For engineering firms, the challenge to implement remote workspaces may be elevated compared to other industries, simply due to demanding software requirements. A typical day for the average engineer at Wood Rodgers requires AutoCAD, Civil 3D, ArcGIS, Bentley FlowMaster, Bluebeam Revu, and BST Global. Large amount of data and resources are required for each of these power-house programs to function. Without a powerful Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), the remote work experience for an engineer would be slow, inconsistent, and very frustrating, if not impossible.
In October 2019, the Technology Group at Wood Rodgers began investigating the use of VDI. The original intention was to accommodate rapid expansion and increase remote capabilities within the Wood Rodgers offices of Las Vegas, Oakland, Pleasanton, Roseville, San Diego, and San Dimas. The Technology Group consists of the CAD Department, GIS Group, and IT Team, which all work together in a Development Operations (DevOps) process. In this format, Wood Rodgers has leveraged technology for years, providing unparalleled service to clients.
A professional engineer at Wood Rodgers works remotely on a job site.
Wood Rodgers searched for a VDI solution which could support the firm’s established file system provider, Panzura, as well as existing infrastructure on Microsoft Azure. Workspot was selected due to their competitive business model, commitment to customer success, Tesla M60 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) and presence in Microsoft Azure. In engineering industry, a GPU is essential to process programs with high graphic and memory usage, such as AutoCAD.
“The use of Workspot with GPU, combined with Wood Rodgers developed CAD custom tools and Azure based Enterprise GIS infrastructure, gives Wood Rodgers the ability to perform above and beyond, regardless of the location or device,” explained Michael Albrecht, Director of IT at Wood Rodgers.
Delivering Engineering, GIS, and Design Projects in the Cloud
For the Technology Group at Wood Rodgers, continuing project deliverables in the face of COVID-19 required a rapid mitigation to the cloud. Through the established partnership with Workspot, Wood Rodgers had already proved VDI to be an effective solution for engineers, technicians, and field crews to work remotely. With shelter-in-place directives, the Technology Group quickly expanded VDI to all employees throughout the company.
“Wood Rodgers completed their initial implementation of Workspot cloud workstations weeks before the escalation of COVID-19 in California and Nevada,” said Workspot CEO Amitabh Sinha. “As it became necessary for the firm to comply with shelter-in-place directives, Wood Rodgers avoided business disruption through a well-executed business continuity plan that included rapidly scaling the number of cloud workstations in use. We’re very pleased that by using Workspot, the firm is moving projects forward for their customers and providing a productive, remote work experience that helps keep their employees safe.”
The powerful remote connections on VDI transitions users of AutoCAD, ArcGIS, and design software between desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices. These photos were taken in the Wood Rodgers Roseville office before the recent shelter-in-place directives.
For the Technology Group, the most difficult part of the remote work expansion was helping users understand that VDI performance is not affected by their hardware at home. Workspot delivers high-capacity computing and graphic processing power, whether on an advanced desktop or a laptop. To help users adjust, the Technology Group focused on the software requirements of each different department while scheduling deployment of Workspot. Then, a member of the Technology Group scheduled a one-on-one virtual interface with each user. This process ensured long-term user success by verifying remote log-in capabilities and meeting software requirements.
VDI Remote Connections Work Better, Faster than Traditional Desktop Configurations
In addition to providing VDI through Workspot, the Technology Group implemented Office 365 and Microsoft Teams as collaboration tools for both internal employees and external clients. In fact, the Technology Group received an overwhelming response that VDI and the new communication tools actually worked better than the traditional office desktop. For example, VDI is far faster for engineers to load, open, and close drawings when modeling, rendering, and performing work on heavy computational software.
Throughout the company-wide expansion to VDI, the Wood Rodgers CAD Team innovated existing tools in the new virtual environment. For example, the CAD Team configured Wood Rodgers’ custom tools on AutoCAD to provide unparalleled capability on VDI. Engineers at Wood Rodgers have relied on these custom tools for years to be more efficient on AutoCAD than the average engineering firm.
In conjunction with the Technology Group efforts, the GIS Group developed mobile resources for the Survey and Geotechnical field crews. The GIS Group uses Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS and Survey123 for ArcGIS mobile apps, to help surveyors, inspectors and engineers collect data. These mobile resources allow site assessments to be completed on a phone or tablet while employees work in the field. In this way, the field crews are provided with all the tools and technology to complete workflows daily on each job site.
“With the Wood Rodgers custom tools on top of VDI, engineers can perform all the automated workflows that we’ve instituted. Wood Rodgers serves our external clients with stability in communications. With all these virtual resources, we can continue meeting online, as if we were face-to-face. By upholding our commitment to clients, Wood Rodgers employees are working, and we are delivering projects on time or earlier,” stated Michael Albrecht.
Wood Rodgers is proud to be fully functional in a remote workspace environment through powerful technology solutions. Having a Business Continuity Plan in place allowed for little to no business interruptions. Wood Rodgers is implementing continual efforts in developing innovations and applying them to the current events to deliver the best possible solutions for clients.
Article written by Lexi Robertson.