Technology

Maybe it was the rebounding of the U.S. economy.  Perhaps it was the allure of a Southern climate in the midst of a chilly Fall.  Whatever the reason, the Building Component Manufacturers Conference (BCMC) in Charlotte earlier this month was a huge success.  In fact, it was the biggest, best attended show BCMC has had in five years.  It is fitting, therefore, that the conference’s theme was “gearing up for growth”, especially since the U.S. construction industry appears to be doing just that.

It comes as no surprise to us here at Keymark that things are improving.  Like everyone else, we’ve been watching the slow but steady turnaround in the U.S. economy and the construction industry.  What was a pleasant surprise to us at this year’s conference, however, was the number of wood-based construction companies looking to branch out into light-gauge steel (LGS) framing.  Like the U.S. construction industry itself, it looks like the “Gospel of Light Gauge Steel” has begun to catch fire.  The time has come.  The appeal of light-gauge steel as a strong, stable, long-lasting, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly framing material can no longer be denied.

For all of the reasons cited above, Keymark chose BCMC as the time and place to unveil KeyTruss, our radical new in-plane truss design.  It turns out that our timing was just right.  Sure, many conference attendees showed interest in the lab-tested strength and versatility of KeyTruss.  But, if truth be told, it was KeyTruss’s promise of up to 30% savings on material and labor costs that that garnered the lion’s share of attention.

Why such a focus on savings in a rebounding industry?  Well, our guess is that, if the beleaguered market of the recent past has taught the U.S. construction industry anything, it’s how to “pinch a penny.”  And that’s a lesson not likely to be forgotten, even as the industry regains its strength and momentum.

Don’t miss the boat and, most especially, don’t miss out on the savings.  Give us a call here at Keymark, and let us show you how KeyTruss and LGS framing can contribute to your company’s bottom line and your customers’ satisfaction.

We here at Keymark Enterprises were very pleased to see so many familiar faces, along with a host of new faces, at MetalCon 2014.  Since this was the first time that MetalCon has been held in Denver, we were a little nervous going in.  Would people come?  Would they drop by our booth to see us?  Would they like the products and services that Keymark has to offer?  We are pleased to report that the answers were “yes”, “yes”, and “yes!”

It came as no surprise to us that KeyTruss, our new in-plane truss design, garnered much of the attention.  As expected, MetalCon attendees showed a lot of interest in the substantial savings that KeyTruss can provide on a wide variety of basic truss designs.

metalcon-keytruss-steel-framing

We had a lot of fun demonstrating GS Build, our comprehensive LGS design and engineering software suite.  And customers and prospects alike also took a keen interest our high-volume, computer-driven GSS roll formers.  What really seemed to steal the show, however, is the seamless integration of our software and roll formers.  The appeal of Keymark’s end-to-end LGS solution surpassed even our own expectations!

metalcon-roll-forming-decoiler

Keymark Enterprises wishes to express our deepest gratitude to our partners, our customers, and our newest business acquaintances, for making Metalcon International 2014 such a success!  If you did not get a chance to see our products in person, please contact us today for more information.

The market for light gauge steel construction is exploding.  The market for roll formers and software that help that construction is also exploding.  It is not terribly difficult to compare roll forming systems…Are they adjustable for gauges of steel and different profiles?  What tooling such as dimpling and marking do they have?  At what speed do they run?  Even the uninitiated can pretty quickly create and understand a comparison chart.

With software, the opposite is true.  Most customers who are new to steel framing have   no experience with LGS software and don’t know what to ask or look for.  The purpose of LGS software should be to facilitate the complete design of structures and drive the manufacture of all the parts necessary to build the frame. While most software can ultimately drive machinery, the path to go through the entire design process can be quick and pain free, or it can be a tedious process open to costly mistakes and excess time.

This article outlines key features a buyer should look for in a software system to make design as easy and thorough as possible AFTER THE PURCHASE.

 

