Chapter Corner

Using Digital Tools to Drive Efficiency for Electrical Contractors

Posted in: Features, March 2017

By embracing technology, contractors can reduce time spent managing projects, tracking down orders, and even designing projects. Below are three examples of digital technologies helping electrical contractors get the job done more efficiently.

1. Design and Execute Faster With BIM Tools

Insights.jpgBuilding Information Modeling (BIM) software has been available for use in the construction and design industries since the early 2000s. Primarily used by architectural and structural engineers for design, project, and supply estimation, BIM software has evolved to meet the needs of electrical contractors. BIM is rapidly becoming a must-have technology by many because of its ability to save time, improve project design, and keep costs down.

In short, BIM allows users to create an accurate 3D building model. This is huge because it allows electrical contractors to see and understand the building design and performance requirements and create the electrical layout before construction even starts.

Some of the key benefits of using BIM software include:

  • Simulation of building performance – BIM can simulate things like thermal and lighting performance in changing seasons.

  • Data management – BIM provides and maintains access to a great deal more information than what is represented visually, including things like specifications and performance data that go way beyond just size, shape, and orientation.

  • Cost efficiency – BIM is a great cost-tracking tool for the construction phase of a project.

  • Integration – BIM includes precise product specifications and makes it easy to check electrical distribution across various applications, and it compares how one installation affects another and more, which helps minimize errors and reduce materials and labor costs.

Tools like LayoutFAST help electrical contractors realize the true benefits BIM offers, saving time and allowing for easy integration of products into project designs. It allows contractors to pull the most accurate product information into their designs, ensuring accuracy in design and materials.

2. Transparency Improves Project Management

Keeping a project on track and on budget is no easy task. Lack of skilled labor, unpredictable permitting and inspections, and any number of other factors can delay progress. Still, many electrical contractors point to parts procurement and on-time equipment delivery as a major culprit, with good reason.

Not every part is available off-the-shelf. In fact, many must be customized for specific jobs. Once an order is placed, electrical contractors must rely on the distributor’s estimated shipping date. Without any insight into the actual manufacturing process, they have no way of knowing whether the equipment they’ve ordered is in the drawing, build, or shipping phase. Not knowing exactly when critical equipment will be delivered is a huge pain point.

Fortunately, the industry is working to address this challenge. One example is OrderTrack, a digital tool that allows electrical contractors to track Square D by Schneider Electric orders, including live production data and consolidated shipping status. When contractors have access to order status information, they’re able to plan and manage projects more effectively, resulting in lower costs and increase customer satisfaction.

3. Digital Technology Connects People and Information

For electrical contractors who often face compressed construction schedules, becoming more efficient is critical to meet customer demand and remain competitive. Efficiency gains can come from a variety of sources and activities.

Often, it comes down to better access to information and resources.

The fast-paced nature of electrical work, combined with the increasing complexity of electrical projects, means contractors need access to an abundance of information, including product specification sheets, technical drawings, online catalogs, installation guides, and more. But who has time to spend on the phone with a manufacturer or distributor for this information?

When it comes to sourcing the information needed to complete a job, electrical contractors are turning to tools like Schneider Electric's Electrical Contractor Portal. Designed to arm contractors with the information they need to make informed decisions about products and installation, the Electrical Contractor Portal organizes product, training, technical documents, expert support, and industry tools in one online portal. The Portal also includes resources to help contractors manage and grow their businesses and stay connected to the electrical contractor community.

There are a number of technological trends shaping the industry today. Not all will find a place in the electrical contractor’s tool belt, but those that simplify business processes, improve accuracy, and boost productivity will prove invaluable for contractors seeking to drive greater efficiency in their business.

Philip B. Santoro is Electrical Contractor Segment Manager at Schneider Electric. He is responsible for leading programs and initiatives that develop, strengthen, and support relationships with electrical contractors and electrical contractor organizations across different markets. He has over 22 years of experience in sales, operations and price management, with a specific focus on the construction industry. He also serves as a mentor to Schneider Electric's construction and industrial sales force on product, bid day/change order strategy, and business climate.