Are you content with your Revit CON-Tent?

By: Suzanne Painter-Supplee, LEED AP+ID&C, MHS, CFSP

When the Foodservice Consultant Society International (FCSI) members started urging food equipment manufacturers to get on board with Revit, some asked, ‘where’s the frogs?’

Revit™,  commonly mispronounced, short for ‘revise instantly’ is an ARCHITECTURAL program used in Building Information Modeling (BIM.) More and more architects demand that foodservice consultants they hire provide commercial kitchen designs in Revit™. Purchased by Autodesk™ in 2002, with the Autodesk engine behind it, Revit has quickly become the architectural standard in the US. It is now a given that consultants have expertise in Revit or have staff who do.
Some consultants adopted Revit early because their architects demanded it or it made their firm stand out from competitors. They often (painfully) developed their own content because there just wasn’t any available. FCSI & NAFEM introduced industry standards in 2011 and most major manufacturers got on board, many of them contracting with content creators to produce libraries to those standards. Revit symbols are known as ‘families’ and they are ‘smart’ with utilities and other attributes built in. A pipe also knows it’s a pipe, so it isn’t all about geometry or just 3D.
Let the hand-wringing begin: the learning curve, hardware upgrade$, $oftware expen$e, new hire$, training, out$ourcing, etc., and that’s just for the consultants. What about the MANUFACTURERS charged with creating or outsourcing Revit families or risk not having their products specified? Didn’t we just go through this with AutoCAD, they wondered? Worse, Revit is NOT backwards-compatible so many users held onto their perpetual licenses rather than embrace the Autodesk subscription model, now mandatory since August 1. The current Revit version is 2017, and FCSI standards, updated December, 2015, require manufacturer content to be no more than TWO VERSIONS behind current. Alas, most publicly available foodservice Revit™ content was done in Revit 2011 & 2012 with nothing done since.

Sample Revit family submittal
Sample of what a manufacturer should expect from their Revit content creator for review.

Not for Engineering-It’s Architecture
Most manufacturers use engineering software such as Solidworks™, Inventor™, ProE™, etc., and could export an AutoCAD™ .dwg out of it. But manufacturers in large part hired outside experts and published symbols on their websites or through third party libraries such as KCL™ & AutoQuotes™. But virtually no manufacturer owned a Revit license OR wanted to, or had an employee who could use it out of the box. Why would they? They aren’t architects and you cannot engineer products using Revit, nor can products be reverse-engineered from Revit families. Manufacturers are not kitchen designers so why buy this program?
While later Revit versions will accept earlier files, pull up your lawn chair and grab a beer while you wait for them to upgrade when placed in your consultant customer’s project, bringing work to a halt. Worse, an error message because the content ‘broke,’ common for counter top or “face” based families. So what’s a manufacturer to do, particularly if you haven’t a clue what I just said?
So NOW what do I do?
If you are a manufacturer with Revit content, the news isn’t all bad. You may just need to purge your library of discontinued products, or correct incorrect/incomplete information, and get a bulk file upgrade. If your Revit file sizes are over 1MB, that’s a great reason to revise. Spec sheet guidelines (NAFEM+FCSI)  were also updated in December, 2015, so now, before the NAFEM Show in February, is a great time to get your library, including spec sheets, in order, as well as get your new products project specification-ready by having Revit families immediately available for those who want to spec your products right away.
Why Spend the $$?
Savvy manufacturers discovered that Revit is a great vehicle to make “sales drawings,” even product-specific spec sheets, that could be delivered quickly and revised easily, often over the phone. Salespeople often task their engineering department to get a drawing STRICTLY to get a shot at the work! Their drawings are typically produced using engineering software which yields more “drawing/detail” than necessary, takes longer to complete, and don’t even ask about revisions or you’ll get the ‘stink-eye.’ Or, their deliverable could be just a 2D AutoCAD drawing, so no way for the customer to visualize your product in their facility. Also, producing sales drawings cuts into the valuable engineering time needed to develop new products & produce production drawings for orders already in-house. Revit for Sales and Marketing allows your Revit content to multi-task.

BIM Data built in
FCSI shared parameter use labels utilities & become part of the geometry making Revit families “smart.”  Clearance can be turned off in visibility settings.

Next Steps: How do Manufacturers get new or upgrade their Revit content?
Content creators should be producing in Revit 2014 or 15.  Confirm it.  Version 2014 added new food service-friendly features and other ‘nerd stuff’ I won’t get into.
• Get your current content evaluated- FCSI Shared Parameters circa 2015? Can geometry be re-used? Can the file size (*.rfa) be reduced? Does it ‘schedule’ showing all utility connections? What about materials? FCSI has 2014 & 2016 materials libraries. Get screenshots and prepare to empathize with the consultant community using your content. See what the complaining is about in the context of your own products.

Make sure any new content is multi-purpose; usable in any library, including your website for download, and third party libraries/tools including: AutoQuotes™, AQ Designer™, KCL™, and Specifi™ (Previously known as MasterChef) if you sell your products worldwide. Autodesk SEEK™ is another option.

• Can your content become more configurable, such as adding/changing door/drawers/legs/casters/shelves/voltages, finishes, etc? Does it have all of the information needed for today’s designs? If the consultant has to leave the project, even to check a spec sheet, manual or model number, that takes time.
• Look for ways to make your products easier to specify. If you have drop-in’s,  build the “cut” in.
• Learn what you can about Revit.  Especially now that Revit LT (light version, same as standard except no in-program rendering or third party program add-in capabilities) can be had for under $500/seat/year . It pays to learn just enough to make quick revisions yourself.
• Does pricing include updated 3D AutoCAD symbols? What rendering capabilities will new content have? Might save enough $$ on photography to offset the content upgrade or create a navigation tool or menu to make your products’ families easy to find on your website. An intuitive search menu is ideal.
• In your travels, ASK consultants what they do and do not like about your content, and manufacturer-provided content in general, and what you can do to improve it. Know that they will appreciate that you asked.

Next posts:

Getting the most out of libraries & content search tools

A non-AutoCAD user’s guide for learning just enough Revit to make you dangerous…to your competition, that is

Revit for Sales & Marketing—how to make your content multi-task.

A badass competitor’s guide to using Revit for competitive comparisons

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