Carlson Civil Suite – Gibson-Thomas Engineering Tried It and Liked It

By Karen Cummings • May 21st, 2017

What’s the one big thing engineering software needs to be? Stable. There’s so much work involved in producing drawings and designs that having your software crash – and usually at the worst time – is just not acceptable.

That was one reason staff at Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co., whose home office is in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, with several other locations in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida, decided to start looking for an alternative to their civil software. The company, which works primarily on civil engineering and hydrology projects, made the decision to switch to Carlson Civil Suite with built-in IntelliCAD. They purchased 17 seats of the software, which includes the Carlson modules Civil, Hydrology, Survey, and GIS, from Michael Sobel of MSoft Solutions, an authorized Carlson dealer in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Gibson-Thomas draftsmen at work

Gibson-Thomas busy draftsmen Dan Fmura (background) and Joe Palacki.

“Stability was a big issue for us,” explained draftsman Joe Palacki. “You’ll work on a drawing for some time, then you’ll go back and open up the drawing and suddenly there’s something there that’s a week behind. We have back-ups,” he added, “but legitimately, I shouldn’t have to go to that every week or two.”

Palacki also noted that when the software they were using was updated, tools that they used regularly were removed. “In this day and age, it’s assumed that everyone is using GPS to survey,” he said, “but if your GPS stops working in the field, the surveyor is not going to just pack up and head home. He’s going to get his notebook out and get his instrument out and do it the old-fashioned way, but they removed the side shots entirely from our software.”

That meant no utilizing the information stored in the 30 years of survey books saved at their 101-year-old firm. And no entering information manually. “When you do the topography in western Pennsylvania, there’s a lot of areas where you just can’t get a signal,” added Dan Fmura, also a draftsman at Gibson-Thomas. “Thankfully, Carlson still has that tool – it’s one that we absolutely have to have.”

Training helped with switch
Though both Palacki and Fmura noted that it was not easy to switch software midstream, and that they were still in the process of doing so due to extended projects started with their former software, they said that the training they received was an enormous help.

Support is important to Carlson Software

Michael Sobel of Carlson dealer MSoft, here with Dan Fmura, provides support to Gibson-Thomas.

Mike Hyman, Carlson New York and Pennsylvania Sales Director, and Mark Long, Civil/Hydrology Support and Training for Carlson, spent four days with the Gibson-Thomas crew. “It was time very well spent,” said Fmura. “They were both so knowledgeable and covered a lot of ground over those four days.”

“They were organized and had examples for everything,” said Palacki. “Legitimate examples, not just something out of a textbook. Something they have worked on; something they had put together.”

“We do a lot of work in different areas,” he added. “Dan’s our property expert. I do mostly water-related projects. We have guys who do sewer-related projects and stormwater engineers. Then we have our Wexford guys who do subdivision and development design and they covered it all.”

So far, so good
While when they were interviewed Palacki and Fmura had only been working with the Carlson software for just over three months, they have been very pleased with it so far.

“I worked on a visitors center for a historical site with Carlson,” said Fmura. “The amount of time it took to do the topography work with the new software compared with the old software – the difference was like night and day. Plus, the stability of the software is great,” he added. “To go all day with the old software and not have it crash was almost unheard of.”

Not that they haven’t had crashes with Carlson, but they note that if they do have a crash, it doesn’t take most of the day to get back up to speed. “I had an issue with my software. There was a problem and it needed to be reloaded,” said Fmura. “Now the previous software took about four-and-a-half to five hours to uninstall and reload. With Carlson, our IT guy did it in 20 minutes.”

He went on to explain that even though their computers were “pretty beefy,” the other software was “getting bloated” while Carlson “is very light on the machine.” So, besides saving time actually doing the work with Carlson, they both said not having as much downtime with the software was a huge benefit to using Carlson.

When asked what they considered their favorite time-saver, both mentioned the time it took them to make a surface. “There’s no comparison,” said Palacki. “I cannot stress that enough. Not just in how easy it is to do, but in how much time it takes. With Carlson, if I need to move something, it’s literally I’ll just hit redraw surface and in three seconds it’s there. You don’t have to sit there and wait for the surface to crunch for however long.”

“We don’t have to manipulate the surface when we’re done either,” said Fmura, explaining that Gibson-Thomas has a cartographer who provides mapping and that they create their surfaces from that. “Previously, we had to go in and draw breaklines to make the surface match the mapping we had, but with Carlson we don’t have to do that. It was seamless and matched our cartographer’s mapping to a ‘T’.”

Everyone at Gibson-Thomas is extremely busy – the western Pennsylvania region is booming they say – and so they are very glad they are making the switch. “Believe me,” said Fmura, “the quicker we can switch over to Carlson, the better.”
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