Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, Cooper Electrical Construction Company is an industry-leading Electrical and Instrumentation & Controls contractor that serves a diverse client base in the Southeast region for industrial, commercial, and municipal projects. Some of the industries that it specializes in include chemical plants, water and wastewater, power generation, manufacturing, gas production and transmission, food/beverage, and other process-heavy applications.
Taking Electrical Prefab to the Next Level
Amidst the challenges posed by shrinking project schedules and fierce competition in the marketplace, Cooper relies on prefabrication and Lean Construction methods to rise above the pack of its competitors. Leading this initiative is David Faircloth, the BIM Manager at Cooper and an innovator who is continually looking for ways to expand Cooper’s prefabrication efforts, which the company has identified as a key driver for better production and delivering on complex project requirements. When it comes to solutions to support this endeavor, Faircloth’s team requires a BIM modeling solution that keeps pace with their workload. It became clear to Faircloth that Autodesk® Revit® software standalone required too many manual steps to keep pace so he turned to Trimble® SysQue® detailing software to design LOD 400 fabrication-ready electrical models in Revit.
“Our biggest challenge is to produce a drawing that has enough detail to build offsite,” said Faircloth. “I knew that if we wanted to go farther as a company, and produce more pre-fab, we needed to find something better than what Revit alone had to offer.”
Fabrication Drawings and Procurement Have Never Been Easier
Given the fast pace of its typical projects, and the need to generate and disseminate a lot of information to a lot of colleagues as fast as possible, Cooper relies on SysQue to organize and drive fabrication and procurement processes.
Faircloth cites the fact that SysQue comes with the world’s largest library of Revit content as a game-changer for Cooper’s off-site fabrication program. The content that comes with Revit and other add-ins on the market is generic and often not geometrically accurate, whereas SysQue content is modeled after real components and will not turn up any surprises in the field when the work gets installed. Faircloth has first hand experience with the consequences of using inaccurate content. Before using SysQue, cable tray systems that were dimensionally inaccurate were used in a model, and allowed work to be drawn that didn’t consider the actual catalog of fittings available to purchase. The result was costly rework, scrapping expensive custom-ordered fittings and enduring unexpected schedule impacts.
When asked what it’s like now, Faircloth remarks, “Since we began using SysQue, we no longer have those problems. On a recent project, we were in the ballpark of 600 to 700 cable tray spools, and not one issue in the field,” Faircloth said. “That was all converted [from generic Revit] in SysQue, all the hangers put in with SysQue… fittings, splice plates, the whole nine.”
Faircloth relays the same confidence in conduit bending, “A huge benefit for us has been the conduit bending being so accurate.”
SysQue provides custom families for bending conduit and saddle offsets that are made to conform to the NECA code bend radii and bending machinery available on the market, so the modeled SysQue bends flow seamlessly to the equipment that Cooper uses at its fab shop and job site, which allows them to shorten their production time and increase accuracy and material optimization across the board.
Procurement has also been streamlined since Cooper adopted SysQue. Faithful to Lean Construction methods, Cooper strives to minimize the amount of its material handling and the amount of redundant data entry and quantification related to material procurement.
Faircloth uses SysQue to generate lists of material, sorted by what will be delivered to the job site, versus what will be delivered to the fab shop. “We produce a schedule from every object we model; we do it for hangers, cable tray fittings, rods, basically for everything we put into the model, we produce a list and order materials based off of that,” said Faircloth.
The result is that the right amount of the right materials get delivered to the right place consistently. Because SysQue enables that process to go so smoothly, Cooper is able to drive its projects and take an active role in trade coordination. This lets the company meet its estimates, surpass quality expectations, and streamline the interactions between the different roles on its project teams.
No Risk, No Problem
Cooper Electrical reports a common refrain heard across the construction industry, which is that if not mitigated, conditions at job sites can have big impacts on productivity. Issues like weather, waiting for elevators, stacking of trades, safety protocols, and many unforeseen situations can all erode productivity. Using SysQue, Faircloth estimates that they are now able to move 60% of their field labor associated with conduit and cable tray fabrication from the job site to their off-site fabrication facility, which Faircloth cites as an enormous risk mitigation.
“Being able to put realistic views and elements into the model really helped us identify issues before they came into the field,” he said, “and that is worth spending a few extra minutes on the front end, over days and weeks on the back end.”
While productivity is the most widely tracked aspect of prefabrication in the industry, Faircloth points out that SysQue is a game-changer when it comes to safety and quality as well. “We’re able to craft into an air-conditioned, controlled environment and have our employees work at a comfortable level, versus up in the air,” Faircloth points out. “Every workhour that is channeled through the offsite fabrication facility rather than the job site is a much safer hour, and SysQue is a big reason that we can put so much work into the shop so quickly.”
Faircloth cites much less overhead work and much less work at elevation on ladders and lifts, as two of the reasons that Cooper experiences an outstanding EMR. This contributes a great deal to Cooper's reputation as a safe employer, as keeping employee welfare is Cooper’s number one priority.
Cooper has always enjoyed a great reputation in the region for its culture and workmanship, and is now also widely regarded for its BIM and construction technology acumen. It is recognized as an industry leader and trusted partner on critical projects, and Faircloth made clear that SysQue has played a big role in this evolution--they now have tools that enable them to work with enough speed and accuracy to increase their shop throughput and enjoy the benefits of higher performance, quality, and schedule delivery.
The technology leadership that Cooper enjoys helps it rise above its competition and propose high-value solutions for its clients. General contractors and owners know they can trust Cooper to execute on projects that have Lean requirements, and trust that Cooper is delivering a more finished product to their job sites, having mastered “just in time” deliveries so the job site isn’t cluttered with more than a couple of days of material.
“Our clients really appreciate working with us because of our high level of detail,” Faircloth said. “The more it looks like the real thing, even though it’s in a virtual world, the bigger our clients’ eyes get. Our clients trust that when Cooper delivers fabricated parts to a job site, they will be accurate.”
Data-rich SysQue models have been an integral part of Cooper Electrical’s evolution in off-site fabrication. SysQue has significantly helped Cooper accomplish its goals for trade coordination, material management, labor productivity, safety, and quality. Cooper is dedicated to continuous process improvement and is setting the highest standard for electrical construction and prefabrication, with SysQue at the forefront of its technology suite.