The changes affecting Professionals in the AEC industry

Tom Cardenas, President of CSDS, an AEC technology supplier

What are the biggest challenges facing AEC professionals today? We recently sat down with CSDS President Tom Cardenas and asked him that question.

But before we get to the Q&A, let’s start with a little background about how Tom got involved with the AEC industry.

Tom grew up in Vacaville and became interested in technology at a very young age. His first job was as a network contractor for Cisco and HP, helping Fortune 500 companies transform their infrastructure to more modern, networked technology. After a brief opportunity to tour around the U.S. as a musician, Tom returned to Northern California to put his IT background back to work, this time for a farm and agriculture insurance company that needed to develop a GIS system to map farms and crops that they insured. That was his first introduction to Trimble technology.

Tom joined CSDS 14 years ago, working his way up from technical support to becoming a Trimble Certified Trainer, before joining the Surveying division as a sales rep covering Northern California. From there, he transitioned to Vice President of Administration, and in October 2015 was named President, succeeding founder Bruce Gandelman.


Q: What changes have you seen in this company and in the AEC industry?

I’ve seen CSDS grow quite steadily out of the Great Recession – and, at the same time, I’ve seen technology get smaller, easier to use, more affordable. That in itself poses challenges to companies like us and our clientele because we all have to make sure that we remain relevant, that CSDS is staying on top of the latest technology and that we’re guiding our customers into the investments that are going to keep them relevant and competitive as well. As for the AEC industries – just like CSDS, they’ve been seeing a rebound from 2007/2008 – and have emerged much more competitively nimble and pragmatic than ever before.


Q: What challenges are customers facing in the current AEC environment?

The biggest challenge is being able to stay competitive and profitable by utilizing their resources, both personnel and technology, as effectively and efficiently as possible. When the peak of the Great Recession hit, a lot of great people were let go from companies that they had helped to grow. They began starting their own independent businesses, and since they didn’t have the huge overhead of a global corporation they were able to be much more aggressive in their bidding. This trend continued throughout the economic recovery, even as the large companies began to rehire. Now, businesses of all sizes must be highly efficient and proficient with the personnel and technology they’ve invested in to remain competitive.

That means you have to understand how to use every capability and do much more with a lot less. I think that’s what we bring to the table with our years of observing the market and identifying how our solutions can keep our customers competitive across the spectrum. Even in the down economy, we provided as much training, support and, therefore, competitive edge to our customers as possible. This was ultimately very beneficial to both parties throughout the economic recovery. We learn so much by training and supporting that it helps us to get better at understanding exactly what our customers need in order to get the most return from their investments.


Q: What changes have you seen in the AEC industry and the technology it uses?

I’ve seen the concepts of GIS technology grow from the traditional asset mapping and database management realm into the land surveying, construction and facilities management industries. Building Information Modeling, or “BIM” has taken off and continues to grow quite rapidly. Geospatial technologies merging together to create wonderful things. Consolidated workflows. Universal data types and unconventional methods of mapping, such as drones and UAS’s.

Our Delair-Tech and Microdrones systems, for example, essentially allow our customers to incorporate an entire photogrammetry workflow within their orgs. Trimble and most of our major geospatial hardware and software partners have evolved to be able to accommodate drone data very effectively, while beginning to introduce traditional surveying workflows and deliverables into other, rapidly emerging and evolving geospatial technology. The Trimble SX10 (3D scanning total station) has created more buzz and excitement than I’ve ever witnessed – not only with our customers, but with our surveying and 3D scanning teams here at CSDS. Everyone wants to get their hands on it. Within our MGIS division, high-accuracy, centimeter-grade GNSS receivers and cloud-based mapping apps such as TerraFlex have opened up the world of GIS mapping to a much broader user base, allowing large organizations to deploy just about anybody on their staff as a GIS mapping technician.


Q: What other AEC changes have you seen in the last five years?

I’ve seen much more of a reliance on real-time correction sources such as our RTN, and at the same time, the need to remind end-users about the importance of utilizing best practices in the field, such as site calibrations and control checks. I’ve seen a greater need to help support and evangelize the profession of land surveying, and the benefits and perspectives that licensed land surveyors, the folks that I’ll always consider the true positioning experts, bring to the job site. They should continue to be consulted when things have to be both precise and accurate. I’ve also seen how much success professional land surveyors have had at becoming consulting partners to adjacent industries that might be starting to use similar technologies, such as total stations for layout and 3D scanners for as-builts.

On the printing side, the HP PageWide technology is just incredible. When you combine the crazy low cost of ownership with high-quality color graphics at amazing speeds – it’s something that you’ll have to experience to believe. Typically, our customers have one machine, say an LED printer, for high-speed black-and-white printing and one machine for higher-end color printing. That’s a pretty huge footprint in anyone’s building, and a high cost of operation – both in maintenance and supplies.

With HP’s PageWide XL technology, we have blazing-fast, high-quality black-and-white and color printing capabilities out of the same machine. That translates into a smaller footprint with a lower cost of operation and the ability to print at higher volumes in color for a lot less. Why design in color and print in black and white? A competitive edge that our PageWide customers have realized and utilized from day one. When you deliver your plans quickly, precisely and in color, you’ll certainly be noticed.


Q: What do you see in the future for AEC?

I see technology becoming more versatile and accommodating, more affordable yet able to deliver more complex deliverables. I see this technology getting into more hands than ever before – and with this, I see an absolutely vital need for the proper support and training resources to be as current and accessible as possible. Knowledge is power – and part of remaining relevant is ensuring that we’re empowering our customers with as much knowledge as possible.

CSDS is dedicated to staying ahead of industry trends in order to help our customers be the best that they can be. A big part of that is trying to stay focused on what the future challenges might be for the industries that we serve and ensuring that we can continue to provide the solutions, support and training that they need in order overcome them.

So tell us… What would you like to ask Tom Cardenas about AEC?


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