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NISD 2018: Three Themes to Spotlight

The NISD’s (National Institute of Steel Detailers) 50th Conference, held in Phoenix, Arizona May 4th and 5th provided a diverse set of speakers and topics, which did not disappoint the audience or me. Although this was my first NISD conference to attend, I came away with plenty of notes and ideas to share with my colleagues and you.

I could not possibly include all of my notes, ideas and thoughts in this post but I will include three spotlights of discussion that stood out. These were not intended themes but each speaker touched on these as did the discussions over breakfast, lunch and at breaks. The three themes I will spotlight include:

  • Difficulties of Project Communication
  • Love/Hate Relationship with Technology
  • Challenges with Hiring

Difficulties of Project Communication

Spotlight number one is nothing new to the audience but I was surprised that after 12 years in the industry as a marketer, I’m still hearing this gap in the communication workflow from the practitioners. This started during the Welcome Cocktail hour and continued the next morning into breakfast, where one detailer said, “The A drawings and the S drawings in the bid don’t often lineup causing me to spend my time figuring things out.”

It was not just in the bid process. George Rolla, representing American Welding Society spent a good portion of his presentation “Welding Codes for Detailers” addressing the need to correct common errors. George said of learning to communicate with welders, “We know what he (the detailer) meant but it has to be there in case it goes to court. So an RFI needs to go out but that slows down the job. Inspector does not want to hold things up and turns a blind eye. But no! just do it right from the beginning.”

To continue on the drawing side of communication. One person said, “I’m not going to trust shop drawings until I inspect them first.” Dave Schulz of Schulz Iron Works and representing the Steel Erectors Association of America (SEAA) as the association’s new president, continued this theme in his presentation, “What detailers need to know about Steel Erection” said, “we love the models. When you (the detailers) give us (fabricators and erectors) the models we look at it.”

Quality-Budget-Scope graphicGreg Brawley of PDC Asia Pacific, in his presentation, “A New Look at Old Issues” said, “We don’t have 100% of the information at the start of a project so the quality, according to the Triple Constraint Triangle, is off; so we’re doomed for poor quality.”

Access to shared information, provides that flow of communication needed for project success. This information, such as connection design and configuration options, is generated in the cloud and becomes available for review (and sharing) faster than ever before because of technology

Love/Hate Relationship with Technology

I’m naturally drawn into these discussions because of my role in the industry. It’s also my general interest to understand the balance between the technology that binds us versus the technology that automates processes therefore reducing our time on tasks. Today it’s how to utilize technology to make the detailer’s life easier not more complicated.

The audience included a mix of those along the technology bell curve, from innovators to laggards. This mix was positive because so often I have found myself at conferences surrounded by like-minded and innovative individuals. With this audience, I heard the concern of losing much-needed intuition that comes from learning the basics first. I also came away realizing the misunderstanding of what 3D modeling can provide on a project – throughout the life of a project.

“I get 3D models and they’re useless. Why do I need to see so many columns; they are so tiny I can’t understand what’s going on?” This comment during breakfast and referenced a warehouse. Most of us have seen full-project models drawn to one sheet, which gives a great overview of the project but little useful detailing information. So if you’re only looking at the 3D model as a static, fancy drawing on the screen it will certainly appear to have little or no value; however, what was not understood was all the detail and information inside the model.

christian-and-attendeeIn addition to these detailers, I talked with several detailers who have started to provide miscellaneous in addition to structural over the past few years. Schulz stated during his presentation, that in his experience, “it’s better to work with fewer people” and having miscellaneous and structural responsible for the detailing is a positive.

Another attendee said, “The guy behind the computer screen forgets or does not know what this will be like for the guy in the field.” Combining the experience and the understanding of technology will also increase positive communication.

Challenges with Hiring

George Jones sang “who’s gonna fill these shoes?” and that song rang true to for me during NISD. OK, so The Possum did not expect talent to replace Merle, Hank or Willie but we do expect the Steel Detailer industry to replace themselves with others who are just as passionate and committed. These folks certainly are good people, good humor and have a real interest in keeping their profession growing. I dare say that doing that is almost a full-time second job. Several attendees were retired. Several brought along younger detailers. It’s going to take time, education and patience for those that have reached the top.

Charlie Carter, American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) President was asked about acquiring young talent and how to groom a new hire as detailers. In addition to talking about the Education Foundation, he also said, “A lot of what we need can/should be done through schools. We can also do things at the college/university level.”

A very telling question was asked by Marianna Ludmer (also representing AWS): “How does one become a Detailer?” As a few people attempted to answer the question, my mind went to my daughter’s teacher recent email asking parents to come speak about their career. My career in this industry has been to help communicate the benefits of technology to detailers and others in the building and construction industry. After this question and the stumbles to answer it, I might just speak to her class and share my role in the exciting and rewarding steel industry and the different opportunities that are available.

Brawley asked, “Why are there not more young people in this business? It’s not sexy. It’s not like sitting on the couch designing software.” As a marketer, it’s how we present steel detailing. It is sexy. Really. It is designing. It is creating. It is contributing to great iconic projects and beautiful designs and the everyday infrastructure that moves us ahead one beam, one column, one connection at a time.

