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EFFICIENCY BY DESIGN: Visualization technologies help A. Zahner Company build the present and plan for the future

Blog: Apriso Blog

27For nearly 120 years, US based A. Zahner Company has been at the forefront of technology and innovation within the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Recently, the company implemented a cloud-based design system to improve communication in what is oftentimes a fast-paced, fragmented industry. Compass spoke with A. Zahner Company CEO and President L. William Zahner to understand how the company continues its success and innovation in a high-risk market.

A. Zahner Company is a family business. “That’s 210 families; one for each of our employees,” L. William Zahner, CEO and president, said.

Founded in 1897, the architectural engineering and fabrication firm began making decorative metal cornices for buildings. Now in its fourth generation of the Zahner family, it imagines, designs, fabricates and installs some of the world’s most innovative structures in cooperation with leading architectural practices including Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid Architects.

With a turnover approaching US$50 million, the company employs 30 design engineers; another 90 employees work on production and installation. “Combining experience, skill, technology and craft, we make the complex simple and get buildings built on time and within or below budget,” Zahner said.

The firm works on signature architectural projects where design intent must be retained, despite the inefficient complexities of what Zahner describes as, “a very fragmented AEC industry.” In this often unstructured environment, the company aims to reduce the building industry’s biggest challenge: risk.

RISKY BUSINESS

“What we do is highly risky because we make large-scale things that seem very complex and have never been made before in an industry well known for going over budget and into court,” Zahner said. To reduce risk and shrink project costs, the firm uses cloud-based 3D visualization to communicate designs and precisely define how those designs will be engineered and manufactured. “This reduces waste, labor, materials, weight and cost while improving quality,” he said.

Complexity is inherent in the firm’s need to engage with many diverse owners, partners, stakeholders, building contractors and interest groups, including city planners and regulators, even as it develops grander and more complex structures. Too often, Zahner said, perceived risk limits creativity and discourages innovation.

But by communicating ideas and plans visually through a digital representation over the cloud, the firm succeeds in explaining its vision in terms that anyone can understand, in any language and at all levels of expertise. This accords with the British government’s “Construction Strategy 2016-20” which states that improved relationships and engagements across clients and the supply chain are key to increased innovation and reducing risk while cost transparency and collaborative working deliver value for money outcomes.

Read the rest of this story here, on COMPASS, the 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine

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