Online Tools That Save Time and Money

There are many specialized hand and power tools that electrical contractors (EC) use every day to help save time and money. Beyond these physical implements, however, there is a wealth of online tools available, which can be equally valuable.

Many manufacturers in the electrical industry, including Thomas & Betts (T&B), offer a range of online tools that can save you time, improve productivity, and increase your competitiveness.

Here are some examples:

CAD and BIM Models

Computer-aided design (CAD) has been around for quite some time; first in the aerospace industry, then the automotive industry, and now in all facets of design and manufacturing. It came into the construction industry several decades ago, but was reserved for large construction projects, mostly because of the high cost of the software, the need for powerful and expensive computer workstations to run it, and a steep learning curve to use the software. But times have changed.

Today, CAD and its extension, Building Information Modeling (BIM), are available to all, and the benefits they deliver are extremely valuable to ECs, large or small. CAD has become the industry standard for computer representation of structures. It is primarily used as a two-dimensional (2D) tool for construction plans. However, it does have the capability to render in three-dimensions (3D) to better show the relations between the multitude of components in a building.

BIM takes CAD into another realm, incorporating the complete life cycle of creating a building: design, construction, and facility management. The information stored in BIM can be used throughout the life of the building and includes the geometric shape of each component; the specifications used to select the product; and a wealth of details, like finish and configuration.

BIM is a shared knowledge base; its value becomes apparent when the building is finished and contractors, facility engineers, and building owners begin to retrieve its information for maintenance and repairs. For the independent EC, knowing how BIM works can save time and money as well as help the EC remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing market.

Here are some important benefits BIM delivers that can alter the way an EC works:

Avoiding Conflict

Every EC has experienced job site conflicts where some elements of the mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP) systems don’t integrate easily. With BIM, these problems can be addressed in the design stage, eliminating the time and frustration of trying to resolve it on the job. This also saves money and inevitably results in a better structure.

Job Site Efficiency

ECs who use BIM in the field find it invaluable for managing the job site and scheduling workflow. It can help them identify ways to improve construction schedules, track orders, and manage their supply chain.

Another way BIM can greatly improve job site efficiency is identifying opportunities for using prefabricated assemblies. Among the advantages of BIM are 3D drawings, which provide a complete view of the entire structure, including the exact number of bends and pull boxes, overhead runs, and penetrations into equipment and vaults.

By being able to envision a facility prior to its actual construction, an EC can enter important information before building begins and determine opportunities to prefabricate pieces off-site. Off-site fabrication, like the eFab program from T&B, is becoming increasingly common in construction and offers many advantages, including labor savings, waste reduction, just-in-time delivery to the exact job site location where the components are needed, more efficient use of precious job site space, and improved quality control.

Improved Communication

BIM models greatly improve the ability of the en