By Dr. James L. Jorgenson, P.E.
Dean T. Jorgenson, P.E.
Metal Building Software
Successful metal building manufacturers make efficient use of manpower, machines,
materials, and management. This is accomplished in part with effective software
for all aspects of their company. A significant part of the software is that which
carries out the design, detailing, costing, and drafting, with links to manufacturing
and accounting. This article describes some of the considerations that a manufacturer
should use in selecting software. In describing these considerations, the article
provides in formation on what the company Metal Building Software, Inc. (MBS) has to
offer. Primary considerations in the selection of software for metal building
manufacturers include: features, support, enhancements, and investment.
If the software cannot produce exactly what you need, it is of little value. The
intent of software is to improve productivity. Your staff should not be spending
time manually altering drawings, editing shipping lists, or hand figuring costs.
Start by looking at your goals for the software, what would you like the software
to accomplish? You may want to make a checklist of your desired software features.
Then, contact those companies that offer a product that is set up to meet you needs.
Request from each company two items: (1) the program generated output on a typical
complex building, and (2) a current list of software users.
Examine the program output to see i it meets you needs. Can the fabrication
drawings go directly to the shop and the erection drawings and shipping list go directly
to the user? If the example provided is not as you wish, is there sufficient flexibility to
meet your needs?
Ask for the full list of software users so you do not get just the satisfied
clients. Contact a number of the software clients to determine their general reaction to
the software supplier and to see if the software is meeting their needs. If the client is
not available, you are left to wonder the degree to which they are meeting the needs of
The MBS software is second generation software. First, a set of programs
was written for one customer. Beginning in 1986, a completely new set of code was written
which did not contain any of the restrictions contained in the first generation software.
The result is a flexible style of programming that easily allows MBS to add additional
features to the software.
MBS automatically designs, details, prices, and draws a wealth of complete
building features. These included wind columns/bents, strut purlins/strut bolts, multi-level
bracing, eave extensions, canopies, and facia.
Inquire as to the background of the people providing software support.
Are they engineers with experience in metal buildings? Are they experienced with both
the needs of metal building manufacturers and with the capabilities of the software?
What limitations are there in the software? Visit with a random list of their current
clients to see if their support needs are being met.
MBS staff includes five full time metal building specialists, most of which
are registered engineers. Each member of the support staff has previous experience with
one or more metal building manufacturers and a minimum of three years experience using MBS.
When evaluating a software supplier, you need to see the progress made in
significant program enhancements over the years. What is their record of software improvements?
How do their current clients view their record of software improvements?
Product development at MBS is in response to the clients' needs. Each year during
Metalcon, MBS sponsors an MBS User Group Meeting. Clients receive a report on current
enhancements and are asked to input on future enhancements. MBS typically publishes
over 100 new program enhancements annually.
Software cost is measured in terms of fees paid to the software supplier plus
the internal cost to setup the software and train the users.
Investment in software must be weighed against increase in productivity that
exceeds the cost of the software. Metal Building Manufacturers typically have a bottleneck
in design and detailing. Our goal is for each MBS client to have a complete pass-through
building. A pass-through building requires no manual changes in erection drawings, shop
drawings or shipping list.
About the author
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 holds a BS in civil engineering. His responsibilities at
MBS include marketing as well as customer training and support. Before taking a position
with MBS, Jorgenson spent seven years as a project manager with a large civil/structural-consulting
firm in Minneapolis, MN.
Circle #455 on reader service card.