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In this article, we will continue where we left off in Part 1. Now that we have created our options we need to import trusses. In designing these you will see the power of using the Model Options tool in MiTek.
First we are going to import the trusses from our base model job. At the “Import” Dialog window you are going to select “Basics”. In basics, you are going to check the “Project” box. After selecting “Project” the “Manage” button will appear. Click on that button.
This opens the “Project management” dialog:
You would normally have to play around with the arrows to figure out what does what. The topmost and bottommost arrows will move the entire contents of a column over to the other side. The middle arrows move only the highlighted item over to the other side.
Click “OK” and you will see a slightly different look in engineering. Note the dropdown menu on the top right corner of the truss list window. When we click on the arrow we see four options. We have the folder where the job files are located, then the three jobs that comprise of the base model (double gable), the single hip, and the double hip. All models share the partial hip.
Before proceeding further, we are going to import the trusses for our other two jobs. You will notice that when you “Create Trusses” from Sapphire and have engineering open on another monitor, you can see that the dropdown menu will automatically change to the job that you have selected. Once all the trusses have been imported I can begin designing.
If we remember correctly, there is no A7 or A8 truss in the base model. Yet it is listed here in the “folder” because the “folder” is picking up all the .TRE files for all three job model options. I’m going to design all the trusses once in this window. So instead of designing “A2” three times, I design it only once.
Now that we’ve designed the trusses, let’s look at each of the jobs to see how they look. Pay attention to the quantities.
There you have it! We are ready to go! We hope you have enjoyed this brief look at another useful tool in the MiTek Sapphire software suite.
Comment below to let us know how you use this tool, or to share any useful tips or tricks you have.
Tim Hoke – Design Professional
Gould Design, Inc.
I have heard the same thing many times over and over. People want a better method of understanding truss manufacturing labor efficiencies, but they use the same flawed units of measurement they have always used.
“Todd, I’ve been in this industry for decades as a ‘fill in the blank,’ and we have always used board foot per man-hour.” My reply: “So how does that work out for a low-board-foot project (hip roof) with many setups compared to a high-board-foot (AG trusses), low-setup project?” The response is never enlightening because BF/Man-Hour simply does not work consistently for every project.
A somewhat newer trend is to use piece count, but this works only for run or assembly time, not setup time estimations. To apply an average setup time to every piece would skew the labor too high or low depending on the piece count.
Piece Count Example: Setup saw time = 1 man-minute for a crew of 2
Cut rate time per 2x4x8 piece = 0.17 minute for a crew of 2
Quantity 2 = (1 setup minute) + (0.17 * 2) = 1.34 minutes total = 0.67 each
Quantity 20 = (1 setup minute) + (0.17 * 20) = 4.4 minutes total = 0.22 each
A difference of 3 times! (0.22 * 3.05 = 0.67)
Some managers feel that a more consistent method is to use some form of dollars. This dollar method can take the form of material cost, sales dollars, or margin dollars, but then this, too, is flawed. If the material cost fluctuates, or if the project has a discount, does that mean the actual labor to complete the project will coincide with these changes? Of course not! So instead of banging your head against the proverbial wall, why not try something different?
I had been told more than once that the MiTek MVP™ program is not very good at the labor configuration. (estimating) Recently I have been able to review the labor configuration in MVP™, all I can say is, “WOW, MiTek, you did it and made a fantastic program that every MiTek customer should be using!” To everyone who has MVP™, your labor-tracking program is far more powerful and flexible than you may know. The labor-estimation configuration is marvelous and should be utilized for what it was designed to do. MVP™ can estimate the proper labor required to process an order by using the proper types of time units. It is quite simple, folks; it is called man-minutes.
So if you have a labor tracking program, such as MVP™, why not use time units that are more reliable than BF, piece count, or dollar units? Using time units shown as man-minutes is a far more effective way of estimating expected labor time when they are properly set up and applied correctly. (R.E. or S.U. are also time elements) However, unless you are like most people who have never had industrial engineering training and understand how to develop and apply proper time units, you are likely quite unfamiliar with how effective they are. I do have training in proper industrial engineering practices, and since 2003, I have been developing labor standards using man-minutes defined for different equipment and material types for truss labor estimation programs (not just MiTek).
So my message is that if you have MiTek MVP™ for truss manufacturing but have failed to create reliable labor estimation, and if you want to use it for scheduling, efficiency ratings, and an effective incentive program based on actual productivity efficiencies, allow Todd Drummond Consulting, LLC (TDC) to help you! TDC can either provide you with the proper time (labor) standards while at your location during a consultation or can simply email them to you for you to input yourself. TDC time standards have been created and refined over the past 12 years to adjust for most manufacturing equipment types and lumber material sizes. There are more than 120 factors from which to choose that can be inputted into MiTek MVP™ and MBA™ for truss labor estimations. Other truss labor-estimating programs can also use these same factors.
