INFRASTRUCTURE EFFICIENCY: SMEDI’s Civil Engineering BIM Simplifies Project Complexity

By Akio
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Originally published in Compass Magazine. Written by JWDK.


Click to Tweet: “SMEDI uses #BIM to
simplify #civilengineering projects”

Shanghai Puxi section of the Ring Road project in China (Image © SMEDI)

Shanghai Puxi section of the Ring Road project in China (Image © SMEDI)

The Shanghai Municipal Engineering Design Institute (SMEDI), one of China’s top municipal engineering companies, has completed 12,000 projects including water treatment plants, as well as road, bridge, rail, urban landscape, fuel gas and geotechnical engineering projects.

Compass spoke with Lv Wei Zhang, association chief engineer in SMEDI’s IT Center, and Junwei Wu, deputy director of SMEDI’s BIM Center, about their work to develop IT solutions for civil engineering’s unique challenges.

RELATED: Civil Design Innovation, a whitepaper by Dassault Systèmes and SMEDI

COMPASS: What challenges are SMEDI facing in executing its work?

LV WEI ZHANG: In China, it is common for major infrastructure projects to be carried out with design and construction happening in parallel. Typically, only 50% of the project is designed when construction begins. During construction, owners are able to plan the rest of the project with greater precision. So they modify their design as the project evolves. This is one of the ways to adjust projects.

This process is close to owners but very difficult for the designers. To succeed, we must be able to clearly visualize the outcome of our design to ensure both quality and efficiency. With an advanced Building Information Modeling (BIM) platform, we can improve communication between owners, make design changes with great flexibility, manage project status with precision and efficiency and recover from project delays effectively.

Before employing the advanced BIM platform, what difficulties did you encounter in your work?

LWZ: In the past, our contractors used the in-situ casting method quite extensively, with a lot of casting work happening at the site. This had numerous drawbacks. First, it was difficult to control material waste. Second, it was hard to manage cost. Third, managing time and schedule was a big challenge. Last, casting on-site occupied much more space than prefabrication would require, so other contractors were often blocked from their work sites for prolonged periods.

How did you solve this challenge?

LWZ: First of all, we fully integrated our work into an engineering procurement construction (EPC) system that provides an overview of engineering, procurement and construction and how they relate to one another. We did off-site prefabrication as much as possible, and we launched a BIM system, which significantly enhances overall efficiency.

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: “SMEDI adopted an EPC system, prefabrication
& #BIM system to gain efficiencies on #civil projects”

What are the benefits of BIM?

LWZ: On the one hand, BIM enables us to achieve collaborative 3D design. The designs, from the macro system to the micro parts, are displayed as 3D visuals, giving clarity and precision in the process of communication with all stakeholders. BIM also facilitates data communication in an industry standardized format, so that everyone sees the same information clearly.

Could you briefly describe your application of BIM?

JUNWEI WU: Starting in 2005, the civil engineering industry in China has been shifting from CAD to BIM, and we started using BIM in our design work at that time. Before that, we had to endure the shortcomings of 2D design. The modifications were not linked together. In other words, changing one drawing did not automatically trigger changes in the other drawings. With BIM, a change to one area alerts the designer to any related areas that need to change as well.

BIM was first used in our water treatment plants, but ordinary BIM does not always have adequate capability to handle roads and bridges. We worked with our supplier to develop a BIM specifically for civil engineering that is perfect for visualizing roads, bridges and tunnels. It can demonstrate our design concepts and offers precision in our presentation, even for minor features.

Could you give some examples?

JW: SMEDI is particularly strong in designing bridges. For instance, the Ganjiang River Second Bridge, in Jiangxi Province, has a “fish-like” design that merges very well with the landscape. The structure is complicated, with the steel above, concrete below, and a mixture of both in the middle. We used our specialized civil engineering BIM, enabling well-planned division of work, with different engineers deployed collaboratively for components, the skeleton and the steel structure.

With our civil engineering BIM, it has become much easier for us to accommodate changes in design, which can be frequent. In the past, making changes to the design often took even longer than the designing itself.

Now, the pain of endless modifications is significantly reduced.

Another notable example is the Yanggao South Road Tunnel project in Shanghai, a project involving many tunnels and bridges. Our BIM made design much more precise and easier to visualize.

What is your overall evaluation of the civil engineering BIM solution that your partner developed, based on your input?

JW: We have immensely benefited from this platform. Our partner has long been number one in the field of manufacturing, and we foresee that “manufacturing today is the civil works of tomorrow.”

clicktotweetClick to Tweet: “Manufacturing today
is the #civil works of tomorrow”

Furthermore, the platform has saved a significant amount of our time. Before this platform, we spent about one-third of our time doing design work and two-thirds of our time doing communication.

Apart from facilitating our design work, BIM makes communication much faster and easier, and this translates into substantial cost savings.

Our BIM platform is specially designed to effectively solve civil design industry challenges. We believe this platform is simultaneously mature and innovative.

