Archive for April, 2012

Challenging Times Require Creative Solutions

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

If you are like most engineering companies, 50% to 70% of your overhead is comprised of salaries & benefits for your staff.

Electrical Design Services Becoming a Commodity

The electrical design business has been commoditized for most of us, there are many firms doing the same thing in a competitive market so the profit margins to a great extent are determined by market forces. If we all use the same tools and processes to create designs and drawings our profits are limited by these market forces.Minor changes to process and the level of effort we place on the design and drawing creation can result in small but positive improvements to the bottom line but for the most part we are limited by the tools we use.


Negative Productivity Pressures
The pressure towards BIM (Revit, for example) has not helped profitability and has placed even larger burdens on the production staff to get things done in a timely manner. For all projects we have talked to our clients about, productivity losses on having to do a project in BIM are about 30-40%.
So what is the answer, how do you balance the demands of your clients, the need to pay staff well to keep them and at the same time maintain a profitable level of business operations along with your reputation?


Where Can You Have the Most Effect?

As mentioned in the opening sentence the largest single expense is your staff salaries so that is the place to begin to create efficiencies.

New technology is available to help you achieve the following goals:

  1. Increase profit margins (see the revenue per employee effects here)
  2. Reduce production costs (productivity information here)
  3. Improve accuracy (read here about error reduction)
  4. Expand deliverables (see the list of completely automatically generated reports here)
  5. Free up cash flow to reward the high level producers in your firm and keep them

Seek out these new technologies that will bring freedom to the way you do business.


Commitment to Process Improvement

In order to take advantage of these tools you must show some commitment to change that will be required to break out of the old costly production habits. Those companies and individuals that are eager to change and embrace the new tools will benefit and move ahead of the pack.
Using the power of the computer on your desktop and harnessing it to ramp up production to the next level is one way of achieving the list of goals noted above. Leveraging automation is possible to achieve huge gains in productivity. In most cases the design process is a compilation of repetitive error prone tasks that can be significantly reduced with the new tools available.

By empowering your staff with the right tools to rise to new production levels will not only impact the bottom line but you will free up your most valuable resource, time! Time to pursue other clients, other work, or simply to reduce the overtime grind that we so often face in critical times.
Fortunately for us the software tools that we have at our disposal today are becoming better to help us achieve these goals.


Change is Never Easy
It often takes courage to implement change, even though it will be beneficial for all involved it still takes what appears to be a leap of faith and pushback will be encountered without question. It is human nature to oppose anything that can take us away from our familiar path.

Find the technology that is as non-disruptive as possible, integrate it into your work flow, train your people properly and your company and its staff can soar to new heights.
DraftLogic Electrical is one of those companies bringing revolutionary tools to your company.


Gerry Stebnicki, President

DraftLogic Inc.

Fault Levels Calculation Workflow and Time Comparison

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

DraftLogic Electrical Versus Traditional Methods

Calculating fault currents for a transformer circuit

Situation description:

Project has 10 dry type transformers feeding panels. System voltage is 347/600 as service entry, transformers are feeding a variety of panel loads at 120/208 volts and one 277/480 volt panel. All panels and transformers are in a plant like building environment so sizes, locations and feeder sizes and lengths are varied.

Panels and transformers are located on the drawings and the designer has been requested to calculate fault levels at the panels downstream of each transformer to ensure that the appropriate breakers are selected for this project. Loads have been assigned to each panel but feeders and transformers have not been sized.

Using traditional methods where a designer is using an on line app to check voltage drop and some form of calculation spreadsheet to assist with the fault level calculations here is an analysis of the tasks and estimated time needed.

Typical workflow using traditional methods

1. Size transformers based on panel loads (loads are known). Estimated time 15 minutes

2. Size 20 feeders from code tables. Estimated time 45 minutes

3. Scale length of each feeder (20 ) on the drawings and check voltage drop based on expected load and selected conductor. Estimated time 40 minutes

4. Change conductor size if needed to satisfy voltage drop tolerance. Estimated time 15 minutes

5. Use fault level spread sheet to calculate fault levels for each component of each feeder, typically this will require calculation of three segments per feeder, the section from the transformer feeder breaker or fuse to the transformer, the transformer let though and finally the last segment from the transformer to the downstream panel. An estimated 70 combined mouse clicks and key strokes per transformer circuit. For 10 such circuits an estimated 700 keystrokes mouse clicks and keystrokes needed (each one an opportunity for error). Estimated time at only 10 seconds average per entry = 116 minutes

6. Collate results and prepare report for review. Estimated time 10 minutes.
Summary; Many steps needed, extensive human input for each step resulting in many opportunities for errors to creep into the process. Estimated total cycle time 241 minutes or 4 hours.

If a change is needed because of load variations the whole or part of the process must be repeated.

Same task using DraftLogic Electrical

Assumes panels were placed on the drawing using DraftLogic Electrical software which will automatically draw the single line and calculate all loads, conductor sizes based on voltage drop settings and will also calculate fault levels automatically at all critical points in the system from MDP to all downstream devices.

1. Select “single line” from report dialogue box and click ‘ok’. Estimated time 30 seconds.

2. Wait for automation to perform all calculations, size feeders and generate fault levels. Estimated time 2 minutes.
Summary; Only two steps needed, that take a couple of minutes to execute all required calculations and prepare a report for review in the form of a completed single line diagram. Estimated total cycle time 5 minutes. Using these tools all power tree objects are dealt with not just transformer circuits, the entire power tree from MDP to all downstream devices are sized, voltage drop is calculated and feeder sizes adjusted, all lengths automatically entered with adjustment factors vertical drops and connections within panels allowed for and fault levels calculated for all objects.

If changes occur, make the adjustments to whatever parameter is altered and re-run the process.


DraftLogic Electrical vastly decreases the time taken to do this task the first time around, taking only a few minutes versus four hours for the traditional method!

Not only does DraftLogic Electrical provide this incredible productivity gain, it also minimizes the opportunity for error. As you can guess from the number of manual actions and calculations being made in the traditional method, it is highly likely that errors will creep in to the manual process.

Lastly, these gains in productivity and accuracy only multiply as the work needs to be done over and over to accommodate for change requests and ‘what if’ design scenarios.

Gerry Stebnicki, President
DraftLogic Inc.
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