Todd Drummond Consulting, LLC is an independent consulting service and is not affiliated with the MiTek Corporation (no referral or commission fees go to TDC). MiTek MVP and MBA are registered trademarks of the MiTek Corporation.
Don’t let this build season pass you by without your knowing exactly what is being done, when it is being done, and how it is being done in your truss manufacturing. If you are a MiTek customer, you should be using MVP™ in your facility, so tell your sales representative to install it at once if you don’t have it! Give TDC a call and I will be more than happy to help you to become far more effective in using proper labor-time units.
4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 3)
The last 2 weeks we explained details and definitions of 4k monitors and introduced the idea for their use in component design. Before reading this week’s article, please click here to review Part 1 and here to review Part 2 in this series so that you can follow along in this article coherently.
We learned from the last installment in this series that not all truss design tasks are optimally suited for high-resolution monitors. We made a distinction between the resolution of the monitor, which is a literal count of the number of pixels built into the screen; and the size of the monitor, measured in inches. I had suggested grouping a designers’ tasks into three categories, with the following recommended ideal monitor resolutions – of course, with design software other than MiTek, your mileage may vary:
- Plan reading – 4k. This would be for examining architectural or structural drawings, normally in PDF or CAD format.
- Layout – QHD or WQXGA. Something in the 2560×1600 neighborhood seems feels pretty natural for laying out a building’s worth of trusses
- Engineering – HD. A standard, inexpensive HD monitor seems to play pretty nicely with MiTek’s Engineering software.
We also learned that humans can only resolve a certain level of detail, and that with a good set of contact lenses or glasses your eyes will be ready to perform at their greatest potential, like they were looking at an optometrist’s chart on a far-away wall. When considering monitor resolution and visual resolution as two sides of the same coin, the new variable we will consider today is the working distance between your eyeballs and the center of each monitor that feels most comfortable to you.
While it may seem natural to jump to the question of “how large a monitor can I buy?” the truth is that working distance is a more important question to consider before going shopping for a new screen, because a high-resolution monitor won’t help you if you can’t visually take in that many tiny pixels from long distance. Conversely, if you prefer to work close to a screen, a large monitor will actually work against you because it will take up a significant amount of real estate on your desk, requiring you to swivel your head around unnecessarily to view a second monitor – when a much smaller monitor at extremely high pixel density would be sufficient for your needs, assuming your eyesight is up to the task.
So take a moment to move backward and forward in your chair right now, and ask ourselves a few different questions:
- First: quite subjectively, “Am I enjoying being this close, or this far, from my screen? Do I feel that this this is the best working distance?
- Second: “Am I working at an uncomfortable distance because my desk is poorly designed, or a bad fit for my needs? Are the arms of my chair hitting the desk edge? Or is it that if I sit too far back I get glare from the window?” Etcetera. There are a multitude of reasons that we feel forced to sit in a non-optimal position in relation to the screens.
- Third: “If I feel like I would prefer to be closer or farther from the screen, and nothing else seems to be stopping me, is it perhaps that the screen is too dark and dim or too bright to handle at that distance?”
Take the time to resolve any of these issues which might prevent you from working at a comfortable viewing distance. If your desk constrains you into working in an ineffective manner, stop now – put the funds you would have spent on a new monitor into a more flexible desk setup which gets your aligned more effectively with your screens. We all like new electronics and a new desk may feel a bit dull, but truthfully, no replacement monitor will help you if the desk it sits on forces you to locate it in an awkward way – and larger monitors are even more unwieldy and hard to position than small ones.
Having settled our desk or workspace questions, we can now measure the distance that feels most comfortable to us. I like to hold a folding rule (remember those?) next to my skull and extend it straight out in line with my vision, measuring from a spot in the center of my monitor to a point on the rule which is exactly in line with my eye. I find that 30” works pretty well for me; I don’t feel any significant ‘strain’ or tension in my eyes when I work at this distance for long hours. Your results might be different.
Having settled on a working distance, we need to now settle on what I call, for lack of a better term, “horizontal arc”. This is a circle segment in which you should imagine yourself, more particularly your head, at the center. Sitting in your desk chair, start by turning your head left and right; as you swing your head from side to side, find a maximum amount of “swiveling” in your neck that you feel comfortable with. Some folks are fine with craning their neck every-which-way; others prefer to keep their heads absolutely still, or nearly still. Keep in mind that a horizontal arc that initially feels comfortable might not feel so comfortable when you have to repeat this motion every five or seven seconds.
