A Guide to Outsourcing Your AEC Production Work

Meet Fast-Approaching Deadlines

Innovation in technology is happening at a very rapid pace and is exponentially increasing every day, presenting AEC professionals new opportunities for growth.  The hardware and software capabilities available to the average professional are astounding and thanks to new innovate cloud solutions, companies can work on complex 3D modeling and design in virtual working environments.  These innovative technologies even make construction sites safer and workers more efficient in their daily operations. Despite the benefits these new technologies have provided, there are certain challenges that the AEC Industry still faces.

Ask any AEC firm and they will tell you that recruiting highly skilled technical specialists that understand these technologies can be a real challenge. Trying to find these individuals located in the same geographical location can be part of the problem.  Some of the blame could be pointed to the 2009 recession where many of these skilled professionals left the industry for other pursuits.  Adding to that, many of the trade schools which trained these highly sought-after skillsets have either shifted their AEC technical curriculum or no longer exist.  Unfortunately, the number of individuals who go to a technical school to focus on becoming highly skilled professionals on the design software are becoming harder to find. Engineers or architects come out of school with some relevant CAD/BIM training, but most of the design and modeling tools they will need to use inside the software are either learned on the job or on their own time.

Bottom line, the skills that were once prevalent in the industry are now harder to find, which can often leave AEC firms shorthanded when these individuals are needed the most.  When a company is fortunate to find and recruit these talented individuals, retention is another challenge.  These professionals can be trained in the company standards and then leave to another company leaving that company in a bind to replace them with this ever-elusive technical unicorn.

On the flipside, these firms can also run into the issue of trying to keep their staff billable when the workload is lighter, perhaps due to waiting for that big project to come in or just from typical seasonal downtimes. This is not a simple solution for sure, as you need to be staffed up when that big project comes through, but what do you do with that staff when the work is not there?  Keeping the staff billable while maintaining the necessary office expenses and employee costs can be very stressful to say the least.

These are some common issues that many AEC firm understands all too well and outsourcing may be the answer they are looking for.  Unfortunately, the mere mention of outsourcing can be intimidating to some as it often carries a negative stereotype.  However, if implemented correctly with the proper considerations in place when choosing an outsourcing partner, it is a viable option to address many of the previous concerns.

Step 1: Determine What Type of Work to Outsource

Whether you are short-staffed, or you simply want to have your engineers offload drafting work, it is critical you find a company that will understand deadlines and help you get that billable project to the finish line.  Do you need help with drafting, design, 3D modeling, or a visualization/rendering project?  Does this company have the capabilities and industry experience to either work as part of one of your teams or take on a project on their own and “run” with it? Have they been in the technical trenches and understand what it means to get a project done and done right?  It is also critical that they understand that they will need to follow your company standards, guidelines, and internal workflows under your direction.

Perhaps it is not project-related, but more CAD/BIM management related.  Even though this type of work is considered “unbillable”, it is essential in keeping your company efficient and current with technology.  The rapid growth of technology in the AEC industry can be difficult to keep up with while performing the tasks necessary to keep a business running.  Taking the necessary time to investigate, learn and adopt new technologies simply is not an option for most companies. Aligning your company with a partner on the frontline of these emerging technologies allows you early insight on whether adoption is something to consider without significant time invested on your part.

Outsourcing is a great way to keep your team more fully utilized on billable projects while offloading the unbillable tasks like template, CAD/BIM standards, styles, detail libraries, and Revit family content.  This will allow your resources to focus their energy on completing current project work while pursuing more. 

Step 2: Identify a Partner that Works for Your Geography

One of the biggest misconceptions for outsourcing is that you need to find an overseas company.  It is not uncommon for companies to look overseas for a cost-effective solution, but unfortunately, they rarely find it.  Remember, you get what you pay for. Outsourcing overseas for production assistance is rife with potential issues.

We often hear the same issues resonate from customers who have worked with partners overseas.  This can include language barriers, miscommunication, and unfamiliarity with other nations AEC industry standards to name a few.  In these cases, the anticipated deliverables are not provided with the quality of work expected, adding unnecessary expenses and frustration to their projects.

Time differences are another issue as the company may be working at night when your office is closed, which leads to the other problem of being closed when you need to get a hold of them.  We recommend avoiding these headaches altogether by finding an outsourcing partner that works during hours that you work.

Step 3: Find a Partner that is Scalable with Your Workload

If your project workload has increased beyond the capacity of your workforce, you may look at bringing on additional staff on a temporary or per project basis.  This allows you to scale your staff according to the amount of work you are bringing in.  Retain your key personnel full-time to keep winning better projects while maintaining quality assurance and quality control for existing projects.  Then once those larger projects come through, utilize your outsourcing partner as you need, under your control.  When the project workload lightens up, you will not have the concerns of needing to downsize your staff.

Make sure to align with a company that has a broad skill set and understands emerging technologies so that they can provide you with the latest software solutions and has the bandwidth to assist you when you need them the most.  The Technical team should consist of a mix of experienced AEC industry professionals and experts in the software they sell. Integrating this group results in a practical knowledge of industry standards and its practical application within the software. They need to understand the “why we do it this way” and the “how we do it in the software.”.

Step 4: Contact ATG Production Services

ATG has offices located in Arkansas, Minnesota, and Arizona and our Technical Specialists consist of certified Autodesk Design Professionals located across the country, covering multiple time zones. We hire professionals that come from the industry and understand the unique challenges that AEC firms face. Our primary goal at ATG is to assist your architects, engineers, and project managers with utilizing your AEC software in the most efficient way possible.

Contact marketing@atgusa.com for all your AEC technology and service needs. To authors of this blog are Rob Bigelow, GISP, ATG Director of Civil Services and Scott Pruitt, AIA, ATG Director of Architectural Services.


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