SELECTING SOFTWARE FOR METAL BUILDING MANUFACTURERS

By Dr. James L. Jorgenson, P.E.
President; and
Dean T. Jorgenson, P.E.
Vice President
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.

Features

    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 their clients.
    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.


Support

    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.

Product Development

    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.

Investment

    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.
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