By James L. Jorgenson, Ph.D., P.E.
President; and
Dean T. Jorgenson, P.E.
Vice President
Metal Building Software

    The right software now allows builders to generate four key items to improving sales and speeding delivery time: 1) building price; 2) approval drawings including anchor bolt plan and reactions; 3) 3D drawing of proposed and existing facilities; 4) the option to take the end user on a virtual walk-through of the current proposed facilities.
    The above items help to shorten the building delivery time since the builder has completed much of the manufacturer's work.

Software That Sells Buildings

    Does the above seem too good to be true? Imagine a scenario to follow. You are a metal building contractor and you want to promote your services for building sales and construction. This is how the right builder software can help in both the sales and delivery time of the building.
    You get a call from a serious prospect for a building. Consider taking these steps to make that sale.
    1. Invite the client to your office or go to their office with your portable computer.
    2. Bring up the builder software on the computer. Ask your client to tell you about his building needs. Enter this information into the software.
    3. The software does the complete design, costing, and 3D drawing of the proposed facility.
    4. Use the software to study various views of the 3D drawing. Often when the client sees the building in its entirety, he has ideas to improve the building. Revise the building input, rerun the design and the 3D drawing. Show the revised 3D drawing to the client.
    5. When the client is satisfied with the appearance of the building, take them on a virtual walk-through of their new facility. Let them walk to various points in the building and view in any direction and from any elevation.
    6. By now the client is developing confidence in your ability to create building solutions. You may wish to expand on that by showing 3D drawings of buildings you constructed for other clients.
    7. Next, turn the discussion to completing the sale and placing the building on a fast track for construction. Propose that if the client signs an agreement for you to supply his building today, you will provide the necessary approval drawings on the spot.
    8. The software will allow you to print everything you need to close the sale. First print, on your letterhead, a customized contract which lists all building features. Follow up by printing a full set of erection drawings including anchor bolt plan with reactions.
    9. Within the hour, the customer has seen his new building designed in front of his eyes. The customer has in his hands a set of approval drawings and you have a signed contract.
    Seem far fetched? Read on. Below are testimonials from contractors and manufacturers that use the MBS Software.

Manufacturers' Experience

    A number of metal building manufacturers have been using the MBS builder software for several years. As the builder brings up the software, it will show a software name associated with the manufacturer. Each manufacturer has adaptations of the software which are unique for that manufacturer. The following comments are from some of the manufacturers that are using the MBS Builder Software.
    John Bowes, vice president sales and marketing, Behlen Building Systems, Columbus, NE, said, "In today's fast paced metal building industry, speed and accuracy make all the difference in closing sales for our builders. The Behlen EDGE program, which stands for 'Estimates and Designs Generated Electronically', was created for our authorized builders by MBS. This software allows our customers to provide the detailed information necessary for our builders to give quick responses to items such as anchor bolt reactions and drawings as well as other end use requirements needed. We've used other software firms, but consider MBS our best ally and partner when it comes to electronic designs and estimates."
    Lee McDanial, partner, HCI Building Systems in Arlington, WA, stated, "HCI Steel Building Systems has been using MBS Software for several years and has come to appreciate the advantages of a comprehensive software system that includes estimating, design, and drawing features.
    "The HCI/MBS builder program allows the HCI builder to design and price many buildings themselves," McDanial continued. "With some experience and some guidance from the HCI staff, they have been able to use the software to identify and market the most economical designs.
    "Builders are excited to see the cost savings that can be achieved by making simple configuration and component changes. Most of our builders are able to quickly optimize the building design approach, then provide their customer with pricing and a 3D drawing of the building by using their HCI builder version of the MBS program.
    "There are other advantages to HCI that are equally important. With properly educated builders producing quality estimates, our estimating staff is relieved of the workload of preparing quotations for a large range of simple to moderately complex buildings. This allows our estimating, design, and detailing staff time to focus on more complex buildings and provide our builders with better service," concluded McDanial.

