member?
Andy: Entuitive’s QC process comprises a rigorous set of peer reviews and lessons learned. I saw an opportunity here too to automate some tasks that lend themselves to automation, such as administrative tasks, in order to spend more time reviewing our work. I believe many aspects of our industry as a whole lend themselves well to automation, and it’s up to us to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancement so that we can continually provide the highest quality engineering. These tools enable us to continually improve the quality of our deliverables. So many methods have been grandfathered in from the hand-drafting days, and we simply need to move on. Not only that, but they help us be a more responsive and agile organization.
And in case anyone reading thinks we’re automating for the sake of automating, I just want to emphasize again that the purpose of automating certain tasks is to free up more time for the work we should all be doing, and that’s delivering great projects for great clients.
Engineering absolutely needs that human touch. By automating some tasks, we make more time for real engineering, real innovation, and real problem-solving. It’s more time to put all that engineering experience into practice.
Imagine being on a road with many checkpoints. Each checkpoint represents a decision that needs to be made. The path between each point represents the tedious, repetitive work that we want to make efficient, i.e. shortening the path. This way we can spend more time making valuable decisions, ultimately arriving at our destination sooner.
In addition to the time savings on projects, how else does automation and optimization help our clients?
Andy: At the end of the day, we are downstream from an architect’s form and needs. The faster we can respond to their (rapid) changes, the better. Architects are becoming more agile, iterating on their designs quickly. If we can respond to them with a quick structural model, if we can keep up, then we’ll be ahead of the game. Essentially, we’re speeding up our collaboration between our clients, the architects, and ourselves. It’s a win-win-win.
This all sounds great, Andy, and definitely a worthwhile pursuit to be championing. Thanks so much for talking with us today.