Next, without turning your head from side-to-side, simply look back and forth, trying to determine the area of your vision in which you are actually comfortable working. The portion of your vision which includes the highest density of optical receptors is actually rather modest, compared to your peripheral vision, and the boundary between the two is less of a dividing line and more of a long, smooth transition. Think for a moment about where you want to effectively draw the line between your central (working) vision, and the more peripheral (useless, for our purposes) portion.
Now combine both motions, both turning your head and swiveling your eyes, not further than the limits you just set for yourself, for both. This is your horizontal arc in which all important monitor information needs to be placed in order to be useful to you.
As you may have guessed, your correct monitor size is now one which, when placed next to your other monitors to create this rough semi-circle at the proper working distance, falls within your horizontal arc. Experience has taught me that screen area which falls outside this area is almost useless to me; I cannot force myself to put important information in these areas, since my mind and body don’t want to look there. As you might imagine, very large screens become difficult to fit into the horizontal arc, unless you are blessed with extraordinary eyesight and prefer a very large working distance – and have an enormously deep and wide desk surface to work with!
When shopping for monitors, look for the physical width of the screen you are considering purchasing; many monitors have a thick band (bezel) around the screen which adds bulk and takes up some of your horizontal arc. Also, realize that the listed size of a monitor is a diagonal dimension, measured from corner-to-corner. Even with thick bezels, a 28” monitor might only take up 25” actual width.
To summarize, we have distanced ourselves from our screens as much as is comfortable, settled on a maximum horizontal “zone” in which we feel comfortable working, and divided up this zone into “segments” which each represent the maximum monitor size we can purchase. For myself, I have found that two 32” monitors, with an additional 27-28” screen, maximizes my horizontal arc. As you might imagine, the monitor I dedicate to plan reading is a 4k monitor, my layout monitor is WQXGA, and my Engineering monitor is HD, with the added bonus of touchscreen functionality. So far this has been the most satisfactory combination of the many I’ve experimented with, and I would recommend it to anyone who had similar preferences.
The 4k resolution has been a worthy purchase – but with a few caveats, and in the final installment of this series, we will examine some monitor-related issues which should be thought through prior to purchasing a 4k monitor, a word about mouse movements, and some budget ideas for how cash-strapped design departments can cheaply outfit old PCs with a third monitor.
Stay tuned for Part 4, the final article in this series.
Has this brought to mind some new considerations for your desktop setup? Please leave your comments below.
4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 1)
The last five years have been very, very good times for anyone interested in flat-screen computer monitors. If you are a truss designer interested in gaining maximum, military-general style visibility into all the inner workings of your computer, exploiting the potential of your graphics hardware to the maximum and pumping as many LED-generated, pixel-popping light waves into your sore and bloodshot eyes, this has truly been a good time to be alive!
Here is why:
- The size of available monitors has increased. Not too long ago, Apple was astonishing the world with very expensive, beautiful 30” (!) monitors which exceeded the budget of most non-graphics-oriented professionals by probably a factor of 4x. For PC users, 27’-28” was essentially the maximum screen size available. These days, 30” and 32” monitors are pretty common, with hybrid TV and computer-monitor models available in 40”, 50” and even 60” neighborhood for those interested in upgrading their cubicle footprint to the area of a small aircraft hanger.
- The variety of large-sized monitors has exploded. From cheap, gray-market Korean makers like Crossover and Achieva, to high-end makers Samsung and NEC, there is a wide and smoothly segregated set of price points for each size of monitor larger than the (formerly standard) 24” screen size. 28” is no longer considered a “specialty” size by most makers; 30” and 32” is now fairly standard as a top-tier diagonal dimension and most every major maker has models (or even several models) in these categories: each offers units meant for gamers, casual users, business professionals, and expensive color calibrated screens targeted toward photographers and video editors. No longer is a buyer stuck with an “all or nothing” option – we can all pick our price vs. quality point.
- Panel technologies have diversified. In former days large-scale monitors were only offered in a very basic “TN” technology which offered quite flat color, boring low contrast and limited viewing angles. Today, you can walk out of any well-equipped electronics store with a huge monitor in your choice of TN, VA, MVA, S-PVA, or any one of several high-dollar IPS flavors, depending on your taste in color quality and on the heat of your wallet.