  1. 3D Modeling.  Does the software feature the ability to create a single 3D model of the entire structure at the outset.  If it does, the designer will be able to view the entire structure to assure “things will fit”.  Do walls and trusses align?  Does the lower level support the upper level?  If I have to make a change, do I have to go to several different programs and files to repeat the change or do I just change one 3D model?
  2. Modeling efficiency.  How long does it take to model a complete structure?  You can calculate anything using an abacus…but why would you want to if you didn’t have to?  What level of work is required to figure out roof geometry?  Can you copy geometry easily from floor to floor in a structure?There is no substitute for seeing with your own eyes.  Ask the software supplier to process a medium difficulty house in a live session (a large commercial structure would take too long and a low income house would not have much challenge).  Make sure you understand the workflow and ask specific questions about how the software functions.
  3. Learning curve.  What does it take to learn the software?
    For many software packages,
    training takes many days and, after that training, it may take months or a year for a designer to become proficient using that package.  Some software will have elements (keep in mind that roof design since that is the most difficult) of very powerful automation that reduce the learning curve since the program itself does the hard work – look for that!
  4. Roof geometry design.  Did I remember to bring up roof design?  Only because this can be so tedious and so easy to get wrong.  Look at a complicated roof, say for a large custom home.  If your software does not largely automate the solving of this geometry, it is a safe bet your designers will get frustrated, the learning curve will be lengthy, and you will have more field problems than you will like.  Do you have to calculate where roof ridge lines go or does the software figure it for you?  If you change a pitch, what is involved in re-solving the roof?  If you change from a gable to a hip roof, how long does it take to make the change?  Get your supplier to show you real time!
  5. Load development.  Remember that you are building structures and, if you don’t get your steel components engineered correctly, you and your customer can end up in deep trouble.  The structure loads (snow, winds, construction materials, furniture, the structure weight itself) will be transferred through the framing of the building.  Does the software automatically determine what those loads are, where they go, and exactly what loads end up on each member?  If not, that means your designers will have to do all this work by hand…it is not easy to do, requires extensive training, and is easy to get wrong.Take my word for it, there are very few systems that can do this.  Ask this question and ask to see the software in action!
  6. Automatic member sizing.  After a good software system identifies each engineering problem including the complete load problem, each member needs to be engineered (or “sized”).  This process in software involves automating all the structural calculation to be sure the final member sized will resist all those applied loads.  Some software will only perform a pass or fail test.  Good software will automatically bump from weaker members to stronger members until it automatically finds one that works.  The same should be true for every member in every truss.  If your software does not do this, you are condemned to repeatedly trying member after member until you find one that works.
  7. Automate truss design.  Designing a truss includes figuring truss geometry, calculating the loads on every truss, configuring a web pattern in each truss, and sizing all the chord and web members.  A really good software program will automate all of the above functions.  Once again, it is suggested you ask your potential software supplier to give a live presentation showing what is involved to go through complete truss design for all the trusses in a given roof.

 

Software is really the key to your success – whether you run that software in house or someone else runs it for you.  The differences between software packages are much more extreme than differences between roll formers – and much, much more important.

So, to recap, before you make a decision, do yourself a favor and do the following three things:

  • Review the list of items above and make sure the software can do them
  • Have your potential supplier perform the live processing of a job so that you see what is really involved with that software
  • Ask for 3-5 references who have had experience running that software


Good luck with your market search and purchase – remember that the software is key!


Keith Dietzen, CEO
[email protected]

 

 

In my last blog, I mused about BIM software being developed that could be about as easy to learn as IOS for the iPhone.  Such a development could greatly facilitate the participation in BIM processes by a multitude of market players that don’t do so today.

You won’t get much argument that SketchUp out of the box lives up to the standard of “easy button”.  What are the chances that that platform could develop into one that could combine easy button usability with the functionality required of a true BIM platform?

We met recently with one of the most knowledgeable individual in the realm of software for the home building industry.  Joe Buysse is in charge of architectural production and documentation at K Hovnanian, a top ten home builder.  Joe is also a master at knitting together software systems to generate his desired solution.  The result is a pretty extensive tool set with dozens of packages.

Is Joe happy with that solution?  When we met with Joe, he coined the phrase, “Start in SketchUp, stay in SketchUp” as a challenging proposition.  Keymark’s Buildedge software represents a technology that helps move that platform in the right direction.  It is a great start.  We know other pieces exist that can help this effort become a reality.

Do you think this can happen?  Do you want to see it happen?  What roadblocks do you see for "Start in SketchUp, Stay in SketchUp?"  We want to hear from you.  We hope to start an electronic meeting place that will nurture this notion.  We hope to identify partners who are serious about helping to make this a reality.  Sound out and let us know what you think.

 

Keith Dietzen, CEO
[email protected]

 

 

I’ve been around long enough to have seen a dramatic change in the design of software.  When I started my company in 1975, we were using operating systems like RSTS from DEC and CPM from Digital Research.  Not only was there no such thing as a Graphical User Interface, but the commands were arcane acronyms that the user would type in such as “PIP”, or Peripheral Interchange Program, to copy or transfer files.

Operating systems, like most software, has come a long way.  When Jobs introduced the Iphone, though, a radical step took place.  The “learning curve” for that operating system became miniscule compared to what was required for any previous operating system – no real training required!

Today, there are many very powerful 3D BIM architectural software systems.  As more and more features are added, more complexity has resulted.  When you look at the BIM systems on the market, ask yourself what the learning curve is?  How much training is required?

Is it possible for a software system to be to BIM what IOS became in the world of operating systems?

At Keymark, after years of writing software that we knew had a long learning curve, we are trying to effect such a change.  We believe our current Buildedge offering ( www.buildedge.com ) has a learning curve measured in minutes and we are dedicated to keeping it that way.

If you know of similar programs or techniques that we and other software developers should take a look at, let us know.  We want to develop and support software design techniques that make “easy button” a reality.

Let us know how we’re doing so far and what suggestions you might have.

 

Keith DietzenCEO
[email protected]