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Provider Profile: Simpson Strong-Tie
Helping builders evolve how they do business...
THE DEEPER STORY
Simpson Strong-Tie acquired CG Visions in January 2017 as part of its transition from a manufacturing to a technology company. While their website still uses the CG name, Director of Business Development Tim Beckman says that Simpson will eventually retire it.
The website accurately describes BIM as "a process that breaks down barriers between disciplines and encourages the sharing and reuse of complex building information throughout the product life cycle." They also point out that a 3D model alone won't do the builder much good if they don't know how to leverage the data it contains.
Simpson's goal is to help the builder evolve into a company that knows how to use that leverage, and in doing so they work in a consulting role. Although they have their own software portfolio—BIM Pipeline, eHome Flex Floor Plans, Quickstart for Revit and X-Ray for Revit—their main business is to help clients implement the most appropriate software for their goals. In doing so they partner with companies that include Autodesk, eTakeoff, Punchlist Manager and Vertex.
"We help home builders, component manufacturers and lumberyards adopt new technology," says Beckman.
"That technology may be owned by Simpson or it may be a market mature solution like Auto CAD."
Simpson's consultants approach the implementation in a very systematic way. He says that the first step is usually helping the builder organize and rationalize their plan data. "We start with an audit of their portfolio," he says. "Maybe they think of themselves as having 150 plans but they really have 50 plans with three alternate elevations." They help the builder decide which plans should be put into the BIM model.
The next step might be taking them through a similar exercise with options with the goal of focusing on those options that bring the most profit.
They might then move onto estimating. "We sit down with estimating and purchasing, figuring out their near, mid and long term objectives," he says.
Beckman says that one of the most critical decisions the builder needs to make is how much detail to build into the model. "Do they want to go to a granular level of detail in order to put that detail on their own P.O.s? Do they have trusted trade partners who they want to continue paying by the square foot rather than getting down to the level of how many nails or screws are being used? Do they want something in-between?" For most builders, he advocates for a reasonable level of detail. For instance the model may use a Revit object of a 3-0, 5-0 window but if customers have the option of choosing windows, that object will need to be tweaked depending on whether they choose an Andersen or a Pella, since the exact rough opening will vary by brand.
The company can also build models with enough flexibility to adapt to different market conditions. "We worked with one builder who had operations in three states. One state required standard drywall under the stairs, the second required Type X, and the third didn't require it at all," he recalls. "We put an object under the stairs that noted the square footage, then we wrote a secondary rule outside BIM that let them convert it for the particular situation."
Like other providers, Simpson typically starts by BIMing up one plan. Then they work with the builder to help get the trades on board. "We communicate the advantages to the trade," says Beckman. "We try to help them understand that the BIM model will help them estimate more quickly and accurately." Then they move on to additional plans.
Beckman says that BIM works best if the builder and the subs enjoy the advantages. For example if the builder is using the technology to help it transition from turnkey bids to materials-plus-labor rates, they need to be willing to pay the electrician extra for those two extra recessed cans in the home with the fireplace option. "With margins so tight for everyone this is fairer," he points out. "If I ask you to do more work I should be paying you more."
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