Revit RANTS… Top Issues with Food Equipment Manufacturer Content & What it takes to Fix them Yourself (If you have to)

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

Your latest kitchen design is humming along nicely.  Then, BAM.  You hit a wall and it all comes to a screeching halt.  Why?  Because the manufacturers’ Revit family libraries you are pulling from are not to NAFEM/FCSI standards.   Or maybe, not to your firm’s standards either.  What do you do?  Do you call the offending ‘perp’ manufacturer or rep, send a ‘nasty-gram’ or will that take too long? The options:  explain the issue to a non-Revit using manufacturer or rep which most often draws blank faces & watering eyes, starts an endless waiting game of ‘telephone’, runarounds to find the ‘right person’ or ‘the person who does that.’  Then, they may have to issue a PO to a content creator!  And you needed it ‘yesterday.’ Translation? MORE wasted time.  More time than what it would have taken you to fix it yourself and save it in your firm’s library.  As the old saying goes, “If you want something done right, do it yourself. “

Manufacturers want their products specified, but if it costs you time, it’s moneyYour $$$.  Could be simple but irritating things like not being able to number the product in your equipment schedule, or making a material adjustment.  While those corrections are easy and quick and you won’t need to call anyone, they STAY wrong in the third party library or manufacturer’s content site.  So what about other people in your firm also accessing those libraries?

If the family is face-based it not only ticks you off, it means a complete do-over of that family to fix.  But the worst sins of all, it is incorrect utilities, insufficient /incomplete utilities, clearances, as well as inconsistent subcategories & views.  Those missing elements could affect how your project is communicated to other stakeholders,  your like mechanical engineers, even owners, who are relying on that built-in data to service the equipment, to heat/chill/treat water, spot electrical panels, run hot or cold waterlines and spot drains.   Common offenders-dishwasher booster heaters, number of connections, water temperature and quality required-very necessary for dishwasher heat recovery; cold food drop-in wells (air circulation) even chilled water dispensers that also require air circulation or risk component failure not covered under warranty.

The best manufacturer content helps avoid mistakes while respecting your billable time.  It should be EASY to find content enriched with all the data you need to get your kitchen built with correct utilities that will actually connect, water heaters sized correctly, treated water where necessary, water temperatures inbound, even drain water temperatures, which due to changing codes are more important than ever.  Clearances should not only be properly identified, they should be named PROPERLY and set up in specific views so the designer can turn on/off the subcategory or change the view in the project to impact all elements regardless of origin.

A built-in booster heater with its own connection needs to schedule.  Too often, only the machine schedules, so it doesn’t matter what the written spec says if the engineers don’t see it. Many designers pick this up and handle it manually by splitting a schedule line, but why should they have to? What if someone else in the firm is handling Revit and doesn’t catch this?  Expensive mistake to pay for a utility run not planned for.

Today’s low water use dishwashers have smaller final rinse nozzles, making treated water more important than ever.  But only ONE manufacturer makes that known on their spec sheet.  Now that heat recovery has legs, you are now treating COLD as well as hot water. You need both because hot is the initial fill, but the machine’s continuous water usage is actually cold water, that comes in within a specific temperature range. Many engineers aren’t used to treating cold water that isn’t consumed.   It is too late for this information if it is only in the manual.  It needs to be available at the time of design.

Not one ice machine manufacturer puts water requirements in their Revit families, even though they sell filter systems.  Yet most all of them can recall eating warranty calls when all the machine needed was to be de-scaled, but the customer is screaming.

What about COFFEE?  Remarkably, no beverage families convey water quality requirements or recommended incoming temperatures.

Nice to have?  Energy Star status, LEED Credit application, plus asset management parameters for the end user facility manager wanting to use software but dreads the massive order entry required. (BIM/Revit is a DATABASE so it can be imported directly, potentially saving weeks of tedium.)  The graphics that follow highlight some common irritations.

4 17 Blog 1

4 17 Blog 24 17 Blog 34 17 Blog 44 17 Blog 54 17 Blog 6

Food Service Industry Has Standards. So do design firms!

Some mechanical engineers have confided that they “never” use manufacturer content because they don’t trust it, or because some use brand-specific subcategories that don’t play nicely with others, and the drawing looks like crap.

But in commercial kitchen design, FCSI & NAFEM have STANDARDS for Revit content designed to nip these issues in the bud, and proactively prevent costly errors.  So why aren’t they being used by EVERYONE?

Back in 2011, there wasn’t an approved material library, or clearance material, for instance.  Plus newer features in Revit are foodservice-friendly.  Couple that with Revit 2018 having just launched.  Those 2011-constructed families will at minimum, take forever to load because they are updating, or at worst, ‘break,’ making them unusable.