Builder's Experience

    A number of builders have been using the MBS builder software for many years while others have much less experience with the software. This is a sample of the responses from builders using the MBS Software.
    Glen Mackenzie, sales estimator, JDG Construction, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, made the following observations, "Having the 3D drawings for single and multiple buildings lets me give my client a graphic idea of the configuration I propose. In many cases the use of this drawing flagged clearance conflicts on equipment not initially recognized.
    "As a general contractor, having access to the preliminary building reactions early in the process, for as many options as I wished to run, allowed me to work my bay spacing foundation costs to my best advantage.
    "The MBS system allows the building salesmen to run the bulk of their own estimates. In most cases the salesman will run more operations for the customer, with greater success that would be practical with a central estimator.
    "The design function of the MBS system gives me an indication of the sizes of members and member spacing prior to going for erection quotes. This information, coupled with the 3D drawing takes a lot of the guess work and "Fear Factor" out of the erection bids. When the erector submits his bid he knows his girt/purlin depths and numerous other variables that could impact on his costs.
    "By using the report function of MBS I was able to have my proposal specifics generated directly from MBS using the same input information used to price the building and generate the sketches. Having the estimate, drawings, and building specifics all coming from the same input eliminated my risk of having something in my proposal that was not in my estimate."
    Bob Anderson, president, Olaf Anderson Construction, Fargo, ND, added, "MBS software is a great marketing tool. We can communicate details immediately with our customers about such things as clear heights at the eave, ridge and crane hooks. The most exciting feature is the 3D drawing. We have increased sales as a result of being able to take the customer on a walk-through of the existing and proposed building."
    As a builder, if you believe these steps would increase your sales, you should talk to your metal building manufacturer. Manufacturers should be able to provide builder software with the above described features. If this software is not available from your manufacturer, consider visiting with a manufacturer that will supply this builder software.

Current Options In Builder Software

    Each builder should first evaluate their software needs then compare those needs with the software offered by their manufacturer. To assist in this process, different options in builder software are described below.

    No software: Some builders do not want to be bothered with determining the building cost. A simpler task is to call the manufacturer and have them determine the building cost. Also, there are many manufacturers that prefer to price all buildings either in their office or through their sales staff which call on potential customers. The needs of both of these groups are being met without the use of builder software.
    Price Book Software: Some builders prefer to run a simple program that will estimate building cost. It eliminates any waiting time for the manufacturer to determine the building price. It also provides an easy way for the builder to determine the influence of framing options on the building price. This software is characterized by simple building entry and short processing times. The software does little or no design for the entered building, the software selects approximate values from previous designs. As such, the manufacturer may not be able to sell the building for the price that came from the price book software. This is the lowest level of builder software.
    Design and price software: This builder software first designs a unique building based on the entered building data. The results of the design, and approximations for detailing, permit the software to calculate a building cost. The time to enter the building data and the time for the software to determine the price have both increased, compared to the price book software. However, the builder software is much more accurate and likely will be verified by the manufacturer.
    Design-detail-shipping list and price software: This is identical to the previous level, only the program fully details the building and prepares a shipping list for the building. The price calculated for this building will be exact since it is the same building that will come from the software at the manufacturer's office. The dealer is not provided with the design, detailing, and shipping list, however, the price provided to the dealer is more accurate.
    Building layout drawings: This builder software provides an anchor bolt plan and elevation views of the building framing. A close option to this is to replace the framing plans with exterior vies of the building which include panels, doors, windows, and other accessories.
    Complete erection drawings: Complete erection drawings are only possible if the software also carried out a complete building design. These drawings will be identical to those supplied by the manufacturer except that member sizes will not be reported.
    Three dimensional building drawings: This builder software prepares a 3D drawing of the building framing. The building can be viewed from any direction. Most individuals will get a much better understanding of the building from the 3D drawing than from the plan and elevation views.
    A building walk-through: This builder software takes the 3D building and places it in a viewing program which permits the software user to simulate a building walk-through. The clients can see the same building features that will be present in the completed building. This software has proven to be a very effective tool in selling steel buildings.
    With company objectives set and options in builder software known, the builder is ready to find software to meet their needs. A builder should start with their current metal building manufacturer, if they are not able to meet your needs, visit with other manufacturers.
    Builders often find that the company that can complete the building in the shortest time will be awarded the contract. Builder software can play a significant role in reducing the time between awarding the contract and completing the building. This role is described in the next section.