- The features and color quality of large flat-screens have improved drastically. It wasn’t long ago that CRT monitors were the gold-standard in color fidelity and ability to reproduce close to full Adobe RGB color space. No longer. The newest panels, especially the MVA, PLS, AHVA and IPS designs, have incredibly wide color range and impressively dense black/white contrast ratios. They are engaging to look at and make the old CRT technology seem impossibly dated, even for critical applications like photography. Also, the old “faded edges” of large screens, where the brightness varied significantly across the expanse of the monitor, has disappeared, as manufacturers seemed to have worked out all those kinks.
- Lastly, and most importantly for this article, the resolution of monitors has increased. For many years we bumped against the limits of so-called “HD” resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, with some business-class monitors at the slightly taller 1920 x 1200 resolution. Today HD is still the standard resolution, but within the last two years there has been a huge increase in availability of the following resolutions which should interest design professionals the most:
As a truss/panel designer, what size & resolution monitor should I buy?
What a great question! With so many choices, I’ll share my approach to choosing a size & resolution combination, because this is the critical question. Realize that monitors of a certain resolution which work well for a certain task, at a given monitor size, may not work as well in a smaller/larger scale. With this in mind, there is a proper approach, which is to start by establishing the task, find the proper resolution for that task, and then choose a screen size which is appropriate for that resolution.
Choose task -> Match with resolution -> Establish distance -> Select screen size
Finally, a little background definition of terms and concepts:
- Pixels are individual points of light on a screen which can render any number of colors
- Resolution is the actual number of pixels (width x height) the monitor is made with.
The “visual information” a monitor is capable of conveying to the user is directly related to the resolution (pixel count). This directly affect the quality of the picture and the stress on your eyesight.
When we publish Part 2 next week, we will give you specific things to consider from the truss/panel design (and your doctor’s) standpoint. See you next week!
Please leave your comments below.
6 Benefits of Panelized Construction over Stick Framed Walls
If you are not in the componentized manufacturing business and have never heard of a wall panel, then you would probably think that stick built homes were better, stronger and built to last longer. Surely, the craftsmen of old knew the best way right? A lot of their homes still stand today as a testimony of their commitment to excellence.
But as you know for each one of these we see still standing, we see more in a sad shape of disrepair or even in a state of non-repair. The only answer for these is a fresh start, as eventually then end up looking like this:
Welcome to the new era of the building industry. There are many new techniques used today that were not thought of in days gone by. Now, when you consider building a house, you have many more choices to consider.
Green from the start
The National Green Building Program put on by the NAHB recognizes “Panelized Building System Techniques” for their re-use and recycling materials and minimization of soil disturbance and erosion of jobsites. There is minimal waste involved. Unlike on a job site, almost all “extra” material will be re-used and NOT out into a dumpster.
When using Panelized Construction, time is an important factor, right? You can have an average size home dried in within a few days, thus keeping the chance of materials getting wet to a minimum. We have all seen homes too often that do not get dried in within a timely fashion. The absorption of water in the flooring material will lead to many problems in the future and can affect what kind of flooring you can choose. If your house has a “wave” in the floor, this could be why!
When you choose to build with a builder using panelized construction methods, you will be guided all the way thru the process by an expert in their application. Besides, those in the office are much more likely to be sober than those on the jobsite!
As with any kind of building materials, if you can keep them out of the elements, you will have a longer lasting, stronger product for years to come. The fact is, panels are delivered to a jobsite and erected within days. Compare that to lumber that arrives on a jobsite and may sit for weeks.
Built in a factory, in a jig, walls are guaranteed to be square. Then sheathing is applied that braces the wall square. All that’s left is to set in place and assemble like a jigsaw puzzle.
More economical than stick built
Cost up front is a little more to build with panelized construction, yes this is true. But the realization is that monies spent up front will be saved down the road, with savings in labor to erect the building. After all, days (or even weeks) of framing walls with a labor crew cost a heck of a lot more than hours of erecting that “puzzle” of panel pieces.
As for the debate at hand, which way of building a wall is best? I have found a few articles to support the facts. There are a few way to figure the costs of each: labor, site, waste and materials. One study I found was following two identical buildings, 3100 sq. ft. triplexes. Here are the facts from that study:
When you consider the practice of building walls in the field, you are trusting in human judgement and the knowledge of tradesmen. While building the wall, how many times have we seen or heard of someone nailing the wrong side of the line? Or heard the phrase “I can’t see it from my house”, implying that because this mistake will not personally affect this person’s home; then leave it as it stands. This is something I have heard many time in my framing career and I personally cannot stand to hear. Not to mention the cost of delays due to weather, theft, materials, vandalism or the crew itself. All of these add up to increased costs for the builder and homeowner.
