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Solving the challenges of working remotely

Covid Booklet, Photo by Matt Smart via Unsplash.com

When the Covid19 pandemic swept the globe at the beginning of 2020, Callaghan Engineering already had a highly mobile workforce with the means and knowledge to work remotely.

Even so, the lockdowns introduced in March brought new challenges. For the first time in the history of the company, every employee was working remotely, every meeting was online, and the deficiencies in broadband availability in some parts of the country were suddenly brought into sharp focus.

For Callaghan Engineering, a system that was originally designed to support one third of the workforce being out of the office at any given time suddenly had to cope with previously unseen volumes of traffic. Moreover, some of the design and engineering software such as AutoDesk Revit and Plant 3D was never designed to be used in this way and the added pressure on the virtual private network links simply amplified these inherent shortcomings.

Callaghan Engineering’s IT Manager and consultant, Declan McGuire, describes the experience.

“The first thing we had to do was make the AutoDesk software usable. We immediately deployed extra workstations. With remote desktop links and some additional software licenses the CAD and Modelling teams were quickly back to full productivity. That gave us the time and space to introduce AutoDesk’s BIM360 Design platform and move some of the core modelling functions into a cloud centric environment. We’d been planning a BIM360 deployment anyway, but the lockdown brought the process forward by several months.”

The challenges didn’t end with the design software however. Pre-Covid, working remotely was normally a short term proposition. Where extended presence was required on a client site, Callaghan Engineering typically provisioned a dedicated site office equipped for this purpose. Such provisions allowed for close control of the IT infrastructure and data. With extended working from home, the situation was considerably more dynamic. As Declan describes it;

“The challenge was that many these home networks had all sorts going on. You’d have phones, tablets, TV’s, games consoles, home automation, CCTV and IoT of every flavour. Put all of that behind a weedy consumer grade router with poor WiFi capabilities, typically located furthest from where it’s needed, and it’s just a recipe for failure. On top of that, security is  typically minimal to non-existent.”

Additional end point security was deployed along with specific interventions to improve connections which in some cases necessitated a broadband upgrade on the consumer side. The end result is a much more robust system with better endpoint visibility and security.

As consulting engineers supporting designated critical services communications are essential. Working with multiple clients across a range of sectors means having to maintain the ability to communicate using whatever tools the client primarily uses. While Zoom emerged as a clear favourite early on, Microsoft Teams has now become the go-to online meeting tool for most.

Reflecting on a Summer like no other in living memory, Director of Projects & Business Development Declan Hughes said;

We were fortunate to have three things on our side, a great team, great clients, and the agility to continue delivering a quality service in difficult circumstances for everyone involved. We’ve learned and adapted throughout the pandemic so overall we are now in a great position to move forward and continue the growth and development of the business in these challenging times.

Callaghan Engineering would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff, clients and suppliers who have worked within Government guidelines to maintain essential services during the pandemic to date. We look forward to continuing operations safely as the situation develops throughout the Autumn and Winter. Stay safe.