Putting Software to Work for You

Software.
Photo by Jim Romeo.

Electrical contractors use technology to locate obsolete spare parts, build RFPs, communicate with mobile workers on a job site, manage a building with a distributed network of internet of things sensors and many other things.

In the competitive world of electrical contracting, time is precious. Schedules are lean, and work can be complex. A rough-in design calls for many details to flesh out the project’s requirements.

One reasonably priced software product uses building information modeling (BIM) software and subsequently expedites a bill of materials, saving time while specifying materials accurately. Using a rules-based process, Sanveo software computes what material, its specifications and how much of it is to be used. Then the software will automatically populate a bill of materials saving time and cost that could have been spent elsewhere on the project.

“Typically, all the 3D models give you some of the qualities that need to go into a project,” said Sethu Madhavan Anilkumar, BIM construction engineer, Sanveo, Newark, Calif.

“This program has a new ‘rules engine’ built into it, so it will process the 3D models and provide a complete set of bills of materials needed for your project,” he said. “It’s basically cutting down the additional 8-12 hours that a few foremen typically spend gathering bill of materials data manually.”

Cloud-based and expedient

This is the age of software-as-a-service where a software solution does not have to be installed on your own server or on the premises. It can be accessed by those who need it and expanded according to its need and use.

In the architecture/engineering/construction community, cloud-based platforms are used because they help users avoid the headaches of installing, maintaining and debugging the software. Another benefit is that users can rely on someone more sophisticated in IT to update the software and safeguard it against security breaches. Software can be subscribed to by purchasing seat licenses or one enterprise-wide license.

Beyond time savings for the electrical contracting firm, Anilkumar said that benefits of Sanveo are threefold.

The first is efficiency. The time to populate the bill of materials is reduced. The second is accuracy. Using software to populate the bill of materials is “way more accurate than your few foremen physically calculating to specify materials.

“Once they start [to] approximate it, they tend to order way more material because they don’t want to be under,” he said.

The software’s accuracy improves the amount ordered.

Third, the software identifies prefabrication opportunities through its extrapolations.

“Early on in your project, because you have your 3D model, you can plan your job in an orderly way instead of just buying commodities and building assemblies on the side,” Anilkumar said. “Instead, you can have your distributors or your warehouse actually build these assemblies off-site.”

The electrical contractors Jeff Griffin interviewed in his September 2019 Cool Tools column use all manner of desktop and mobile applications to keep their businesses running, from standard Microsoft Office applications to contractor-specific software, such as Bluebeam, McCormick, Procore, Trimble-Accubid and Viewpoint. Milwaukee Tool, ToolWatch and AllTrak all offer asset management applications to monitor tools and equipment.

Other technologies

Eaton’s Crouse-Hind’s CoSPEC 3D Drawing Library allows systems to be built out after product selection. Product drawings are available in 2D and 3D formats. With just a mouse click or two, all the design data is at the user’s fingertips. The data is transportable in multiple file formats depending on your software. This speeds up the detailed drawings and allows for a much speedier installation drawing.

Beyond design, a useful tool is an RFP-generating software. Distributors such as Graybar, Grainger and others can be plugged into on-premises software and now a cloud-based app. In a very short time, RFPs can be sent out to numerous suppliers for quotes to expedite the entire procurement process.

ECs can buy and sell obsolete parts online. Also, companies willing to reverse-engineer obsolete parts and fabricate them would be in the database and respond to queries from those seeking parts. If a unique breaker was made by a company who was bought, acquired or gone out of business, the marketplace could perhaps match a buyer with a seller.

These and other digital products are paving the way for contractors as they seek better ways to stay competitive and thrive in a digital work environment.

As contractors become more competitive and technology advances that helps ECs reduce time and overhead costs, ECs embrace and implement software applications to help their firms redirect their workforce to concentrate on other things that can help speed the project along, instill more quality and save time.

About the Author

Jim Romeo

Freelance Writer

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, Va. He focuses on business and technology topics. Find him at www.JimRomeo.net.

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