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Premier mechanical contractor uses Trimble SysQue to create data-rich models to, optimize workflow for design, fabrication, manufacturing, scheduling, layout and installation.

Customer Profile: North Mechanical Contracting & Service is a full-service mechanical system solutions provider based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The company provides premier custom mechanical solutions and services related to construction, contracting, design, fabrication and maintenance.

Business Challenge: North Mechanical was looking to speed the design and fabrication workflow for creating piping, fittings and accessories for a customer’s research facility build.

Solution: Trimble® SysQue®, Autodesk® Revit® platform, Trimble Field Link for MEP and RTS Series Robotic Total Station

Results:

  • Developed effective processes and workflow to create pipe, component and hanger labels for the lab build- fabricated 60,000 linear foot of piping and over six dozen skids and preassembled modules
  • Fabricated over 90% of the project’s piping off-site, reducing footprint and labor requirements by 50%
  • Utilized SysQue to quickly create an accurate schedule for takeoffs- saving 400% of time compared to traditional materials takeoff tasks
  • Improved design and accuracy - zero change orders on project due to coordination or clashing
  • Shared project cost savings of 10% overall - saved over $1 million dollars with improved accuracy and speed of install

North Mechanical Contracting & Service has been designing, building and maintaining diverse Mechanical, Engineering and Plumbing (MEP) systems for over 40 years. A leader in the region, the company has worked on the MEP systems on several prominent Indianapolis landmarks, including the Indianapolis International Airport, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Anthem, Franciscan Health, Roche Diagnostics, Indiana University, Nestle's, Purdue University, and much more.

North Mechanical was recently awarded the company’s largest fabrication contract to-date by one of the area’s largest manufacturers. North Mechanical is well known in the industry for successfully using the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) method to deliver challenging industrial projects on time, under budget and with fewer risks. IPD is a collaborative approach to project delivery that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices of all stakeholders to optimize project results and increase value to the owner.

Dustin Allen, project/BIM manager for North Mechanical, explains that technology is fundamental to the IPD process and it is critical to optimizing the design-to-fabrication-to-construction workflow. “Today we take on a lot of industrial integrated project delivery builds, which means we have a much bigger role in the actual project design piece,” said Allen.  “There is a real need for more intelligent, fabrication-ready models that have the actual system components included. That’s why we turned to Trimble SysQue.”

SysQue add-on software for Autodesk Revit lets contractors design fully constructible models with real world intelligent MEP components. This makes it easier for North Mechanical's designers, fabricators and engineers to create precise and accurate project plans that are in line with detailing, fabrication, manufacturing, and installation requirements. As a result, labor and material costs are reduced, accuracy of designs are improved, and project timelines are shortened.

Optimizing the fabrication workflow

For the lab build in south-side Indianapolis, North Mechanical was hired to generate material takeoffs and to fabricate all mechanical and plumbing components   for the laboratory building. Traditionally, manual processes were used for this type of work, including manual measuring of end-to-pipe, pipe-to-hanger dimensions, manual quantity takeoff and individual component labeling. With the typical fabrication cut sheets consisting of about 50 pieces, elevations and more than 30 fittings each, the process is tedious, prone to errors and inefficient. Looking to eliminate unknowns and create a more automated and accurate fabrication workflow, North Mechanical adopted Trimble SysQue and the Autodesk Revit platform —  first for the fabrication of hangers, and then for pipes and components.

“We knew we wanted to eliminate manual steps for fabricators and improve the accuracy and efficiency of everything from fabrication down to installation,” said Allen. “When you add fittings into SysQue, the model is smart enough to give you the pipe length, and when you get to the end, pipe length is reflected in the schedule. You can cut 100 pieces at five feet and put pieces on with fittings with extreme accuracy. We knew this would save a tremendous amount of time and rework, and the big payoff would be big savings for our customer.”

North Mechanical uses SysQue to design fully constructible Revit LOD 400 models based on manufacturing-specific content. Using SysQue in Revit enhances the model of systems with materials and sizes based on actual manufacturer products by name and part number. This means fabricators can produce pipes, fittings and hangers much more quickly and accurately than using conventional methods. Allen explains that with SysQue, the model of systems includes materials and sizes based on actual manufacturer products by name and part number. This includes relevant fields for spool drawings for fabrication and installation, such as: piece number, diameter, nominal size, size, family and type, system classification, system abbreviation, material, count and length.

This lab project also helped establish a completely new fabrication workflow for producing piping spools and fabricated skids that can be replicated for other projects. That includes importing raw component data into Excel and Word to easily organize, print and apply labels to each hanger and component.

“Having this level of manufacturing detail on our hanger and component labels increased our efficiency and allowed us to cut our workforce in half during the peak of the job,” said Allen. “By allowing us to fabricate roughly 90% of components off site, we also reduced our footprint on the job and allowed for increased efficiency among our partners because they had more insight into and they had longer to complete their work,” he added.

Using SysQue on the lab project, North Mechanical has fabricated 60,000 linear foot of piping and over six dozen skids and preassembled modules. Allen believes that the solution has strengthened the quality of the piping and component design by providing fabricators with access to 3D, information-rich models very early in the pre-fabrication process. This improves collaboration and helps communicate the full design intent of each component, and it allows them to identify any clashes or potential problems immediately.

“Our new workflow with SysQue and Revit has helped improve collaboration with fabricators tremendously,” said Allen. “They now ask more meaningful questions, which leads to better coordination between us, less rework and higher quality design. This new process eliminated 90% of rework on the lab build, which is huge. We had zero change orders due to clashes or coordination issues or that job, which is outstanding. The intelligent 3D model gives fabricators a better sense spatially of the components and eliminates problems before they happen.”

Leveraging just-in-time construction

North Mechanical is also generating material takeoffs from the schedules developed with SysQue and Revit. Vendors receive a part list with approximately 1,000 line items, organize and accept the spreadsheets, and they place the order directly from North Mechanical’s schedules. In most cases, components are delivered in two to three days. This reinforces just-in-time materials and accurate take off for fabrication — enabling fabricators to have the exact materials they need, precisely when they need them. Allen estimates he has ordered 90% of all materials for the lab project from his desk and it has been 100% accurate in terms of the precise number of components, fittings and valves required. This precision allows Allen and his team to be more focused and deliberate with fabrication and management on the job. He estimates it can cost tens of thousands of dollars in restocking fees and labor costs to perform takeoffs using conventional methods. With SysQue, North Mechanical has eliminated those expenses, and other possible unknown expenses required for takeoff. Altogether, he estimates today the company is saving 400% of time compared to traditional materials takeoff tasks.

More accurate layout and installation

North Mechanical is also using Trimble Field Link for MEP, a solution that consists of the Trimble Field Link software powering a ruggedized tablet connected to a Trimble Robotic Total Station for laying out hangers and assigning naming conventions to embedded structures in the field. This reduces errors and extends the BIM workflow by allowing North Mechanical to export hanger points or cable tray attachment locations from the 3D MEP models to the field for simplified field location and staking.

Overall, Allen believes that one of the biggest competitive advantages of using SysQue and Revit is that the platforms have improved their models and they deliver a higher quality of design and higher quality of install.

“With SysQue and Revit we’re able to validate install with the BIM model first, which increases savings and reduces rework and change orders required dramatically,” said Allen. “Overall, I would estimate we achieved at least a 10% shared cost savings using SysQue and Revit on the lab build, resulting in about $1 million savings in total. Best of all, it made our customer very, very happy and we now have this streamlined fabrication workflow in place that we’ll leverage and it will make us more competitive going forward.”