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Steel Package Delivery as an Integrated whole

Detailing and steel fabrication early optimization processes are being brought in-house by architecture and engineering firms as a key step in optimizing project cost and shortening timelines.

In the past the steel fabricator hired a detailing firm, which created its own set of drawings. In the new approach, the detailing occurs near the beginning of the project instead of in the middle. What makes this possible is an innovative Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) approach.

Utilizing VDC with savvy, a design firm, with an eye towards downstream fabricators and erectors, can already have a good grasp of what the erection drawings with all the details will look like for a given project. It doesn’t have to spend time adding the details to its design model. Knowing the details chosen for connections gives the engineer and design teams a real head start in planning and completing the design.

Teams with expertise in this approach are able to accommodate these types of important refinements.

Today, experienced project teams are evolving toward a workflow where the engineer verifies the team’s design and detailing, provides the team with a note sheet for all the loading and criteria required, and the specifications for the job. Because the engineer’s input fits into the design timeline, there is no needless duplication of model and construction documents created from handoffs between designer, detailers and fabricators.

Saving Real Time, Real Dollars

This approach to using VDC worked well for a manufacturer of cleaning products and equipment. The manufacturer purchased a brownfield site to consolidate the equipment and processes that had previously been housed in three separate facilities. SSOE provided architectural and engineering services to support renovation and expansion of the facility. The project renovated 242,000 square feet of manufacturing space and added 54,640 square feet to the facility.

The project team answered the challenge of an aggressive project schedule by using VDC:Steel, an innovative application of virtual design technology. Because VDC integrates steel design and fabrication, it can deliver exceptional quality while simultaneously minimizing risk, reducing cost, and protecting schedule.

SSOE’s VDC:Steel group worked in close collaboration with the owner, construction partner, and multiple steel fabricators to expedite delivery of the structural steel package. The project team was able to release fabrication-ready drawings in just days, as opposed to weeks, after design documents were released for construction. The team supplied detail and erection sheets as well as production software files for automated fabrication machines, further cutting down the time required to deliver structural members to the field.

The VDC:Steel group shaved five weeks off the original steel package delivery schedule due to the fact that the steel detailing process was underway at the same time that the design documents were being prepared and finalized. On top of that, the functions defined for certain areas changed “on the fly” several times during execution of the project. Teams with expertise in this approach are able to accommodate these types of important refinements.

Through VDC innovations and a number of efficiency improvements, including equipment placement and repurposing to reduce process demands, the project team was able to save the manufacturer $1,264,000 in project costs and 12 weeks off the construction schedule.

After working with SSOE on the project, the construction partner’s project manager concluded that “SSOE’s expertise and attention to detail were tremendously valuable on this project. SSOE quickly understood the objectives and priorities and implemented an integrated shop drawing process that shaved weeks off the schedule and allowed steel fabrication to proceed quickly. The quality of SSOE’s work was recognized by team members, the client, and the fabricators.”

SSOE Group


Industry leaders can gain significant benefits when insightfully applying this approach to their project:

When setting up a project team, it is essential to clearly define each member’s role. It is equally essential that the workflow not generate a task multiple times simply because that task is being handled by a different partner in the project. For example, when detailing creates its own model, the result is two structural models when only one is needed. If the engineer has a model of the structure, the team can use that model to transfer information to the detailing software. Detailers get a head start because they are using the model already created.

Study each of the project’s workflows to determine how dependent each stage is on the finished output of its predecessor. In the past, stages did not overlap, and so a new stage could not start until its predecessor had ended. Today, some stages are intentionally designed to overlap, which means that tasks within those stages are occurring concurrently. At the points where stages overlap, today’s decision makers are prepared to accept the risk involved as a reasonable exchange for the time saved by concurrent execution. Complete enough information and engineering design up front to facilitate the transition to finished product details sooner. Focus on the main components before the details.

Coordinate the project with trades and fully consider the downstream construction partners. Having that eye towards their portion of work will also create cleaner, better quality jobs for them as well, and contribute to the overall schedule compression and overall project  success. Share the fabrication-ready model with Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) as well as the architect, so they can concentrate on the remaining details. The trades can take their portion and plan their work based on a draft that is 90% complete. Although means and methods recommend standards for routing conduit, piping, cable trays, and fire protection, there is still a potential for delay because the MEP system installers will not know where the bends are or how long the lengths are. If they are given the extra details early in the project, they can tighten up the process. Not having to rely so heavily on means and methods, these special contractors have a more precise plan to follow.

It’s possible with VDC:Steel

The delivery method that is made possible by VDC:Steel offers a distinct advantage in obtaining tight bids from the trades. In the current delivery method, the A&E drawings are handed to the detailers to do their drawings. From that point forward the documents include both design drawings and detail drawings.

Delivering more detailed and clearer information early on results in a better product.

Contrasted with this, the team could provide the erection sheets and detail sheets to a customer directly, with no need for design drawings. If the project team uses the original drawings as the bidding documents, the team can then share the drawings with the trades to get back tighter estimates. With all of the information shared, it becomes nearly an as-built set. The bids and quotes for performing the work and supplying the services will be very tight.

The subcontractors in the trades are essentially bidding the cost of their labor because the costs of materials are already known and are not a deciding factor. With more accurate numbers and a smaller spread, decision makers can decide based on quality instead of having to accept the lowest bid. Delivering more detailed and clearer information early on results in a better product.

The project benefits when a single firm can supply the service for the entire package from start to finish. As an example of this single source model, leading project teams are developing a process by which they design, detail, and procure raw materials and ship them to the selected fabricator. They are the fabricator, they hire the erector, and then manage the job on-site until all components are installed. It is steel package delivery as an integrated whole – optimizing time and dollars.


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