Where did the $$ go?

If your studio employs Revit operators, and you notice a bottleneck in production, it is highly likely that your firm’s billable time is being spent fixing content that was supposed to be “free” and to work.

4 17 blog 8

Subcategories include clearances for doors/drawers, per code (mandatory), surface details, etc.  Materials, including stainless steel also have standards.  Only items 3, 6 & 7 adhere to these standards as of 4/20/17.

So in no particular order, here’s the list, along with the average time it takes to fix each.  Send links to this blog to the offending manufacturers.  Ask why they shouldn’t be charged back for your time.  Since foodservice consultants have been actively using Revit for more than 5 years, would it not make sense for each manufacturer to have a staff member who knows how to at minimum fix their content, including minor updates, upgrades and other changes? Granted, they aren’t architects, but it is good customer service after all and would allow corrections to be made quickly. Videos of these fixes are available upon request.

      1. Cannot input an item number. (Under a minute. Change ‘item number’ to ‘instance, make sure it is in Specialty Equipment category.)
      2. File size too large. RFA’s should be no more than 1 mb for anything complex, best practice, under 700k. Depending on complexity, trial/error, it could take up to an hour to fix or may need to be done over.  Hint: try to get rid of voids and use model lines where possible.
      3. Items that should “cut” because they are dropped in, such as a soup, hot or cold well, even sinks, should actually cut the family it goes in.   (Under 2 minutes-using my time and money-saving technique shown here.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCSRZPFO6sk.  Otherwise, each affected family would have to be opened and cut individually, tracing the equipment, then removing the equipment, load in project, add equipment in the opening.  Putting it into the counter family, it won’t schedule.
      4. Wrong category or template used, including face-based. (Scream-inducing).  Should be using “Specialty Equipment” with a family-naming convention of QF_MFR_Model. Changing from ‘generic’ to Specialty Equipment is simple, but face-based has to be re-done.
      5. Naming conventions-period—subcategories & shared parameters. (Under a minute per subcategory, a bit more for shared parameter. But there are third party tools available to rename parameters in bulk.)
      6. Proper utilities are “in” the family, but they won’t schedule in your project.  (About a minute per parameter, but those changes are made in each individual family. There are some third party software add in’s that can speed up the process.)
      7. Missing Information. Water quality, supply temperature, missing clearances, often for products that require air circulation or transfer heat, CFM, refrigerant charge, some of which are not on spec sheets and would require a phone call.

4 17 Blog 7

In this schedule, ONLY items 3, 6 & 7 contain ALL of the relevant information a designer needs, including all utilities, connections, water temps and quality, Energy Star & LEED Credit information.  Asset management schedule also includes warranty.  Notable missing data from the other products:  water quality, cold water for heat recovery, required water temperatures, proper labeling with utilities for tank wattage. Item 1 is a single point connection. While it is not spelled out, utilities reflect it.
Item 3 identifies in two areas that a booster is by others, in notes and in incoming water temp. Item 6 shows and schedules two connections; Item 7 is a single point connection and is clear by wattage and amperage.  LEED Credits and Energy Star status are bonuses.

How to Fix

A manufacturer can learn what he/she needs to know to fix families in-house, or  hire a third party content evaluator/fixer/provider to do it for them.  In most cases, geometry is salvageable, so lower cost than round 1. Where it becomes a problem is if data is also missing from spec sheets, so if you get an evaluator/fixer/provider who also KNOWS the equipment, they will know to ask for information not shown or proactively check manuals. So having an engineering contact for the content creator is essential.

And YOU, manufacturers-don’t rule out learning Revit yourself, at least enough to be dangerous.  Or arrange for a savvy staff member to learn it. The price for a Revit subscription has gone down considerably and can even be purchased on a monthly basis.  Each issue listed above can be fixed using Revit LT, which is less money than the full version of Revit or a suite.

Bottom line: commercial kitchen designers specifying your products deserve better.  Why not help them out and at the same time, make your library the best and most user-friendly in the business?

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, http://investors.autodesk.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=117861&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=261618 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. http://www.autodesk.com/products/perpetual-licenses/perpetual-licenses-faq. The current Revit version is 2017, and FCSI standards, updated December, 2015, http://www.fcsi.org/about-fcsi/divisions/the-americas/revit-standards/ 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) http://www.nafem.org/nafemimis/NAFEM/NAFEM/Downloads/Industry_Standards/Spec_Sheet_Guidelines_2015.aspx  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.
FIRST:
• 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