Evolution of the CAD technician

17 January 2019
Image of two workers at a desk.
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CAD Technicians have come a long way since the days of drawing boards and rotary pens. Like most things around us, the past 30 years have transformed the way we work.

As technology and data availability advances, technicians are embracing the challenge of moving away from providing ‘pretty drawings’ to adding real value to projects by bringing life to an idea in the form of a digital twin.

BIM has moved the focus from the piece of paper to the electronic design model. We have taken a leap into the future with all information communicated in a model centric format, with data exposed and open to immediate judgement.

CAD technicians control how we create, check, submit and approve designs from concept to As Built. They are responsible for not only the 3D models, but the coordinated BIM model, clash detection, 4D, 5D, integration and asset tagging, all while working in a confined common data environment. CAD and BIM now lead the way at project level.

Changing perceptions

Sometimes seen as an engineer’s ugly sister, or a stepping stone to something ‘better’, being a CAD Technician hasn’t always been an attractive career option, but thankfully this perception is starting to change and together we can embrace this evolution.

As in the early 90s, the CAD technician role has radically changed. No longer it is enough to simply produce a detailed representation of an engineer’s design, the CAD technician is now required to create a variety of models to satisfy various purposes, still within original time constraints.

Crossrail was a defining point in this evolution, which felt like losing our artistic licence. As a BIM project within a ProjectWise environment, models needed to conform to strict standards on how assets are displayed and work within a 3D environment, whilst referencing the live models of other disciplines. The addition of workflows, and integrated QA checks, highlighted errors and resulted in enhanced knowledge and understanding of how to manipulate the software.

The CAD technician has evolved into the BIM modeller, and with it their responsibilities have expanded exponentially. Sadly, this change in scope is often not properly funded within projects. There’s still this perception that BIM is an-add on; an extra service that a company can provide to make the design shiny.

Pushing the boundaries of the future

That’s why forward-thinking organisations, like Amey Consulting, are investing in integrating BIM into business as usual. We’re doing this with new roles, job descriptions and career development that reflect the responsibilities, and importance of BIM roles, and making sure that we have someone with the experience and knowledge to collaborate this process on every BIM project.

For us, BIM needs to become simply the way we do things. It is not just a change in the standards but the unravelling of previous processes and information management and rebuilding it in a new, fully digitalised way.

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