What can you do?

You’ve read this far. You must be interested. Share your thoughts. The more conversation we can have about these issues the quicker we’ll get to resolving them.

So until next year, during your busy day as a detailer and dealing with the continued challenges, consider what you can do to increase the needed project transparency, to embrace technology to help you reach your project and professional goals and to contribute to the next generation of detailers by sharing your profession with someone younger, much younger. Ask me what I’m doing to contribute. Ask me how Qnect contributes. I’m interested in having this conversation with you.

. . . . . . . . . .

Christian Erickson, Qnect’s Director of Global Marketing and Sales, attends conferences and events and shares his observations on industry trends in the Qnect news blog.

The importance of quality and a good night’s sleep

And what is good, Phaedrus,
And what is not good—
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?

Saving time on engineering and detailing with QuickQnect allows the engineer, the detailer and the fabricator to focus on quality. Has there ever been a construction project that would not benefit from a little extra time to focus on quality?

Let’s examine a typical project and see how Qnect adds value at each critical step.

The fabrication process can’t begin until the connections are known. QuickQnect produces engineered connections in a matter of hours, not weeks.

Time wasted is an opportunity cost. Lag time waiting for changes to a design or a model is costly. RFI’s (Requests for Information) cost time and money.

Slow down, we say. Spend just a little time up front carefully considering the engineering and fabricator preferences on the preference dashboard of Qnect’s website. Run the job 10 or more times – in less than an hour – to compare the cost differences for different preference choices such as bolt diameters, shear versus clip angles, welding vs. bolting, etc.

Think about it. Take a road trip on your bike. Hit the reset button.

Come back and make final tweaks to your personalized preferences and then run ~70% of your connections in under an hour using QuickQnect. Next, with one click, prepare the floor plan maps showing the remaining connections needed for the engineer and the detailer to polish off sequence one.

Everyone on the team can easily see what is left and can focus on any engineering or detailing challenges. Revisions are fast and easy, and they are always free from Qnect – our gift to quality. More time and breathing room leads to careful, smart decisions, quality, timely shop drawings and a good night’s sleep. Enjoy a little Zen and the art of connection design.

Detailing drives everything

By Jef Sharp, CEO, Qnect

While traveling with the Tekla Roadshow this past month in California I asked clients and future Qnect clients what was a common pain point for their projects. In the steel engineering and construction industry, more often than not, I heard “detailing” as the frequent determining factor. Why? Because detailing is a critical role to creating accurate shop drawings and the entire process. It’s the balancing point between the push of the EOR and the pull of the Fabricator, and the Detailer must carefully manage that territory – the nexus.

When done well, with the right knowledge and time sensitive inputs from the EOR/owner and the right knowledge and time sensitive inputs from the Fabricator, all is good with the world. Yet in our conversations with Detailers, EORs and Fabricators, we asked how often the balancing act is pulled off well. The words “never” or “not often enough” were pretty common responses.

How can Detailers mitigate the inherent push-pull pressures? The answer is a confluence of great people and the right technology at the right time. When we talk to customers about their projects and ask what pain points are we solving, the number one value we bring to the steel engineering and construction industry is TIME. Are we surprised? Of course not. Our software was created by individuals who spent over 40 years searching for TIME in order to give the Detailer a fighting chance to make changes quickly and easily – and use the technology to accelerate design reviews to identify important details that otherwise might be overlooked.
Forward thinking companies are using QuickQnect to buy TIME for asking questions such as “should there be paint on the slot?”, or “can the bolt be erected with the right clearance?”

What makes Qnect a good fit for MBJ is that the software and service make the connections more economical which helps our clients and us.

Admit it, every project has a multitude of details that can easily be overlooked – and everyone at one point in their career has felt the pain of a detail that slipped through the cracks. Users of QuickQnect are enhancing their project processes, and efficiencies to achieve new heights of quality and economy in a very time-sensitive environment.

Now that you have the answer, the question is: Have you worked with Qnect?

Qnect Accelerates Seattle Airport Project

Above: Image of Sea-Tac International Terminal. | Photo credit: HOK Architects

TOP100 AirportsWhat’s the #1 pain point at the airport? Delays. According to Skytrak’s World Airport Awards, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) is listed as one of the top 100 airports in the world, moving down four spots from 2016. How can they move back up the list? Prevent delays. With a little help from QuickQnect software and a team of engineers, detailers, and fabricators the Sea-Tac airport will expand gates and aircraft hold positions in no time.

The expansion will benefit globetrotters and the local economy. Seattle Commissioner Bowman said, “This project represents benefits not just for travelers, but also for the broader community, including more jobs in construction and airport industries, future opportunities for entrepreneurs in dining and retail businesses, sophisticated building plans to lessen our environmental impact and an artistic vision that our community can be proud of.”

And Senator Maria Cantwell said, “I was proud to help break ground on Sea-Tac Airport’s North Terminal expansion, adding eight gates and new amenities for passengers. Sea-Tac is one of the fastest growing airports in the nation and we must keep making these critical investments in our infrastructure to accommodate our growing economy.”