Using panelized construction can solve many of these problems. Most producers keep materials indoor to keep them at a constant moisture level. No more gray lumber! They are built-in a controlled environment which makes a straighter wall. Each component is constructed from a detailed design drawing to exact specifications every time. Using a jig system keeps the walls 100% square and sheathing soon thereafter keeps them square. Another time saver is that while the panels are being built the site work can be going on at the same time. This makes tighter schedules possible.
With this being said I feel the answer is obvious. Today’s panelized systems are by far superior to conventional building techniques. But we all make our own decisions, what will yours be when you are building your dream house?
Tim McKnight- Design Trainee
Gould Design, Inc.
Truss Design and Postural Hygiene
As offsite (remote) truss designers, we don´t have to drive every morning to the office or spend several hours of our week in the traffic. We don’t have the luxury of walking into the office from the parking lot. Our “office” is a room or a corner in our home. What has not changed from working in a traditional office to home are the hours we spend sitting in front of the computer.
Maybe we are spending more time sitting down, working offsite than we would in an office, as there are no chats around the water cooler or lunch breaks with our colleagues. In regular working conditions offsite designers will spend around 180-240 consecutive minutes at the computer without standing up. So what´s the problem? Usually we´re not used to paying attention to our posture while we are sitting! The extra time added to a regular position that is inadequate can become a serious health issue.
One of the most common problems is…you guessed it… lower back pain. The symptoms and pathologies can be very broad but the causes are the same: Too much continuous time in a compromising position. If we are overweight, we add to the equation and the problem can get even worse.
Another common issue is what is known as Sciatica. This is the irritation of the sciatic nerve (one of the largest of the nervous system) and its roots go from the spine´s lower section to the legs all the way to the toes.
The most common symptoms of sciatica are:
- Lower back pain
- Buttocks pain, and numbness, pain or weakness in various parts of the leg and foot
- Other symptoms may include a “pins and needles” sensation, or tingling and difficulty moving or controlling the leg
Typically, symptoms only manifest on one side of the body. The pain may radiate above the knee, but does not always. Some relief can be felt when we lay down or take a walk. Eventually it gets worse when we remain stationary (standing or sitting).
In some cases sciatica can be the result of a specific sudden movement and will go away in about 4 to 6 weeks. However, in other cases these sensations can be the sign of other issues like a herniated disc. Keep in mind that sciatica is a symptom, not a disease itself. A herniated disc can be also the result of bad posture that develops over time. When we are overweight, the risk factor multiplies.
The problem is that we work at home, sitting most of the day in front of a computer! We work with wood components, but we are not physically carrying the lumber itself! Common sense would tell you that bending and lifting would be a risk factor, but sitting?
This info graphic shows the typical tips we must be aware of to foster healthy posture in our work area:
Ensure that your chair has also an adjustable arm support so you can align it with your desk. According the International Labour Organization (ILO), the proper height for a desk is 27.5-29.5 in (70-75cm). Keep that in mind if you are looking for a new desk.
Just as important as the desk is the chair we sit in all day. As we can see in the picture, the chair must:
- Have adjustable height
- Have wheels (a plastic carpet to make maneuvering easier is recommended)
- Allow rocking (maybe not as much as the rocking chair in the porch but enough to add some movement to your sitting routine and stimulate blood circulation)
The sedentary way of life is causing us as much trouble (if not more) as smoking did in the 70´s. Click here to read more about that. Why? Because the lack of activity reduces the response of the body and can increase the risk of:
- Blood pressure
- Heart disease
The strange part is that we are not even aware of how serious sitting for extended periods of time is to our health! The ILO also recommends 5 minutes standing for every 60 minutes sitting. So watch your weight, add some exercise routine to your life and take care of your posture at your place of work. Small price to pay for your health!
Maybe you have taken a course in postural hygiene or studied how it applies in your work life and you can say yes, sit well, don´t smoke, go to the gym, blah, blah, blah……..but as Andre Gide said: “Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.”
Do you realize how important postural hygiene is for truss designers? Or for anyone sitting behind a desk working on a computer for that matter?
It´s not going to help you with that parallel chord vault or that tail-bearing girder you are working on right now. It probably won’t help you to get that 36’ clear-span floor truss to work either. But it certainly will help you to have a longer span of life and design many more of them.
Javier Dominguez – Design Professional
Gould Design, Inc.
How To Use “Collections” In MiTek Sapphire To Save Time And Produce Consistent Layouts
There is a beautiful tool in MiTek than many may not be aware of. It is called “Collections.” This is yet another amazing feature of this show-stopping program we use to design building components. The intent of this article is to show you how to use it. Ready?
