By James L. Jorgenson, Ph.D., P.E.
Dean T. Jorgenson, P.E.
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 www.MBSweb.com. 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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