FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. — As design firms were forced to shed workers and cut costs during the recession, technology often came to the rescue, a report in the Jan. 10 issue of The Zweig Letter found.

Rebecca Caudill, senior hydro-geologist and HR liaison at National Resource Technology Inc., an environmental consulting firm in Pewaukee, Wis., said technology helped maintain efficiency when the firm needed to eliminate and combine positions.

“[These changes] required increasing staff use of report templates to reduce administrative time, as well as streamlining our report production. We also increased the percentage of reports submitted solely in electronic format
(PDF) without paper originals,” she said.

For firms with several offices, the use of electronic means also became more relevant.

Jennifer Bauer, human resources manager at TowerPinkster, an architecture firm in Kalamazoo, Mich., said that interactive projectors have helped her company communicate with other offices, for example, cutting on travel costs.

“Our conference rooms are equipped with smart boards which allow us to project CAD files, et cetera, so each office can see what the other is doing,” she said. “This allows us to make changes and updates to project files in real time, enabling us to cut down on meeting and drive time since our offices are located an hour apart.”

Kevin Ferguson, chief development officer at Albert A. WEBB Associates, a multi-disciplined civil engineering and planning firm in Riverside, Calif., said slowdown in design activity gave his company a chance to make some improvements in efficiency.

“We actually took the opportunity during this down economy to change our design platform,” he said. “With fewer projects, we were able to train our entire technical staff in AutoCAD Civil 3D, which in the long run will save us time and money.”