We have customers that require multiple notes on their layouts. They also like for our design presentation to be consistent from designer to designer. This can be done using Collections. Collections are easy to create, and easy to use.
The way I do it is this:
1. Set Up Location
I like to create a folder called collections to store all my notes, and details that I use on a daily basis. This saves me time down the road because I have acted proactively. I know there will be things that I am going to type over and over again.
2. Input Information
Once I have that folder set up, I can start putting in the notes. To do this I create a new job and name what the note is going to be. I will show you how to do this by creating a “Dormer Framing By Others Detail.” These steps can also be done in existing jobs if you find yourself using a certain note all the time. The steps are the same minus the creating a new layout step.
3. Select “Create Annotation” icon
4. Select “Create Collection” icon after creating the note
5. Select Entities
Sapphire will ask you to “Select Entities” to add to the Collections, and to right-click when done.
6. Select Reference Point
After entities are selected, Sapphire will ask you to “Select Reference Point” for the Collection. I like to put my reference point in the center of the note.
7. Choose Title
After selecting a reference point, the “Save As” dialog box will open. Choose a title that explains what the note, or object is. I am going to label my collection “Dormer Framing By Others.”
Now the Collection is all set up and ready for use. Here is how to use it:
8. Select “Insert Collection” icon to use the new Collection
9. Select Collection to Insert
This is brings up the “Open File” dialog box. Choose the Collection that you want to add. This will allow you to insert the Collection into your existing Sapphire layout. The picture below shows the new collection in the layout.
Collections are an excellent way to streamline efficiency when designing in Sapphirw. Imagine how much time you could save if you had a fully stocked library! Using Collections really speeds up the process of adding notes to layouts. How do you use collections? Do you use it for details also? I would like to see how others are using collections to design more efficiently.
Tyler Martinez – Project Manager
Gould Design, Inc.
Component Design Means Communication
Building component designers face a unique challenge. Isolation!!! Unlike a doctor who treats their patients face-to-face, unlike a programmer who compiles code into a working program, and unlike a teacher who gets instant feedback from their work, a component designer lives in a world separated from both immediate input and meaningful feedback.
- We rarely visit job sites
- No one seems to want to talk with us
- We work in boring, often uninspiring, usually tacky environments
- On a good day, no one calls, and that’s just as well since we’d rather they didn’t
- The folks who build the trusses we design don’t often to come to us with new ideas
- The customers we design for never come to visit, rarely call, and certainly never say thank you
- The homeowners and occupants of the buildings we sweat over never send photos of the completed home complete with smiling family standing in the doorway that we sweated over to design perfectly
The constant pressure to produce seems opposite to the real need for time, care, caution, thorough understanding, and for other people to communicate all the right details to us.
Communication! What a lousy annoyance, when our job is to design. We are professional designers, not professional communicators, right? Leave us alone with our laptop, give us the information we want and leave us alone. We resent communicating! We resent waiting on a team member, waiting on a contractor, waiting on a homeowner, waiting on management. We resent having to call, we resent leaving messages, we resent the helter-skelter workflow all this communication creates, and what makes it worse, no one ever seems to want to take initiative to come talk with us.
Let me kick this back to with a new way to look at your job; to be a designer is essentially to be a communicator. What else is design but communication? Someone has to work with the relevant players and carefully structure a set of constraints (plans, preferences, job site conditions, manufacturing concerns), which then somehow get communicated to the manufacturing line as a set of instructions. This process is magical, always surprising, often humorous, often incredibly frustrating. Take out the communication, and design starts to look pretty mundane by comparison. And in fact, it is.
The “design” process – the mouse clicking and button pushing – is practically irrelevant in the scheme of things. What software you use is irrelevant. The brand of calculator you use is irrelevant. How much experience you have is also irrelevant. What is relevant, useful, interesting and enduring is the skill to communicate effectively. Extracting the constraints and information out of everyone involved to create a special solution which can be communicated not only to the production line but also to the builder and salesperson, for this one job, today.
Tomorrow will be different. Every job is unique. The button-pushing skills are minor and easily learned – the skills to facilitate communication, gather information and get it back to the right people are powerful and are developed over time. If you gain these skills, treasure them. Do not complain that framers never give you the relevant information; if your sales team hasn’t thought of a satisfactory variety of questions regarding job site conditions. Relish the opportunity to lend your insight and ask the questions yourself. Communicate!