Related Resources

Civil Design for Fabrication

Whitepaper: Civil Design Innovation

Civil Infrastructure Whitepaper by 3DS

Executive Perspective: Dassault Systèmes’ Philosophy for Sustainability

By Aurelien
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Thomson Reuters Bernard Charlès Sustainability interviewDassault Systèmes was recently named number 5 in the Corporate Knights top 100 most sustainable companies.  At the center of this achievement is Bernard Charlès, CEO and President since September, 1995, and at the core of Mr. Charlès’ business is a philosophy on what it means to be sustainable.  In his words:  “Imagining sustainable innovations capable of harmonizing product, nature and life is the only way to progress for us, for our customers, and for society at large.”  We sat down with Mr. Charlès to unpack this concept-rich statement, and to try to understand how this vision helps Dassault Systèmes succeed as a business.

Thomson Reuters’ Sustainability: I’d like to start at the beginning, with the concept of “imagining”.  Is that a core part of the Dassault Systèmes’ culture?  Why does it matter for sustainability?

Mr. Charlès: We start with “imagining” because sustainability is about freedom of thought.  It’s about feeling comfortable to move beyond current assumptions around how much energy or raw material or water it takes to make something.  I want my co-workers to feel empowered, even mandated, to look beyond what they have traditionally considered possible, and let go of their imaginations.  I want them to feel they are a part of an important project to make things better, and a first step in that project is discovering their own freedom to think and explore.  From that realization comes innovation, which is the next step, “imagining sustainable innovations”.

TR’s Sustainability: Following from that , what does it mean for innovation “to harmonize with product, nature and life”?

Mr. Charlès: Part of what makes this statement perhaps a bit difficult is that it comes from a concept inspired by my experience of Japanese art.  At its core, its about finding a harmony across the elements of experience which matter most.  It’s about the preservation of things.  For Dassault Systèmes, that means product, nature, and life.  It’s about starting with a product, either existing or imagined, and  then thinking about it from these other points of view.  A product exists within nature, its components come from nature, and it will likely, eventually, decompose back into the natural world.  How much a part of the natural world is it?  How much does creating it, using it, and disposing of it distort or damage the natural world around it?  How much energy does it require across this entire life cycle?  We try to develop solutions to help our customers explore these questions so that they can make the most informed, sustainable decisions possible.

TR’s Sustainability: Is Nature different than Life?

Mr. Charles: In one sense nature is a part of life.  But how I mean this in the vision for Dassault Systèmes is that harmonizing with nature is mimicking it, in the sense that what we and our customers create as product borrows from the design wisdom of nature.  Nature knows how to design itself so that it doesn’t degrade its own life cycles.  We can learn so much from closely examining the structure and process of natural things.  Indeed, we can learn so much just by spending time in natural settings and seeing, listening, hearing and paying attention to what is around us.  And so if Nature is the design and process from which we can learn, “Life” in this context is about putting all that in motion.  We learn from natural design and process, and then we live it!  We build it into our workflow.  We build it into our way of being and doing business.  In this sense then, we harmonize with nature and life.

TR’s Sustainability: Could you please give an example of how this happens at Dassault Systèmes?

Mr. Charlès: Certainly.  We have recently decided to invest 350 million dollars in helping mining companies better understand the impact of their operations.  These are tools which will assist with significantly reducing the environmental impact involved with the extraction of natural resources.  This is a necessary industry, and its an environmentally destructive process to extract needed minerals.  By developing this tool set, we can create a solution where one is most needed, and where it can make the most impact on reducing the amount of land, water and infrastructure required to mine natural resources.   This kind of tool will help some in this industry, who choose to, to see a better way of doing things.   And seeing and experiencing is the beginning of understanding and choosing a more sustainable way of doing business. We want to help the world tackle sustainability challenges through Experience – which we call 3DEXPERIENCE. 3D universes generated by visualization tools are the most powerful vehicle for creating the future.

TR’s Sustainability: You then go on to connect this concept of harmony to “progress for us, for our customers, and for society at large.”  Why is it critical to success for business today? and for society at large?

Mr. Charlès: We as a society, and that includes our customers of course, are placing steadily increasing demands on a living planet with finite capacity to sustain itself and us along with it.  We take great risk in the medium and long term if we lose site of this reality.  And this is not always the easiest way to do business.  I’ve passed on many opportunities which would have grown my business more quickly in the short term, but would have created too much risk, been to far out of harmony, in the long term.  At the same time, I like to imagine, to experiment with projects and ideas which may seem unlikely to pay off in the short term, but if successful, will be transformative for us and our customers and hopefully society in the longer term.  So to answer the question, the concept of harmony becomes increasingly important as we put more and more pressure on the fragile systems we all depend on for living.   I believe that if we provide this kind of leadership, we can create a much more sustainable and successful business, costumer and society.  And if we fail, I want to know we had the courage to imagine solutions which could have helped, and that we did what we could to make these solutions a reality.

