Finding the perfect solution for Structural Engineering

Byrom Associates steels itself for the future with Autodesk detailing software


Finding the perfect solution for Structural Engineering


Byrom Associates is a structural engineering consultancy providing professional design services for construction businesses: from small local builders to large contractors and national timber frame manufacturers. While timber framing is core to what Byrom Associates does, the consultancy also utilises steelwork in most projects.


In the past, Byrom Associates used the Autodesk AutoCAD® 2D drafting tool to detail that steelwork manually. While AutoCAD is an excellent tool, in this context, it was being used as part of a time-consuming error-prone manual process. As Chris Hurst, Byrom Associates, points out: “We used to produce all our steel fabrication drawings by hand. We were mainly using AutoCAD to do 2D line drawings and draw the steel elements one at a time, line by line. There was no 3D model and that made the checking process difficult and time-consuming.”

Also, because the work was carried out in 2D, if the detailer made a mistake, it would only get picked up when the timber frame with embedded steel was installed. As a result, considerable expense was incurred. So, although Byrom Associates is, to a large extent, a timber framing company, it was its steelwork process that was slowing it down and proving a block on productivity.

This understanding led Byrom Associates to buy Autodesk® Advance Steel, a 3D package that Byrom Associates now uses to do all its steel modelling and fabrication detailing. The choice was intuitive. Advance Steel is effectively built on top of AutoCAD. It, therefore, wasn’t a difficult product for Byrom Associates and its designers, who were already familiar with Autodesk® AutoCAD Architecture software, to adapt to the solution.


Byrom Associates decided to work with Autodesk reseller, Graitec, to deliver Autodesk Advance Steel and support it and provide training. Graitec’s level of expertise regarding the Autodesk software and steel detailing generally was a key factor behind the decision. Graitec ran a demonstration of Autodesk Advance Steel for Byrom Associates, including how it would benefit them as a company. Graitec also delivered five days of training on the product. It has also provided Advance Steel technical support as part of a rolling 12-month support contract which has been used significantly.

In addition, Graitec has customised drawing outputs for Byrom Associates. By making Advance Steel available to them, Graitec has helped increase the level of automation that Byrom Associates use. It has effectively taken what users get out of the box with Advance Steel and then tailored it to what Byrom Associates wants as an output. Also, Graitec has created new specific buttons to enable its customer to increase that output speed further. This has helped Byrom Associates to reduce typical projects from three or four days to one, and they are now trying to reduce that down further to around half a day.

Graitec also has its own plug-in for Advance Steel, known as Graitec PowerPack for Advance Steel and that gives users extra functions, tools, data, and connections. Being able to use Graitec PowerPack for Advance Steel is a benefit of being a supported Graitec customer. If you buy the support package, you get access to the PowerPack. Byrom has been able to utilise commands such as “Export model to solids” and the “threaded rod connection.”

The two companies have a close working relationship. According to Hurst: “Graitec has always delivered a first-class service to us. Not only are they experienced and expert in Autodesk Advance Steel software and steel detailing work more generally, but they are also highly responsive. If we ever have any issues, we simply log a support call, and we know they will quickly call us back.”

For Byrom Associates, the main benefit of using Advance Steel is its high-quality 3D modelling capability. The consultancy can create a 3D model of the steelwork and bring it back into its timber frame model. Byrom Associates now uses Advance Steel on nearly all its projects. It uses it to ensure steel elements are of the right size and will fit in notches and support points their designers create in the timber frame for those elements. The consultancy also reports that output – from automatic drawings to bills of materials and loading lists – is of much higher quality.

Added to that, the fact that Advance Steel is a 3D modelling tool enables Byrom Associates to conduct clash detection and ensure problems are ironed about before they get to the site. It can also deliver fabrication output automatically. Once the modelling is done, the system will produce all of the drawing output automatically. That capability reduces the time spent on steelwork on a typical project from around a week to approximately a day.

It has also opened new options to Byrom Associates. Previously it might have developed a quick 2D line drawing to illustrate what steel framing would look like. It can quickly and easily produce full fabrication drawings of all the steel connections required in a project. Customers are pleased with this capability, and they also praise the clear, concise output.

Byrom is now also taking advantage of Advance Steels 3D modelling and automatic output to create and detail their Glulam structural timber projects. These are structural elements connected with bolts and steel plates, so it doesn’t matter to the software that it’s a timber beam, not a steel beam. According to Hurst: “We have also had comments back from the site, highlighting how much better the steel kits were fitting since we started using Advance Steel. The drawings are of higher quality, and you can access multiple part drawings also, making life much easier for the fabricators.”

In addition to the Autodesk steel design software, Byrom Associates has recently purchased Advance Design from Graitec. Advance Design is Graitec’s analysis package. Byrom Associates plan to set up workflows between Advance Design and Autodesk Advance Steel, and Advance Design will play a part in the design work that Byrom Associates does moving forwards. It is yet further evidence of the close partnership between the two companies and Byrom Associates ongoing belief in the capability both of Graitec and Autodesk’s steelwork design software.


Finding the perfect solution for Structural Engineering | Graitec - UK

Tarrant from Howard Bros added: “We value our staff, who have a wide range of specialist skills, and in order to ensure that these skills are relevant within the everchanging environment in which we operate. We can utilise custom and proprietary training schemes such as Global eTraining to ensure our staff are up-to-date with the latest Autodesk methods, technologies, and legislation. Our business partnership with Graitec and the use of Global eTraining has supported business growth not only in terms of turnover but also providing a platform for continual development of our staff.”

Global eTraining is now a key element of what is robust trust-based relationship between Graitec and Howard Bros. As the latter’s use of Autodesk software has evolved, Graitec has been with them every step of the way. Graitec’s technical support and sales team guided Howard Bros through the Autodesk licence transition from a maintenance plan to subscription. Howard Bros is now fully transitioned using their Autodesk Account to manage licence distribution, easily switching users and products to suit its business needs. Graitec has also provided technical drawing services which Howard Bros have taken advantage of during times where Howard Bros’s internal capacity is overloaded.

During the current pandemic, Graitec has been instrumental in providing support and back up behind a new set of point products developed by Howard Bros, consisting of Tea Point, Copy Point, Meeting Point, Coat Point, Notice Point, Rest Point and Media Point. This product range provides end customers with a complete ‘turn-key’ solution for their service areas within the office environment. These solutions require minimal input from other trades adding to its suitability for use within the current working environment, considering social distancing protocols. Also, the use of materials with anti-microbial properties assists with achieving transmission neutral zones within communal areas.

Graitec are always available, supporting Howard Bros on these products and on other designs that are also developed using Autodesk software like Inventor® and AutoCAD®. As Tarrant acknowledges: “There is always a new feature or process which requires assistance from a technical guru. Graitec are always there to help and provide insightful advice in a timely manner.”