Your design is just a byproduct of:
- The questions you raised
- The problems you foresaw and explained
- The solutions you prepared in the minds of whoever will use your trusses
- The feeling of goodwill and excitement in the midst of the uncertain and risky project of building a structure
These 4 items are the real thing, the essence of component design. Communication is not just the sales team’s job, sales is. We are the grease in the wheel of the company we service. We ARE the company’s reputation in the eyes of its customer. The essence of sales is money; the essence of design is communication.
So forget about pushing buttons and reading plans – learn to ask the right questions and set others on the right track toward a successful project. Ask the questions they haven’t thought of. Encourage a problem-solving attitude. Be a proactive and contributing team member. Take a deep breath. Put a smile on your face, accept your new job title, pick up the phone, and communicate!
Jonathan Landell – Design Professional
Upgrading Software: I Lost My Settings! How Do I Get The “Old” MiTek Sapphire Look Back?
If you are like me, you have been using MiTek Sapphire for years. You have it customized to a unique setup just how you like it, and now it looks different from the “out of the box” install. You have taken the time to configure all the toolbars and buttons in just the right spot where you can access them quickly.
Then your boss comes in and says “It’s time to upgrade out software version” and your heart sinks. Your anxiety heightens hearing those words, because you know from past upgrades that you lost all your customization.
Well if you follow the steps below, you can avoid the irritation you are most certain to feel hearing those dreaded words. You can have your customized version back with a minimal amount of effort. Sound good? OK then, let’s get to it!
So how do we get back the look and feel of the program that we have used for years?
Believe it or not, it is pretty easy and it only requires a few steps. In Sapphire click on “File”, then click “Setup”, and choose “Program Settings” from the list.
The “Program Settings” window will now open. Choose “View & Selection” from the left hand column. On the right hand column scroll down to the “View Reuse” section, and select “NO” for “Use Ribbons”. Now click “OK”.
You will get the message below telling you that Sapphire will be restarted. Click “OK”. When I did this, it did not restart Sapphire automatically. I had to close it and reopen it manually. Your settings will not be restored until Sapphire is restarted.
When Sapphire reopens, you will have the setup you are used to having. You know, the one you spent all that time configuring.
Voila! Now wasn’t that easy? And you were worried?
Tyler Martinez – Project Manager
Gould Design, Inc.
Design Outsourcing – What is Keeping You from Taking the Next Step?
Consider this: if every family still grew the food, hunted for meat and dug holes in the ground for water to keep them nourished, we would be living in the 1800’s (or earlier). We outsource on a daily basis. When was the last time you went out to eat? You just outsourced the farming, picking, preparing, cooking and cleaning of that meal. When was the last time you went grocery shopping? How many people outsource housekeeping? How about lawn maintenance? In large cities many people outsource their transportation. It is not a bad thing to outsource; it creates more time to do other things that help to make us more productive in our lives.
Every week, we are contacted by prospective new clientele. These inbound inquiries come in unsolicited. Some are testing the waters, some are researching to find out more information and some are ready to partner up. We welcome all requests for information. Outsourcing does not work for every truss/component manufacturing business, but knowing what options are available will help you to make the right decision for you and your company.
If I can help make the decision to consider outsourcing then I have done my job. My mission is not to “sign up” every truss company. My job is to educate and distribute information about an additional resource that is available that might be beneficial to you. In an effort to do that, I will first address some of the concerns about outsourcing.
- Loss of Managerial Control. When you send a job out it is in someone else’s hands to complete in a timely manner. They might not share the same urgency that you or your customers have in turn-around time.
- Quality Issues. Does the outsource company have the same pride and care for your customer standards and reputation? Are they just looking for the lowest labor expense for the greatest profit margin? What happens if they make an error and it is not realized until it reaches the field?
- Confidentiality and Security. What will the outsource company do with my pricing scheme? You do not want your direct competitor able to access your pricing. Is the information you share secure? What safeguards are there?
- Hidden Costs. Is there the possibility of having a job held “hostage” for a pricing issue? Are the costs clearly defined? Is there a discount for easier work?
- The Stigmata of the Word Outsourcing. The term outsourcing has a negative connotation to it. Many times it equates to the loss of local jobs, or jobs within the country of residence. It can also be inferred that the work can be done cheaper which would bring quality into question.
There are also several benefits to outsourcing:
- Streamlining Operations. It is possible to reduce the type of work being performed at the production location which would allow for more focus on production efficiency.
- Cost Savings. With a virtual staff there is no cost of overhead. You are not paying for a staff to sit idle and wait for work to come in. There is no cost of hiring and training employees.
- Staffing Issues. If you land a large project that would effectively shut down the design department, you would have to pass on any other work until it got done. A virtual staff could grow with your needs in real time.