Software Features That Speed Building Completion

    The right builder software will reduce the manufacturer's time to process and fabricate the building. If the builder and manufacturer use the same software, then the process of entering the building data need not be repeated by the manufacturer. This will shorten time for the manufacturer to process the building.
    In some parts of the world, the time to obtain plan approval is greater than the time for the manufacturer to fabricate the building. Also, most manufacturers do not start the building fabrication until the plans have been approved by the building authority. For these situations, the time to prepare a full set of erection drawings is critical. Some builder software will provide a full set of erection drawings. The only missing items are the member sizes which can be made available when the building is ordered. This software will make it possible to obtain a full set of signed erection drawings in one or two days rather than the current practice of several weeks from many manufacturers.

Manufacturers Software For Builders

    If the available builder software does not meet the builders needs, another option is for the builder to lease the same software being used by the manufacturer. With manufacturer software, the builder will obtain the shipping list, shop drawings, and erection drawings. The builder is free to shop for building components form different sources. Some manufacturers will deliver the building much sooner if the shipping list and shop drawings are included with the building order. Also, there are no manufacturer's restrictions on the use of the erection drawings generated by the software.
    With the added benefits of the manufacturer's software come some added costs and responsibilities. First, the manufacturer's software is much more costly than the dealer software, though an option to spread the payments over time may be available. The builder needs a staff member to check the program output. The engineering is typically checked and signed by a consultant.

MBS Software

    The only builder software available to contractors is that software offered by manufacturers. There are more than 60 manufacturers using software fromMetal Building Software Inc. Features of the MBS builder software will be described here so that as builders examine the software offered by their manufacturers, they can compare that to features in the MBS builder software.
    The MBS builder software has the following features:

  • The software does the complete design, detailing, and bill of materials for the building. This internal information is used by the program to calculate an accurate building price.
  • A complete set of erection drawings are prepared by the program.
  • The MBS generated 3D drawing can be placed in a virtual walk-through program (from another software source for about $200) to permit the client to simulate a walk-through of the building.
  • Since the builder software and the manufacturer's are the same, the time for the manufacturer to process the job is reduced which typically results in an earlier building delivery.
  • For most buildings, a complete set of signed erection drawings (for approval only), with member sizes, is available from the manufacturer, in a matter of hours after the building order is placed.


    As has been described by the authors, and supported by the experience of the users, effective builder software can sell buildings and shorten the time for building delivery. If you are a builder and you want the MBS builder software, please contact one of the manufacturers using the MBS software. Our complete client list can be seen on our web page at If you are a builder that wants the MBS manufacturers' version of the software, please contact Metal Building Software Inc. For a live demonstration of MBS Software visit us at Metalcon this fall.
    About the authors: Dr. James L. Jorgenson holds a BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering. His background includes teaching, research, and consulting in the area of metal buildings. In 1986, Jorgenson founded Metal Building Software, Inc., a software supplier to nearly 100 metal building manufacturers on six continents.
    Dean T. Jorgenson's responsibilities at MBS include customer training and support as well as development of new program enhancements. In the process, he has been contracted to U.S. and international clients for long-term training assignments. In the past year Jorgenson spent over two months in Malaysia providing training and support to various clients in Kuala Lumpur. Before taking a position with MBS, Jorgenson spent seven years as a project manager with a large civil/structural-consulting firm in Minneapolis, MN.
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