I found myself saying that “I’m old-school” quite a bit lately.

Is that good or bad?

I hadn’t really thought about it much until this moment. I think what makes Zen Engineering strong is that we ‘are’ old school in many ways, with ‘new school’ methods and objectives. Some things really do have to change with the times.

For instance, I was talking with someone a few months ago (and this is just an illustration of conversations that I’ve had before) about the possibilities that existed using electronic data versus paper drawings. An obvious one is the use of a surface model with Machine Control versus just having a paper (or CAD) drawing of the final contours. The way that you can use a good 3D surface model compared to the way that we can use a paper drawing just can’t compare. Of course the technology to utilize the digital data has to be implemented or in place, but that’s secondary. The primary point is the utilization and optimization of the electronic data within the Field Collection / Engineering / Construction process.

Do you know how many places redesign the project when it goes onto construction? Sure, it’s a great check of the engineering …but that should have already been done by the engineer, don’t you think? Ya, right, maybe in some places …but not in others. … But I digress.

So, what exactly do I mean by ‘old school’ versus the ‘new school’ world? When ‘I’ say that, I’m usually referring to the engineering work process along with the information movement through the project life-cycle. ‘Old school’ has both good and bad connotations. Some of the ‘old school’ needs to be re-evaluated, and some of it needs to be reinforced.

The “bad old school system” (BOSS) is pulling coordinates and curve information off of tabling on a set of drawings and recreating the layout so it can be staked in the field. The BOSS is robotically and rotely showing information like the right, left and centerline profiles and grades when they really aren’t required. The BOSS is putting content on a drawing “because that’s the way we’ve always done it”. A huge aspect of the engineering industry changed when it went from the boards to the computer in the late 80’s. Don’t you think it would be logical to reassess the previous processes that were used and eliminate the BOSS?

I call the ‘good’ part of the old school system - “engineering”. It includes checking your work; understanding the scope of the project; checking your work; knowing your design criteria; checking your work; knowing how to use your tools; optimizing the design based on required standards, and checking your work. Capesh?

The ‘new school’ is uploading the surface model and geometry file to the survey controller so it can be taken into the field. Really ‘new school’ is taking the entire project to the field on a tablet PC, electronically. ‘New school’ is using the latest software programs like InRoads or Civil 3D to build accurate models of the existing and design conditions, and then using these models to develop the CAD files as the documents of record. ‘New school’ is using those engineering models to the extent that you can within the limits of the technology that is available to you. ‘New school’ is re-evaluating the design process and synchronizing it with stable, progressive technology that gets the job done faster, equally as accurate, and with less budget.

I could go on, but I won’t. …maybe I’ll do a Part 2 later.

Where are you at? Still working with the BOSS?



  • "A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for."

    – Unknown