Why the Trades are Teaching Design

by | Oct 30, 2020 | All

MEP construction trades are taking a detailed approach to teaching their members design software. More and more subcontractors are understanding the benefit of filling design/detail seats with workers from the field, and the trade associations are preparing for this demand for contractor-detailers. Because they can “talk the talk” of planning/design, trade workers using design software are extremely valuable on the job.

In their MEP Force breakout session on September 1 at 1:30 pm, Mike Zivanovic, Technology Manager with Chicago Pipefitters Local 597, and Jason Ashburg, Instructor for United Association (UA), explained that their trade organizations are instructing active members and apprentices on virtual design and construction (VDC) using Autodesk Revit, laser scanning, Robotic Total Stations, Bluebeam Revu, Microsoft Office, and project scheduling.

They also acquaint students to using technology on iPads. When apprentices learn on mobile devices, it makes the eventual implementation of technology simpler. They learn that an iPad is not simply an entertainment device, but rather a tool to access information, communicate and stay organized.  

The classes are preparing potential employees to be ready for tech on the job. Zivanovic explained that his association gauges the technologies they will be teaching by determining what is being used in the field. He observes the processes of forward-thinking trade contractors and the technology they use, then he develops a strategy to provide training on the types of technology that drive those processes. 

Zivanovic said tech on the job can be stressful to some workers. As an example, he described someone who has worked with their hands for decades and then is suddenly faced with doing their job using an iPad. The pushback from situations like that is one reason technology implementation can fail. Employee buy-in and acceptance are essential, as well as a company culture of being open to new things.

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One of the technologies increasingly found on projects is Revit for building information modeling (BIM). Ashburg pointed out that the value of Revit is working in a single file, rather than multiple CAD files. He stressed that detailers don’t have to duplicate the same work over and over again, so it’s a big step forward in efficiency.

In the UA Revit training, students learn the importance of coordinating with the other trades. They go through mock scenarios to get a feel for a real-world project. The training pairs up apprentices with journeymen to educate the apprentices while inspiring the journeymen. Even if they never work on detailing, they leave the program understanding how to use BIM 360 or Navisworks, and Ashburn said, “It immediately translates to the field.”

The indepth training goes from the fundamentals, through coordination in the VDC environment to advanced skills like spooling, family creation and scheduling. Whether the members are apprentices or 20-year journeymen who have never used technology, the design training courses will turn them into detailers. An extra feature of the training, which was added after some feedback from course graduates, is a workflow diagram developed by Ashburn – basically a how-to for getting started on a “digital” job. UA can now be confident that their trained people can start at a job and be productive from day one.

As a result of design training, students learn how things work and learn to speak the language of VDC. Their employers, in turn, will benefit from better collaboration resulting in minimal RFIs.

MEP Force 2020 Virtual featured three timely keynotes and over 80 breakout sessions by industry experts geared specifically to the MEP trades. Visit the agenda to access more sessions on-demand and learn about real-world ways you can take advantage of the latest technology and prefabrication trends to give your company a competitive edge.  

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