TR’s Sustainability: I’m now imagining a world in which Dassault Systèmes helps connect a diverse group of innovators, be they in the financial, NGO, academic and industrial communities looking for sustainable solutions?  Is this part of your vision?

Mr. Charlès: I think we can really help provide connective tissue and technological insight for these communities.  With 3D experiences or “universes”, we can help visualize solutions, from which new insight can emerge.  Also,  we may be able to help consumers understand the real cost, from a sustainability perspective,  of what they are buying.  And by consumers, I mean our customers, the consuming public, the investment community, and many other key decision-makers who help determine the viability and quality of our society as a whole.

TR’s Sustainability: Finally, what kind of effect does your leadership and this philosophy have on employees at Dassault Systèmes?

Mr. Charlès: Well, I hope, and I think I see every day, that our employees feel like they are a part of a project which is larger than themselves and even Dassault Systèmes.  I want to be an example of the kind of sustainable risk and entrepreneurship which can make us all successful, and I feel like the employees at Dassault Systèmes can find energy and freedom and creativity in this way of doing business.  Dassault Systemes is not really just a place to work, it’s a place to be impactful.  A place to create meaningful change in the world.  That can be a pretty powerful recruitment and retention tool!

Note: Thomson Reuters Sustainability’s Managing Editor conducted this interview, and can be contacted at

Courtesy of Thomson Reuters.


How Dassault Systèmes’ Support met Matt Wynn, CAA enthusiast

By Matthias
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Matt Wynn - Magestic Systems, Inc
Matt Wynn is one of the key administrators of a LinkedIn group called “CAA V5/V6 interFace/Forum: Where CAA Enthusiasts Meet”. This is the story of how he met our experts from Dassault Systèmes Support and became an influent member of our CAA community. First of all, just to be clear, CAA stands for “Component Architecture Application”. It is a development environment for customers or partners to implement applications that are fully integrated with the CATIA, ENOVIA, DELMIA, SIMULIA and 3DVIA product lines. Matt Wynn is one of those partners.

Can you present yourself briefly?
I have two degrees in Aerospace Engineering and have been programming manufacturing automation / CAM software for over 20 years. I work for Magestic Systems, Inc. where I spend most of my time writing code and working with customers. Outside of work I race slot cars at Elmsford Raceway and teach snowboarding in the winter at Windham Mountain.

How did you meet Dassault Systèmes’ products and people?
Magestic Systems has worked with CATIA for many years and became a software partner in 2004. In 2008 I worked in Paris with Dassault Systèmes staff to perform one of the first migrations of V5 partner applications to V6.

What are the things you made with CAA you are the most proud of?
TruLASER™ View Composites CAA for a wind power applicationI am proud of anything that has been successful! Magestic Systems TruLASER™ View applications for Composites, Assembly and Paint templating are the biggest commercial success in both V5 and V6. It has also been very interesting to create some batch programs without a user interface that import to and export from CATIA and other types of data.

Why this CAA community on LinkedIn? How did you come to lead it?
The LinkedIn CAA group “CAA V5/V6 interFace/Forum: Where CAA Enthusiasts Meet” was created in 2008 by Yong Zhao, and I am only one of the managers. I found the CAA group on LinkedIn late in 2008 while I was visiting Dassault Systèmes working on the V6 migration.Somehow, knowledgeable CAA programmers that were willing to share found it and it has been a great resource. As of April 2012, there are over 1200 members, approximately 40-50% are employed as CAA programmers. It is very interesting to watch who is joining the LinkedIn groups, and I try to send each new member a welcome message. This helps them get to know me as well, which is the whole idea behind LinkedIn.

Then you naturally became a member of the CAA community on
I joined the 3DSwYm community several years ago when I started to use the DraftSight DXF/DWG editing tool. I was invited to the CAA community just before it opened up because I am a V6 early adopter and my leadership of the LinkedIn group.

What do you think those two communities bring to CAA developers?
There is a synergy with 3DSwYm and LinkedIn communities.Both provide important resources to the CAA developers.
The LinkedIn group is open to anyone with an interest in CAA programming. It has had steady growth, with 100 new members every 4 months for several years. It has the ‘critical mass’ required for a community of developers to be helpful to each other.
CAA Community on 3DSwymThe 3DSwYm community can do things that are impossible on LinkedIn. It has had good growth since it went public in December, but not much participation by members yet. There is more opportunity in the 3DSwYm group for difficult CAA questions to be addressed by very knowledgeable Dassault Systèmes people, especially on the topic of V6 CAA. 3DSwYm includes the ability to share documents and code and data samples, which I have found very helpful. Before 3DSwYm, this kind of support required submitting service requests, which I think many developers do not have access to.

For those of you who are interested, you can contact Matt both on and on LinkedIn. :-)



Matthias Vivet is a member of the Dassault Systèmes Customer Support team.


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