ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS KNOW the high costs of labor across the entire organization. Most think about outside field force staff, technicians, installers and the like when they start evaluating ways to reduce labor costs. But the office is an important area that contractors need to explore when thinking about labor savings.
Electrical engineers, designers and estimators can benefit from the new time-saving technologies on the market as they deal with, modify, draft and estimate from as-built drawings. The drawings are crucial elements of any project.
Dealing with as-built drawing changes from the mechanical and plumbing trades is one of the biggest challenges facing electrical contractors. All changes directly affect the electrical side of a project.
Pelle Chiari, product marketing manager, Autodesk’s mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) solutions, said, “There are a lot of coordination issues with most projects, and electrical engineers are affected directly by, say, the mechanical engineer’s design. Autodesk offers software that supports the workflow between the disciplines.”
In traditional settings, most contractors use an AutoCAD-based solution for their design and documentation system. Though head and shoulders above manual design, even more advanced offerings exist on the market today.
Two specific offerings are Autodesk’s Building Systems solution for MEP and the Autodesk AutoCAD Revit Series—Systems line of products. Both are targeted for MEP engineering and help coordinate and revise system design.
“Autodesk Building Systems is a major advancement over AutoCAD generic CAD. One of the biggest benefits is that when as-built drawings are sent to the client, the contractor knows that they are accurate and reflect all changes that have been made along the way,” said Armundo Darling, technical marketing manager, MEP solutions, Autodesk.
These enhanced tools automate and streamline many processes associated with system design, which, in turn, lead to increased staff productivity from staff members who are freed up to work on other tasks and projects. Estimators and P.E.s can move onto the next project.
In addition, more accurate drawings help cut down field labor costs because when changes, regardless of who makes them, are properly documented, those working at the job site don’t waste time figuring out what was changed, how changes by the other disciplines affect them and if the work they are doing is exactly right.
Chiari also noted that software enhances overall accuracy.
“A big part of any project is modifying the design and documentation. By using products ..., modifications are easy. This means higher productivity across the board because people are not caught up in managing changes,” he said.
The automatic features and functions of software offerings in the marketplace increase productivity throughout a contractor’s whole organization. For example, the software’s ability to accurately calculate cable and wire lengths helps facilitate the purchasing process. Should a mechanical contractor make changes to his design, these solutions can perform automatic interference checks, which can save time in the field because all conflicts are resolved in the office.
All of the enhanced computer-aided design/drawing programs released recently have one thing in common: the intent is to aide in coordinating disciplines throughout the design and implementation phases of projects.
As buildings become more advanced and system dependent and the sheer number of systems contained within increases, coordination, accuracy and productivity become even more critical, especially for electrical contractors. EC
STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at JenLeahS@msn.com
Autodesk Building Systems facilitates routing of ductwork, piping, cable tray and conduit with intuitive design tools that automate much of the layout process. It automates routing solutions based on default project settings and common industry design standards. Layout tools convert one-line designs to double line through on-screen modification. Custom fittings enable unique layouts to be designed with the creation of on-the-fly fittings. Options such as segment length help reduce time spent performing takeoffs by graphically depicting each segment piece required for the layout according to manufacturers’ specifications.