Can technology make you smarter? Maybe not, but it can make you more efficient.
Adapting to change is necessary for success in virtually every career. The way you did your job 10 years ago is likely different from the way you do it today, and will almost certainly be different from how you will do it 10 years from now. At one point, consulting engineers had to put down their pencils and t-squares to adopt computer-aided design (CAD) software. Consulting engineers have since moved on to learn yet another type of software that allows the benefits of load calculations, clash detection, and quantity take-offs in a 3-D building information model (BIM). While there are clearly benefits to BIM, some might argue that firms chose to adopt it just for the sake of being on the latest trend.
This trend chasing tends to create a negative stigma around technology and causes us to forget that there are computer programs that have made our day-to-day tasks much easier. They can automate and expedite calculations; any recalculations due to input modifications are completed in just minutes. While there is lots of technology out there that may not be perfect, we as consulting engineers must use the wealth of technology available that does assist in efficiency, knowledge, and organization.
For example, if you are looking for an efficient and convenient way to coordinate, use smart boards. These interactive screens are larger versions of tablets that easily allow multiple parties to observe a drawing simultaneously. The smart board technology is robust enough to allow comments to be written or erased directly on the screen. These comments become attached to that particular location within the blueprint, allowing comments on floor plans to remain in the intended location as you zoom in/out or move around the drawing. Smart boards let you electronically mark up drawings and share them with team members for proper incorporation into a project without printing a single piece of paper.
The widespread success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad has resulted in the mass production of apps. Search for apps on your Apple or Android device, or visit Consulting-Specifying Engineer’s website for an extensive list of Apps for Engineers catered for consulting engineers. Some apps allow desktop computer programs to be used wherever you are. Open and view AutoCAD drawings from your phone or participate in a virtual meeting and view the images being displayed on your tablet while riding in a cab to the airport. Access product data by opening a manufacturer’s app that is easy to navigate. Or quickly calculate the approximate energy generation and return on investment of a photovoltaic array by entering simple inputs, such as location and module orientation/angle, with the SMA Solarchecker app.
Being organized is essential for managing multiple projects. Accomplish this by going digital and saving trees in the process. Eliminate notebooks and paper clutter by consolidating notes, audio recordings, and images electronically with Evernote. Information stored in this program is synced automatically and accessible on all digital devices (i.e., computer, tablet, or phone). Separate documents associated with different projects by creating multiple electronic notebooks. Generate a to-do list with check boxes and disperse it to others via e-mail in seconds. In addition, other apps can be linked to Evernote to help incorporate different types of documents into this singular filing location. For example, notes can be written on a picture or image in a blink of an eye with the Skitch app and later filed in the project notebook in Evernote. Quickly and clearly emphasize a field issue to the team with this image markup tool.
The amount of new technology available for consulting engineers can be overwhelming, and the examples above are just a few of the recent advancements made. Using all these technology devices and applications is not a guaranteed recipe for success. You do not have to use everything. Be open-minded and find the one or two that best suit your need to be more productive in an era where you are connected to work 24/7.
Michael J. Mar is a senior associate with Environmental Systems Design. He has adopted Evernote to stay constantly connected with and organized between the multiple projects he manages and designs simultaneously. His company has also invested in smart boards as part of its sustainability initiative to reduce paper consumption.