Tekla model of SeaTac North Terminal expansion

A Tekla stick model of the SeaTac North Terminal expansion

Behind the scenes on the Sea-Tac project, Qnect saved time and money. We also broke an old habit. Initially the Engineer of Record (EOR) delivered “mandated” connections. The fabricator pushed to use Qnect. He knew the software would create efficiencies in scheduling the job. The EOR agreed and delivered non-mandated reactions which were used by Qnect to engineer and optimize the joints at extraordinary speed. Qnect engineered the connections of the Sea-Tac model in one hour, which had a very positive impact on the schedule and optimized substantial savings.

Bidding on a project? Want to know quickly if Qnect is for you, send the Qnect team your next project. Start today. See how QuickQnect works with your Tekla models in our 13 minute demo video.

For additional Media Coverage:

“Why isn’t everyone using Qnect?”

At a recent meeting of the Boston Society for Construction Solutions, an attendee raised their hand and asked us this provocative question: “If Qnect is so incredible, why isn’t everyone using it?” It’s quite simple: until you witness the speed, power and accuracy of QuickQnect, it’s hard to imagine that what we’re doing is even possible.

Qnect is value engineering, offering savings and quality with first-class shop drawings in an efficient manner.

Qnect is the best kept secret in the structural steel industry because it offers companies a powerful advantage. They can run jobs with different connection options, optimizing costs and production to fit their capabilities. The end result: lightning fast quick turnaround for structural steel connections that lets them win more bids and puts them ahead of their competition.

Leading companies have discovered Qnect and we’re their secret power.

Qnect is the detailing optimization company. We optimize for…

Speed: Two joints per second means weeks off your schedule.

Quality: Consistent, accurate engineering and modeling.

Efficiency: We iterate in thousands of ways to find the most efficient connection.

Safety: 30% fewer bolts means 30% fewer bolt related accidents

Cost: Each project receives $30-$120/ton in savings.

The good news is if you win a job, we can help you immediately optimize it.

Discover why Qnect is the industry’s best kept secret – watch the QuickQnect demo now.

Qnect is partnering with Integrous Steel Software Solutions

Qnect, LLC®, the only software company focused exclusively on optimization of connection design, is excited to announce it has signed a reseller agreement with Integrous Steel Software Solutions, Inc.

As a nationwide reseller, Integrous will help accelerate the awareness of Qnect’s benefits and deliver to their loyal customers the ability to realize breakthrough savings with QuickQnect’s® patent pending optimization solutions.

Integrous has worked for decades to help increase profitability for their steel customers.

Qnect, LLC was formed in 2013 to commercialize powerful new software that is re-inventing connection design. Their unique technology connects and engineers 3D models in mere minutes, producing optimization data worth up to $100/ton per project.

Jef Sharp, President of Qnect says, “We are thrilled to be working closely with Scott and the Integrous team. QuickQnect® fits perfectly with their productivity software solutions so their customers can count on high quality “Integrous level of service” to support Qnect’s connection optimization solutions.

Integrous has worked for decades to help increase profitability for its customers and truly believes that with the addition of Qnect, they can continue to deliver the very best software products to the steel industry.

QuickQnect™ engineers and connects Tekla 3D steel structures to optimize fabrication time, improve accuracy and increase project profitability.

Engineering News Record (ENR): “…Qnect will be a game-changer”

A cloud-based digital engineer is hovering nearby, ready to calculate, design and optimize thousands of bolted and welded connections on 3D Tekla models as a service to subscribers.

QuickQnect is a Tekla plug-in about seven years in development and out in stealth mode since April. The developer says QuickQnect differs from other steel-connection software in that it uses powerful, in-the-cloud computers to examine loads rapidly, designing each connection to be as efficient as possible, rather than applying standard designs by connection type from a library.

To set up the tool, the engineer selects among dozens of preferences for job requirements, connection types, detailing, bolts and welds. Then, the model—or only parts of it—is uploaded to a cloud processor by clicking a button on the Tekla interface. The system extracts the forces and engineers the connections, says Jef Sharp, the developer and CEO of Qnect, Hadley, Mass.

Qnect featured in Tekla Monday Minutes

Tekla’s Monday Minutes for February 7, 2016 includes an exclusive Special Promotion available to both new and existing Tekla users.

Curious? Watch the video here and – no spoilers – wait until the end to see the special offer.

Watch the video

Watch: Demo of Qnect’s Bolt and Preference Optimization

Check out Qnect’s new demo to learn how easy it is to download and use QuickQnect to both engineer and detail your Tekla models.

Walters Group joins Qnect as a strategic equity partner

Walters GroupThis month, Qnect raised a Series A funding round led by strategic partner, Walters Group, a 59-year-old steel fabrication company based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. With the Walters partnership, Qnect is setting its goals on becoming the world’s premiere resource for advanced connection engineering.

The industry is ready for change. With the launch of Qnect’s QuickQnect™ steel connection engineering software, steel fabricators are now able to detail 3D models that lead to faster, more accurate, less expensive shop drawings; and therefore, better projects. The over 10X speed improvement opens up possibilities for early BIM coordination, estimating, pricing optimization, and iteration of steel connection designs for engineering efficiency. More

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