Finding a Reliable Partner is Priceless

Todd Danielson: Can you start by explaining what is PEC, where are its offices, and what needs do you fulfill for your customers?

Clayton Lewis: We’re headquartered in Wichita, Kan., with offices in the surrounding states of Colorado, Missouri, and Oklahoma. We are a multi-discipline firm, so we have civil services as well as structural, electrical, and mechanical services; we also have survey geotechnical services. PEC is the one-stop-shop engineering firm in the area. And we’re comprised of intelligent, licensed team members who are also thought leaders. We want our clients and customers to come to us when they have difficult troubles or solutions they need.

Danielson: How would you describe your role at PEC and what are your responsibilities? Also, how would you describe a VDC specialist?

Lewis: My role at PEC as the VDC specialist is making sure our civil team is using Autodesk products, specifically Civil 3D, to the best of their abilities. Typically, I get software packages installed and set up, test all the new functions they may have, and then roll out new tools to the users as they come out. I’m kind of the “guinea pig” or the test subject for all the new stuff Autodesk rolls out to us.

Danielson: Can you tell me which types of projects you typically work on?

Lewis: Before I took this role as VDC specialist at our company, I was heavily involved in design and plan production, so my main focus was using Autodesk Civil 3D to produce plans and designs. Those projects usually were new building structures with parking, new site developments, utility infrastructure projects, athletic fields—you name it, we pretty much had our hands in it.

Danielson: Are there specific projects that stand out to you where U.S. CAD has been a valued partner?

Lewis: We had a project for a local municipality where we needed to engage the public and show our idea for the project. So we scanned it with a point cloud, and we were going to do some visualization work. But we found out that ReCap, an Autodesk software, had taken away a capability of meshing this point cloud together, so we were on the hunt for a software package that would mesh to point cloud.

I looked up U.S. CAD to see what they had available, since they’re our partner, and noticed that PointFuse was one of the software packages they support. I reached out to Jeff, our point of contact with U.S. CAD, and he started setting up calls with the development team from PointFuse to show off the software and get us different testing capabilities so we could make sure the product was going to work for what we wanted to use it on. It was absolutely successful. We were able to engage the public on that amphitheater project, get their buy-in and proceed with design. We’re just waiting on the guys in the field to finish construction right now.

Danielson: On this amphitheater project, what were some of the difficulties you came across where the software really showed its value?

Lewis: The biggest help for us from U.S. CAD was engaging with the actual software development team. Jeff just kind of made it happen, which was really awesome. In a really short time period, we were able to be introduced to a new piece of software and then actually use it effectively in a matter of days. You can’t get that without having that point of contact.

Danielson: Besides PointFuse, were there any other products you used for this project?

Lewis: The other piece of software we used was called Lumion, a visualization software. Our landscape architect used that to model the entire project in 3D. We used Point Views as the go-between to get the point cloud information meshed into Lumion.

Danielson: Can you talk a little bit more about what you had to do to get participation and buy-in from the public as well as complete the project and get it across the finish line?

Lewis: It was in a public park, next to schools—a very high-traffic area—and they were going to be putting a very artistic structure in the park. It gave us the capability to show someone in real time what it was going to look like.

I think it eases people’s minds to see something in a real-world view vs. something on a piece of paper. That public engagement piece was extremely important to get buy off on designs, and it minimizes the amount of work we’re doing on the physical design when someone changes their mind. We’ve got a clear path, and we can get the job accomplished in a much more efficient manner just by getting that little bit of public feedback.

Danielson: What did you learn personally from this project that you can apply to future work?

Lewis: Having a bunch of tools in our toolbox is absolutely beneficial. We want to be able to handle whatever anyone throws at us. If that means using a piece of one-off software to accomplish that, we want to be able to do that.

Having partnerships with U.S. CAD and Autodesk—you can’t put a price tag on that. We have been expanding our capabilities by having partnerships. This support, outside the company, has been very beneficial.