- Open Bottlenecks. Are you producing at the maximum rate you can? Are you realizing your shop’s true potential? Could the shop build more but you can’t get it through design fast enough to keep up?
Gould Design, Inc. has considered all of these questions and more. We have learned as we have grown over the last decade. We have helped companies, both large and small, through hiring issues, software updates and conversions, large multi-family projects and more. We have even successfully taken on projects in different languages and measurement systems. We have tailored ourselves to combat the common pitfalls typical in the outsource market:
- Managerial Control. We have various ways to allow the customer to keep a level of control over the jobs that are submitted to GDI and the timetable required.
- Quality. We have developed the most comprehensive and thorough documentation available in the industry to accurately produce work in the same fashion as it is currently done in-house. The standards we create are a living document, able to be modified and “tweaked” as necessary.
- Confidentiality and Security. It goes without saying that there needs to be a level of trust when sharing customer specific information. We have a two-way confidentiality agreement with all of our customers that instill privacy and discretion for all parties concerned.
- Hidden Costs. There are no hidden costs at GDI. Our pricing scheme is clearly defined prior to engaging in any work so that the customer proactively knows what to expect. There are discounts based on complexity, volume of work, etc.
- Stigmata of Outsourcing. We have done our best to try to eliminate the stigmata. It is not a dirty word; it is becoming more commonplace in industries such as this one. We employ real truss designers all across North America. We do not farm out our work overseas to sub-par labor pools that might not have even seen a real truss.
The economic downturn in 2008 severely hurt the building industry. Many truss designers lost their jobs and had to find work in other fields. The industry is making its comeback, but a good majority of those designers are not. Construction starts are up every quarter. The biggest gripe we hear from the truss industry is that the salesmen have to turn down work because they cannot get it delivered when the customer needs it. The bottleneck seems to be in the design department. We regularly hear that the plant could be producing 20% – 40% more if there were trusses to put through the shop. How important is it to make that much more profit with your current staff and no additional overhead?
Consider the possibilities. Consider the options available to you. Consider outsourcing. At least spend a little time researching. We have plenty of information to share with you to help you decide if it is a viable route for you to explore.
Jim Turner – Director of Business Relations: North America
Gould Design, Inc.
5 Tools Everyone in the Component Design Industry Should be Utilizing
Component design has become ever more complicated since its inception in the ‘60’s. Truss designs were simple, single pitch trusses with flat bottom chords. No hips or valleys or vaulted ceilings. Cut parts have evolved from laying the parts out at the assembly table and cutting them with a skill saw, to computerized design software, automated saws and automated assembly tables themselves. Many an industry has sprung up just to create the software and equipment needed to supply the component manufacturer of today.
When I started to write this article, I made a list of the tools that I thought every component manufacturer should have access to. As I progressed, my list became longer and longer. I finally whittled it down to 5 tools that are a must. Here they are as I see it:
- Quality People: Without the right people in the right positions within your company, you’ll never achieve your production or revenue goals. From someone who answers the phone or carry’s out the trash, to the CEO that makes all the hard decisions, industry knowledgeable people are a priority.
- Software: There are many choices of component design software for computers available today, with all levels of design schemes that do it all, to calculators that can do the “bare bones” designs. MiTek and Alpine are the big players and widely used. Simpson and Eagle are smaller, but may do the job for you. Decide which to use and stick with it.
- Equipment: It is impossible to run that sophisticated design software without the right computers and designers. You can’t use the software output properly without the computerized saws and automated assembly tables in support. Delivery trailers, phone systems, printers; all have to be in place to achieve those afore-mentioned goals.
- Industry Contacts: It really pays to make contact with other truss plants in the area, either through an association or a simple drive by. See what they’re doing different that you might utilize in your own location. They just might help you out in a time of need. Framers who set trusses, carpenters who can build a wall, a Structural Engineer, locally or on call, who can help with repairs or confirmation of your design, a trucking company, a mechanic shop, an electrician, are also good to have on call.
- Back-up Plan: This might just be the most important tool you have. What to do if everything else fails. Your designer(s) all decide to take a week off, who do you call? Your truck driver’s wife is having a baby, who will fill in? Your assembly crews all come down with some mysterious illness, where do you get more laborers to build the trusses and fill those orders? As soon as you say, “That won’t happen to me.”, it’ll happen. BE PREPARED.
These 5 tools are at the top of a longer list, but I feel, if you follow those listed you’ll be covered for any contingency. How many more can you think of?
Richard Gould – Design Administration
Gould Design, Inc.