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Profile Richard McWilliams

Whitby Bird & Partners' computer design whizz kid.

Successful development of new technology often highlights the value of applying an open mind to a new concept and asking: 'what can that do for me?'. Such an approach was at the heart of the development of the first commercially viable computer system to allow three dimensional models to be shared between designers, fabricators, estimators and planners (see News).

The Computer Integrated Manufacturing for Steel Construction system - CIMsteel for short - was highlighted last week by consultant Whitby Bird & Partners and steel fabricators Rowen as part of National Steel Construction week. The open mind at the heart of the consultant's involvement in the development project is 27 year old Richard McWilliams.

The Yorkshireman joined the consultant in 1994 after obtaining a masters degree in civil engineering from the University of Manchester Institute of Technology. 'Because I was computer literate, I was initially involved in the analysis and design of the German Stock Exchange building in Berlin using STAAD-3 structural analysis and design software. Though we used the software successfully it did highlight some of the difficulties involved in 3-D modelling.'

Meanwhile Whitby Bird had spotted the potential of CIMsteel's integrated system several years ago and decided to get on board. The feedback from its experiences with the early CIMsteel software was essential in taking the project to its current stage.

McWilliams' Berlin experience made him an automatic choice to work with CIMsteel. 'Around mid-1996

I was picked to be project engineer on a factory design job for PGI/Cummins. Because the client wasn't sure what he wanted CIMsteel was seen as ideal. Running a 3-D modelling system with analysis and design software from concept allowed us to be creative and gave the client the opportunity to compare the cost and architectural implications of alternatives from very early on,' he says.

The PGI/Cummins job was an important step in the development of the CIMsteel project. 'That project was the first time CIMsteel and its CIS software was put to the test in anger. Though the project evolved beyond the capabilities of the CIMsteel software available at that time the feedback we provided the project developers at Leeds University and their partners Taylor Woodrow allowed them to take the system to the next stage. The improved system is now up and running and we are using it at 70/72 Grosvenor Street in London. The new package allowed us to develop a three dimensional model that could be issued for tender within a day of the first design team meeting,' says McWilliams.

Though he believes it will take a cultural revolution within the industry before integrated 3-D modelling becomes standard, McWilliams does see it as the future of the industry. 'I am willing to place money on this becoming the industry norm but we have to take the system forward in gradual steps. The next step is to reinforce the current method and get others used to the system,' he says.

Richard Thompson

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