From Office to Field: 4 Tools for Mechanical Contractors

With technology rapidly developing, here are 4 tools that mechanical contractors should consider to increase efficiency in the office and in the field.

Mechanical contractors are always looking for ways to be more efficient, saving time and money. It seems like every day there is a new tool or new product that claims to be the next best thing. After much research and time spent with mechanical contractors, here are 4 things I recommend you consider adding to your toolkit:

Autodesk BIM 360

A common problem for any company is finding a single repository to store all the necessary information that team members need to efficiently perform their jobs. In the AEC industry, one solution is BIM 360. BIM 360 is a single cloud platform for project delivery and construction management. From design collaboration, documentation, and reviews, to pre-construction, and through quality and safety and operations, BIM 360 connects people, data, and workflows on a project.

BIM 360 actually contains several different tools, all connected to the same platform. For this reason, BIM 360 can be used during early design stages, all the way through construction, and even into operations. The different tools are referred to as modules. For example, there are modules for Document Management, Design Collaboration, Model Coordination, Field Management, and so on.

Whether it is a design-build project or a design-bid-build project, mechanical contractors can take advantage of the tools in BIM 360. One of the key aspects of BIM is to have a single-source of truth, or common data environment, for all project information. BIM 360 seeks to accomplish this through a single cloud platform.

Mechanical contractors can use the Document Management module to store project information. This module is much more than a cloud-based file storage system. Document Management provides unlimited storage for a project, and it supports all file types, making it the only repository needed for project information.

You can create folder structures to meet the needs of your project and teams. Folder-level permissions can be defined to control which users have access to what information. There are five available permission levels, and they can be defined for individual users, all users in a company, or all users that have a certain role.

Additionally, you can view and navigate around 2D files and 3D models in Document Management through a desktop browser or a supported mobile device. Markups and issues can also be created, assigned, and tracked. These features allow teams to collaborate more efficiently.

Document Management also has excellent features to track file versions and changes. File versions are tracked, so if you need to, you can restore a file to a previous version. There is also a tool for comparing versions of 2D and 3D documents. And for 2D documents, you can compare two different files. These features assist with coordination and change management.

Autodesk Revit/Victaulic Tools/Trimble Building Data

While there are several software programs available to create spool drawings for prefabrication and fabrication, Revit is increasing in popularity. Over the past few years, Autodesk has been focusing on bolstering the MEP fabrication tools inside of Revit. Now, many of the tools available in Autodesk CADmep are available in Revit.

Additionally, there are several add-ins that help make the process even more efficient. For example, Victaulic has created a very nice set of tools that provide functionality that is missing in Revit. You can explore them with a 30-day trial.

Lastly, while you may have great tools for modeling in Revit, you still need the building content. For example, in Revit, pipe and duct fittings and accessories and mechanical equipment are added to a model by placing families. Users either have to create the families themselves, which can be very time-consuming, or they can download families from sources online, which can be unreliable. A better choice is to use Trimble’s Building Data. Building Data provides subscribed users with a library of managed family content to use in their models. This saves users time by not having to create the families themselves or search for content online, which could end up being useless anyways.

Tiger Stop

To begin, if you’ve never heard of the TigerStop, go to their website now and check out what it can do! TigerStop is a stop gauge and material positioning system that helps cut metal, wood, plastics, and other materials. It essentially eliminates the need for a tape measure. It reduces time spent cutting and increases the accuracy of cutting. This saves money by reducing labor costs and materials waste.

DEWALT Tools and HangerWorks

I’m sure most mechanical contractors are familiar with DEWALT. They are widely known for their power tools, but what you may not be aware of is that over the past several years, DEWALT has expanded their product lines. They now offer a greater variety of useful jobsite tools such as jobsite WiFi, heated jackets, and even an app to manage and track tools called Tool Connect.

In addition to jobsite tools, DEWALT also has a Revit add-in: HangerWorks. This tool is an automated hanger placement program. It can save users a tremendous amount of time. In addition to automatically laying out hangers, it also provides in-depth point load and seismic calculations. If you model hangers in Revit, this tool is a must-have!

The End Goal

When considering new tools to implement in your organization, you should always keep the end goal in mind. Organizations need to analyze the cost and implementation strategy to make sure that it will benefit everyone. While there are new tools being developed all the time that do some really amazing things, they may not be best for your organization, so be sure to research them thoroughly.

By Jason Boehning

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