Making your MicroStation life easier

Axiom MicroStation

by TJ Crabtree, Maintenance Service Consultant
Clearwater, Florida, USA — Have you ever bought some software and then had to struggle with getting it up and running? Here at Axiom, we are not satisfied to just sell software. We want our software used. That's why we make it — to make the MicroStation user's life easier.

Rochester, New York, USA — Bergmann Associates CAD Manager, Melcher Mack, has been in the CAD industry for over ten years. He gave us some insights on changes he's seen in the industry as well as his prediction on where it is going.

MicroStation Today: What is your background?
Melcher: In high school, I took an architectural elective course where I worked on designing my dream house. Later, I went to college for Marketing Management but found I was more interested in designing things than selling them. So, I went back for Mechanical Technology.

MST: I'm sure Bergmann Associates was happy about that. What type of work does your firm do?
Melcher: Bergmann Associates has been around since 1980. We offer an extensive range of engineering, architecture, planning and design services for commercial, institutional, retail, education and industrial leaders as well as agencies at all levels of government.

MST: What have been some highlights for you personally in this industry?
Melcher: After I started working at Bergmann Associates, we began looking at 3D design packages. This is when I really "got it." Once I could see more of what we were drafting instead of 2D lines and arcs, I really got into CAD. Helping the company transition from primarily designing in 2D with just a few design packages to using 3D in our design process and using multiple design packages tailored to specific disciplines has definitely been a highlight for me.

MST: What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?
Melcher: Bergmann Associates is engaged in a number of both small and large projects. For instance, we're one of four firms working on the Renaissance Square project here in Rochester, New York. For me, the most challenging part is maintaining all of the software packages that we use on our different projects. Keeping multiple design packages working efficiently in multiple disciplines across multiple offices can be very challenging, to say the least.

MST: As a CAD Manager, what kinds of problems do you encounter?
Melcher: Anything from "how do I get this icon on my screen" to "I just lost three hours worth of work". It's frustrating losing work or trying to get software to do something that it should do but doesn't. Axiom's tools help with that. Although I first heard about Axiom through mailings, it was at the BE Conference where I really saw what software options Axiom developed. [Editors note: The "BE Conference" is an annual conference sponsored by Bentley Systems.] Axiom tools have increased our productivity with software like Microsoft Office Importer. We have been very impressed with what that tool can do.

MST: What do you use Microsoft Office Importer for?
Melcher: We have several people who use Microsoft Office Importer on every project they do. They use it with Microsoft Word for general notes and with Microsoft Excel for extensive tables like schedules or bill of materials. One of my colleagues recently told me the product was great, worked well and really saved hours of time on each of their projects.

MST: What would you like to be doing in ten years?
Melcher: As long as I'm involved with design technology in some fashion, and not just pushing paper, I'm sure I'll be content.

MST: What book do you wish you'd written?
Melcher: The types of books I have read are not the types of books that I would want to write. For an example Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. In order to write it, I'd have to experience it and that's one I'd rather not.

MST: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Melcher: If it's during the workweek, my Father — he's retired!

MST: What do you predict will be the "next big thing" in CAD?
Melcher: The big issue in CAD today is true interoperability. If we can accomplish that, we will see technology really take off in this industry. The buzz in the industry right now is BIM. [Editor's note: Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the process of generating and managing building data such as geometry, spatial relationships, geographic information, quantities and properties of building components (like manufacturing information).] We all say we are "BIMing" or attempting to do BIM, but until true interoperability exists, I don't believe you can accomplish it. The major CAD companies are acquiring a lot of software packages to cover each phase of a project to accomplish BIM. I think their intentions are to have software in each phase of BIM that's interoperable. The problem is, we all use a different lineup of software to accomplish our goals on a project. Most likely, it will always be that way. This industry will accomplish more once there is a certain level of true interoperability between multiple software companies. I believe International Alliance for Interoperability (IAI) has the most potential to make interoperability happen.

MST: Thanks, Melch

That's where I come in. My name is TJ Crabtree and I am your friendly Axiom Maintenance Plus gal. We really do go to great lengths to ensure that our software gets used. As a matter of fact, there is a sign on the wall here that lists one of our major goals as: "Outstanding products successfully being used." The "being used" part is key. We have a policy here that someone from Axiom's Customer Service Department calls everyone who purchases an Axiom product within a few days after they get the software to make sure they were able to get it installed and working. Axiom not only provides technical support for the Axiom products that help you to be more efficient with MicroStation, but often we can help with your MicroStation-related issues too.
There are many things Axiom does to ensure our products are successfully being used. For example, we routinely send Axiom technicians all over the globe. Recent trips include Kansas City, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Germany, Canada and England, to name just a few. (I volunteered, but I didn't get to go to England.)

Axiom Maintenance Plus
More than your average maintenance program, Axiom Maintenance Plus combines tech support, software upgrades, training and custom programming to cover all the bases. The technical staff here at Axiom strives to ensure that, as a user of Axiom's products, you always have all the benefits you need to really get the most out of your Axiom products.
The Axiom name for customers that have Axiom Maintenance Plus is "Maintenance Plus Holders", but I like to call them "VIPs". My father is a civil engineer, so I understand my customers and what they do.
With Axiom Maintenance Plus you get:

  • The latest updates for the products you own, provided at no charge.
  • Unlimited technical support via telephone, fax, e-mail or mail. If you are having a problem, just let us know.
  • Bug fixes and work-arounds. We specialize in solving production snags and MicroStation workflow issues.
  • High priority given to your enhancement requests. We get lots of requests for easier ways to do things in MicroStation. That is how we know what new features to add to our software. We look at Maintenance Plus holders' requests first.
  • The latest version of the product, sent automatically at least once a year.
  • One hour of free user training via the Internet or two hours of free custom programming, for every $500 paid on annual maintenance.

MicroStation Productivity Toolkit, MicroStation Acceleration Garage and Axiom Maintenance Plus
Both MicroStation Productivity Toolkit and MicroStation Acceleration Garage combine many of Axiom's top, time-saving utilities into a single, cost-efficient package. Occasionally we add new programs to both Toolkit and Garage. As a bonus for Toolkit or Garage owners with Maintenance Plus, you get any and all new products that get added — free of charge.