Why Carlson?–When You Have to Do It All

By Karen Cummings • October 30th, 2013
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‘Why Carlson?’ will feature Carlson Software users, highlighting exactly why, with all the choices available out there, they’ve chosen Carlson software solutions for their work and how, exactly, Carlson works for them.

Department of Public Works, Germantown, Wisconsin: Carlson, when you have to do it all…

Bob Beilfuss of the Germantown, Wisc., Department of Public Works

Bob Beilfuss of the Germantown, Wisc., Department of Public Works uses the Carlson Civil Suite for a wide variety of projects.

WHO: Bob Beilfuss, R.L.S. Village Surveyor

WHAT: The Engineering Department uses the Carlson modules (Survey, Civil, Hydrology and GIS) exclusively for their municipal technical engineering projects for the 36-square-mile community located just north of Milwaukee. Projects include road reconstruction and utility construction, plus land development for the village’s business park.

Tell us something about why you started using Carlson Software.

BOB: We’re a small office and we don’t have much of an operating budget to buy equipment. When we do purchase some equipment, it needs to last a long time. In 2005, we switched over from Land Desktop to Civil3D, but had considerable issues getting the program to process our raw survey data and produce basic maps and plans for our construction projects.

It was just not a user-friendly program at all. Plus, we really couldn’t keep up with the AutoCAD money train – it was just too much each year for the subscription, and we didn’t get much of a value for the “upgrades,” which were really a bug fixer.

We needed something that everyone could use and be productive with right out of the gate. There are four of us in the office and we have to wear a lot of different hats. We all have different backgrounds and experience levels, although all of us have AutoCAD® skills.

We had used Carlson SurvCE as our mainstay data collection package with the first robot. The program was easy to understand and the learning curve was extremely short. We actually implemented the system in mid-project during a road reconstruction project. We also went from a two-person survey crew to one person with the robot.

We liked SurvCE so much that when we decided to drop Civil3D, we decided to give Carlson Civil a try.

What are some of your favorite aspects of Carlson Civil?

BOB: We run a fast turnaround time for everything. We have to – we’re a small municipality with a small office. Carlson makes it so that we can turn things around quickly. For example, in our business park we had a potential buyer for some of the land but the parcel had a major 2000’ drainage ditch running thru the middle of the parcel that the buyer wanted moved.

Beilfuss (center) checking how close they were grading to his department's plan.

Beilfuss (center) checking how close they were grading to his department’s plan.

As part of the offer to purchase, we had just 30 days to perform the preliminary survey,  prepare a surface model of the lots, design a new ditch profile and alignment, prepare plans and specifications, bid out and award the construction and build the new ditch, otherwise the sale would fall thru.

We completed all of the tasks with the various modules from Carlson. While the construction of the new ditch was going on, I also created a new land division document for the parcel as well as an ALTA Survey, which was also part of the sale contingency items.

We got the new ditch completed, restored and operational on day 29. We made the deadline and the sale went thru as expected, all with the help of Carlson software.

We usually have three or four projects going at all times and we use Carlson for everything. There isn’t one thing that we don’t use Carlson for.

Since 2008, we have been doing a lot of road reconstruction of village main and subdivision roads that were built in the mid to late 1980s. Most of the road projects required complete removal of the pavement and the base course because we found that when the roads were initially constructed, the base materials used were very poor quality and that caused the pavement to fail much quicker than usual.

These road reconstruction projects were in some of the established subdivisions, so we didn’t have the luxury of changing alignments.  Often when we bored into the asphalt, we would find that it was only two inches thick in some places instead of the five inches that was called for on the plan, so we would have to totally rip them out and rebuild them in the same place.

I use RoadNETwork a lot for our main road designs – it’s simple and intuitive to use. We have a little bit more latitude with these reconstruction projects because most of them are in the rural areas. We can make some changes to the vertical alignment to cut down on some of the hills and improve sight distances.

Bob Beilfuss standing by one of his department's completed road projects.

Bob Beilfuss standing by one of his department’s completed road projects.

After I complete the preliminary survey work and create an existing surface, all I have to do is define the alignments, surfaces and cross section templates and then set the computer loose. It usually only takes one or two iterations to get a final plan. I also use the program to set up all my layout points.

And if I have a problem or get stuck I call the guys in Carlson tech support – they are the best I’ve ever encountered. I haven’t been able to stump them yet. We also make use of the Knowledge Base and the Carlson online movies and webinars in-house.

Ladd Nelson [Carlson Regional Sales Director] has been a huge help in getting the system running like a clock. Between Ladd and Lon Watson in Carlson Tech Support, I have yet to have a problem they couldn’t solve. And they help out quickly, which is important to our office.

I’ve been surveying for 34 years and I’ve used many different programs over the years – Carlson is just a real time saver. It makes a huge difference. It used to take me a day to draw a profile with some of those old antiquated programs, but now I can do it in five minutes. This past year, we used Carlson for construction layout on all of our road projects as well as a 2000-foot water main relay.

A lot of our projects are utility relays as our infrastructure needs to be maintained. We have a lot of smaller diameter water main and we have a very corrosive soil in the Village. The soil actually “eats” the water main pipe right up, so we end up doing a fair amount of water main relays.

We use Civil/Hydrology for our water main and storm sewer projects; repairing infrastructure is a lot of our work now. We also used it to help design approximately 9000 square feet of concrete ramp in front of one of our fire stations. We redeveloped 24 acres in our Business Park, which included mass grading, pad design, utility line extensions and a road extension. We did it all with Carlson.

To wrap it up, what is the main reason you use Carlson Software?

BOB: In working for a municipal engineering department, we have to get the most bang for the buck for our 19,000-plus taxpayers. With operating budgets and taxes frozen, we don’t have a endless checkbook and the residents expect us to do the best possible job for them.

We have to do it all in our six-square-mile sandbox that we get to play in – Carlson Software lets us do it all and stay in the budget and on schedule as well.

Learn more — the Carlson Civil Suite is on Special now/save more than $1000!

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