3D Modeling: Impacts to Workflow

"Customers require the effective integration of technologies to simplify their workflow and boost efficiency.” – Anne M. Mulcahy, former chairperson & CEO of Xerox

Once upon a time, DIS-TRAN worked exclusively in 2D (e.g., AutoCAD), producing only flat drawings and documentation for each project, and every step of our workflow relied on extensive manual labor. For example, when preparing a Bill of Materials (BOM) for a project, somebody had to sit down, personally, count all of the materials, perform rigorous checks and double-checks and type all the information by hand. 3D modeling has freed us from much of that kind of hard labor. Consequently, we have developed brand new workflows that, in turn, enable us to complete a substation design in Autodesk Inventor in just six to eight weeks, versus an industry norm that’s closer to six months.

Here are some examples of how our internal workflows have changed thanks to 3D design.

Project Management

In the old, pre-3D workflow, the Project Manager (PM) would develop the initial BOM for the project. Then, it would go through several iterations of checking and corrections, before being handed back to the PM again, who would do a final check themselves. (And don’t even mention managing change orders). Based on the mark-ups, the PM would then generate another BOM and purchase order. In other words: it was step after step after step.

Now: “We just export a Bill of Materials from Inventor,” says Chris Ducote, DIS-TRAN’s Autodesk Inventor Development Manager. “We don’t have to sit there and count ‘one, two, three, four bolts here.’ The program does all that for us.”


That new process streamlines our procurement process as well. “It used to be we would buy extras of almost everything, such as bolts or washers, for a project,” explains Ducote. Now: the 3D design program tabulates whatever is in the design and provides the users with an accurate count at all times. Inventor does it automatically. For example, the software itself places all the hardware and determines correct material amounts. If the model changes and, for example, longer bolts are needed, Inventor will adjust and generate the updated list automatically.

Shipping Logistics

Particularly for products like factory-built substations, pre-fabricated bus and our skid-mounted eXpress Power Stations, oversize shipments can be challenging. Thanks to 3D modeling, we can now see exactly how each load will fit on the truck. “We do animations on a regular basis that show the components being loaded on and off the trucks, the cranes, and the order of how everything is going to go together,” says Ducote. With that information, we can develop rigging and logistics strategies that get equipment and materials to job sites with maximum efficiency and minimum fuss.