Improving Efficiencies In Your Structural Engineering Workflow

While structural engineers are masters at manipulating numbers and amazing at seeing how loads transfer through a structural system, many are uncomfortable discussing the business side of structural engineering – revenue vs. profit, cost of inefficient process vs. cost of change, etc. In tough economic times like this, a common question for an engineering office that hard bids the majority of its work is “How do we become more profitable?” The longer term question is “What can we improve upon to position us to be stronger when our business volume gets back to a normal level?”

The computer revolution and computer-aided engineering (CAE) that really took hold in the 1990s created a fundamental change in how analysis was performed. The computing power of the desktop PC allowed what took a room full of engineers hunched over tables doing long form math and moment redistribution for days on end to be completed by a single engineer using GT STRUDL to perform the same calculations in just hours. This was the first major shift in how structural engineering was performed in a production environment. Twenty some years later, and it’s now common knowledge that CAE has improved efficiency in both designs and workflow processes.

One of the original benefits of using a robust analysis program is that engineers can easily make a change to the original model, whether it’s a geometry, material, or load change, and see the effect of that change throughout the entire structural system, reducing the time required to approve changes that occur late in the project life cycle.

Of course, engineers aren’t one to just accept the computing power as the only gain to be had by CAE. We’ve taken the tools available to us and figured out new ways to work, like using an input file with the CINPUT command in GT STRUDL to combine different geometries and loading conditions to perform what-if analysis or to analyze the lifting, transport, and placement of a large structure.

Unfortunately, many of these great efficiencies are fairly common knowledge beyond just the engineering community, and that’s led to a common practice of engineers being expected to make all types of last-minute changes or complete a full redesign of a lateral load resisting system without charging for the additional work. Have you looked at the amount of time you spend doing unpaid change work on your projects? While any one change may not consume a lot of time, it’s “Lingchi” or death by a thousand cuts to your already paper-thin profit margins.

So this month, start a discussion around how you work today, and look for where you can leverage technology and workflows to reduce analysis and design time, deliver a more efficient and well-coordinated design to your client, and look at areas where you can reduce duplication of effort. Sometimes small changes in workflow process will enable you to take on more work in the same amount of hours and have a positive impact on your staff and your business.

Vol. 3 | Issue 4 | April 2016

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Did you know that you could animate a moving load as it moves across your structure in GT Menu? You can also show the deformed structure as the load moves across the structure. This feature is often used for bridges and for crane rails in industrial structures.

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How many different steel profiles are you going to use in your next design? Do you know what profiles are readily available from your supplier? If you know the answers to these questions, why not create your own user dataset with a table of profiles which contains just the profiles that you are going to use?

Why would you want to do this?

  1. It will speed up the modeling process since you will have a smaller list of profiles to search when modeling the structure.
  2. The steel design in GT STRUDL will only use the profiles in the table that you have created which will speed it up and even more importantly, use only the profiles that you want to use.

How do you create your own table of profiles? In the main GT STRUDL window, select “SteelDesign” and then “Create, Transfer and View Table Profiles” from the “SteelDesign” pulldown. You then select “Transfer Profiles to a User Dataset.” Example

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Geoff Blumber
North America Channel Manager CADWorx & Analysis Solutions