The introduction of Revit to the foodservice industry has drawn some natural comparisons to other computer-driven tools, namely AutoCAD. These tools are similar in that both allow foodservice designers to use a computer to develop detailed kitchen drawings, and upon their introduction to the foodservice communities both were perceived as relatively new technologies that required training.
As a result, the industry seems to have approached both transitions with similar levels of trepidation. “The transition to AutoCAD was painful and confusing. And this is kind of the same thing,” says Gary Rupp, vice president of sales and marketing for the Montague Company. “We are going through growing pains as an industry. It is expensive and difficult to understand.”
While the two programs have significant differences — namely, one is a drawing tool while the other is a building modeling tool — the foodservice industry can apply some of what it learned when transitioning to AutoCAD while getting up to speed on Revit. “When the industry moved from pencil drawings to AutoCAD, we were faced with learning how to draw using a more complicated tool,” says Jim Webb, president of Webb Foodservice Design. “Now we are at the same period again because we have to learn a new technology that is more complicated than what we have been working with in recent years. It’s just another big step.”
The good news is that the industry is a little further ahead technically than it was when transitioning to AutoCAD. “When we started with AutoCAD, we were all new to computers. Now we are familiar with them, so the change will not be as big,” says Truman Donoho, president of Foodservice Equipment Symbols, LLC, a Revit content developer.
And foodservice professionals can use the Internet, for example, to help expedite training and research solutions, which was not as strong an option during the AutoCAD transition. “Thanks to the Internet I can communicate with other people that build Revit families and learn other techniques and tricks. I could not have done that when we were learning AutoCAD,” Donoho says.
Make no mistake, however, the industry faces a significant learning curve as it transitions to Revit, which represents a critical tool in the next evolutionary stage of foodservice design. “As an industry we can’t expect that we will use the same tools we used 50 years ago,” says Dean Landeche, senior vice president of marketing for Manitowoc Foodservice Group. “We have to ask what are the tools we need to use today and what are the tools we will need to use tomorrow in order to keep moving forward and introducing efficiencies.”
Despite these similarities and the natural desire to compare the two, there are a number of significant differences between Revit and AutoCAD that will make the adoption of the former a little more complex and potentially more expensive. “Much like the way AutoCAD was 20 years ago, the consultants don’t have the symbols for the products to include in the drawings,” Donoho says. That results in most of the Revit users, who are mostly design consultants at this point, having to create their own content, and that’s proven to be extremely time consuming, particularly at first.
And then there is the need for each Revit user to enhance his or her company’s technological infrastructure because the documents the program produces are much larger than the typical AutoCAD file. For example, Donoho knows of one project that generated documents that were 1.5 terabytes in size. “I don’t even have a hard drive that big,” he says. “So the computers we use need to be more powerful than what we have now, just like it was when we transitioned to AutoCAD.”
Given the size of a typical foodservice drawing done in Revit, manipulating and transferring files represents another issue. “The computers have to run for a long period of time and often crash. And it is not uncommon for a consultant to go to an architect’s FTP site to download a file, and it will take all night,” Donoho says. “So I am an advocate of keeping it as simple as possible.”
Despite its rough introduction to the industry, foodservice professionals eventually came around to embrace AutoCAD, and being able to create AutoCAD drawings and depict specific pieces of foodservice equipment became a prerequisite for bidding on most design projects. “Eventually if you were not on AutoCAD you were out of a project. To be in the business today, you must be on AutoCad. Period,” Webb says. And many industry observers feel that will eventually become the case with Revit.
As with most technologies, a few legacy users will undoubtedly hang on to their tried-and-true tools, while the rest of the industry evolves. “We still have those original artisans that draw off a board. And we have people that use CAD and AUTOCad. And we support all of them. But Revit is the next evolution moving forward, and we support it. It is a positive evolution,” says Landeche.