In 2020 we began the process of finding our next Structural Steel management software, it had been discussed for years but this was finally the year we got serious. In one of our research sessions with a company previously using FabTrol, they described themselves as “recovering FabTrol users”. Funny at the time, looking back that describes us pretty well too. Years ago, in the early 2000’s, each of the TrueNorth Steel locations operated independently. One thing in common we were all using FabTrol MRP. We were all using it in different ways but leveraging those features that seemed most beneficial. Over the years those independent sites merged into a single fabrication powerhouse that could share work, pivot on a dime when schedules changed and support each other on projects when demands required. The structure and flexibility of FabTrol MRP helped make that possible.
Back to 2020. The fabrication world has changed significantly over the last 20 years. Some might argue we still process steel, fab steel, ship steel. That is correct all those things still exist but now there is greater need for integration with equipment, integration with other software, and visual communication with project teams and customers. FabTrol MRP, developed in the early 2000’s, could no longer fill those current and projected future needs we had to find its replacement. After all our due diligence it was decided to move forward with Tekla EPM. Things that jumped out for us are simple things like stock reorder, FabTrol had a similar tool but didn’t work across locations. Tekla EPM allows you to set stocking levels for each location and alerts you through traffic lighting when additional material needs purchased. We are also very excited about more technical and powerful things like visual integration with the detailed model. Again FabTrol led the way on this more than 10 years ago but has made no progress in that area. In Tekla EPM this happens super slick. In the Production Control job you can just right mouse click in the BOM and launch model integration. Seamlessly it launches Trimble Connect, opens the model, and allows you to quickly view everything about your project. Quickly color code the model based on all kinds of different things. How about we look at what is showing in the BOM compared to the model? Things are missing? A big red flag that something hasn’t properly been released. How about we look at drawing status? What is OFA, IFC, and Released to the shop? Can fabricate and deliver if drawings are still Out for Approval. There are many more of these examples and we plan to leverage them as much as possible.
Some people might say all these tools are flashy but how does that help the customer. In the examples I shared, the stocking levels are critical for some of our product lines and customers because project turnaround is critical. They give us an order for a standard product and they want to see it onsite in weeks. That only happens if we have those materials on hand. Visualization of the project helps us to be proactive to avoid delays. Many times when a sequence of material releases to the shop a handful of items are held back on hold for design changes. It’s never the last beam to install it’s the most critical piece in the structure. When we can see that in the model it’s easy to communicate to the design team how important it is to get answers so it can deliver on time to the site with the rest of the material.
The time has been short for us “recovering FabTrol users” to become all in Tekla EPM users. We will continue to share examples of how we use these tools to benefit our customers and their projects.