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Sun 1 Apr 2007 05:10 PM

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Drawing on building solutions

Kuwait-based Kharafi National has cut drafting time, increased productivity and produced clear construction drawings with its Autodesk building systems design and documentation software.

Dubai Festival city is a 100,000 square foot ‘city within a city' perched on the banks of Dubai Creek. The site boasts more than 2,500 rooms and offers a wealth of facilities, such as hotels, a convention centre and time-share resorts.

The all-in-one destination blends hospitality, entertainment, business and residential development into a 3.8 mile stretch of waterfront and has been slated for completion in 2015.

The fact that it is the largest privately funded mixed-use real estate project in the Middle East meant that its construction was never going to be easy.

So when Kuwait-based Kharafi National took the project on, it could not afford to waste any time or material - this would simply have lead to the business bleeding money.

The company, established in 1976, has grown to become one of the largest construction companies in Kuwait and now boasts 11,000 employees throughout the region. It provides a wide range of services to governments and the public sector - engineering, project management, maintenance and construction. Striving to build on its record for quality construction in the Middle East region, the mechanical and electrical design and installation specialists turned to Autodesk.

The IT vendor provides solutions to a variety of industries, including the building sector, so it was able to offer Kharafi building systems design and documentation software.

Dubai Festival City has been the firm's first project using the system. On such a large and complex project, Kharafi needed to streamline the construction process and improve productivity so that the work could be completed on schedule. It was crucial to completely remove any chance of errors that could increase costs or cause delays.

Jean Abi Aad, corporate engineering manager for the engineering services department at Kharafi says the company's desire to develop in the market meant the need for the Autodesk solution was imperative.

"A few years ago, we were looking for a software solution that would streamline the construction processes and help us become the market leader in the mechanical electrical plumbing (MEP) market," says Abi Aad. "We wanted to impact productivity and our long-term profitability."

After careful review, Kharafi standardised on Autodesk Building Systems (ABS), the AutoCAD software-based design and documentation system for MEP engineers, designers, and drafters.

Using ABS, Kharafi has been able to organise and reference the architectural and structural plans for projects developed by architects and structural engineers with AutoCAD.

By taking advantage of the AutoCAD-based architectural and engineering automatic routing between these disciplines, the firm has been able to provide an even higher level of accuracy and coordination in its design and documentation.

As the solution links design data with other project information - such as schedules and elevations - Kharafi National was able to streamline work on the Dubai Festival City project by easily producing detailed sections in seconds rather than hours. When designers make a change, sections and elevations are easily updated with a simple click of the mouse.

This, in turn, saves time and helps ensure accuracy in the design. Each design change is reflected in real time, minimising tedious manual updates. "That feature really cut the overall time required for revising and editing a drawing," explains Abi Aad.

The company's Dubai branch alone now has 40 Autodesk packages, which staff have needed time to adjust to. Autodesk originally provided the basic software training but, since then, Abi Aad, a keen Kharafi employee has taken up the mantle.

"He was familiar with Autodesk systems, as well as various other systems, so you could say it's a bit of a hobby for him," says Nicholas Ziadeh, engineering services manager for Kharafi in the UAE.

"The implementation was a bit of an effort because we were changing from an old system to a system, which was completely new to our employees and strange in its concept and the way it approaches things. But these things got better and after a week or two they were working very well with it."

So far, Ziadeh says the solution has benefited the company in many ways, mainly in controlling material, so Kharafi now has an accurate way of getting the material required for any job. "This is very important for us because we can minimise waste and losses," says Ziadeh.

"We are controlling the coordination and we're certain that we're controlling our work better and minimising rework - so we won't have to go back and do jobs again in most cases. When we have everything well coordinated and clear to us, we avoid having to redo any work onsite."

It has not all been plain sailing for Ziadeh and his team though, having recently learned that their VGA cards had to be upgraded in order to meet the requirements of the software.

The machines were not performing properly and when they opened more files, or if the file itself got bigger, the machine became exceptionally slow.

"We found out it was because of the VGA cards and now we're in the process of changing them. It's costly but we have to do it," concedes Ziadeh. That being said, he is adamant that the investment will not prove to be a waste of time and money.

"With time we will get a return on our investment. Certainly in a few months we will start to see this happen," Ziadeh says.

"The first stage is to train the people. We had to expect that productivity would go down because we were changing to a new system. As time goes on, the productivity will go up, so the time needed to produce one drawing will be cut by around 50%."

Although Kharafi bought the first Autodesk package in 2005, it is still in the process of implementing the solution. In 2006 Ziadeh bought 20 licenses. The majority of his staff now use the system.

"Due to specific requirements some jobs started prior to the implementation we did not start using ABS on them - we had to continue with them as we had started them. All our new projects are done on ABS. "For the team to become productive it took about two or three months for them to pick up the pace as it should be."

Ziadeh is now looking to the future and plans to have ABS linked to another system called ATS.

"It will not be tomorrow, but we have to do it sometime.Our system will be directly connected with the stores and the procurement department. Once a drawing is produced it will be automatically linked and everyone will know what material needs to be ordered automatically," says Ziadeh.

Project details


Kharafi National.


Autodesk Building Systems (ABS), the AutoCAD software-based design and documentation system for MEP engineers, designers and drafters.


Early 2006 – present.


To organize and reference architectural and structural plans for projects developed by architects and structural engineers. Kharafi also hoped to cut drafting time, increase productivity and produce clear construction drawings.

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