5 ways to Improve your Pipe Cutting Machine: Lessons from Leading MEP Contractors
July 12, 2023
Written by PypeServer
Improving Your Pipe Cutting Machine

Integrate your pipe cutting machine into a larger process. 

In MEP fabrication shops, pipe cutting machines are essential tools in the larger fabrication process. These machines are useful in a myriad of ways; they cut pipes to precise lengths, bevel the edges, and cut ends and openings for runs and O-let fittings. However, it’s important to understand that cutting individual parts is only a small piece of the fabrication puzzle. Once the cutting process is completed, welders must carefully and properly assemble spools and fittings into a finished assembly. Ultimately, a pipe cutting machine is only one part of a highly collaborative and complex process, where skilled tradespeople with an expertise in fabrication come together to create functional, high-quality, and efficient HVAC and piping systems.

1. Embrace machine automation.

Pipe cutting machines are a vital component in the fabrication process. They not only cut pipe faster and more accurately, they can also improve the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of information flow from the design model to final assembly. Embracing the use of pipe cutting machines can greatly enhance the fabrication process and lead to more successful projects.

In the past, bringing a pipe cutting machine into the shop would increase the need for manual detailing and takeoffs to create cut lists for the machine. This process was time-consuming and resource-intensive, reducing the benefits of pipe cutting machinery for many contractors who lacked skilled labor. However, with the advent of PypeServer software, the game has changed completely. PypeServer software reduces or eliminates the need for manual detailing by using pipe and fitting data directly from the CAD and BIM models. The data can easily be transferred via a cloud connection or flat files from the model straight to machines on the shop floor, without any need for manual detailing. This not only saves time but also reduces errors, giving contractors peace of mind and greater confidence in their work. PypeServer leverages machine automation and makes pipe cutting more efficient, accurate, and convenient than ever before.

A typical example is Silicon Valley Mechanical, which has been able to operate with a model-to-fabrication workflow using PypeServer software.  Jamie Garza, Detail Manager puts it this way, “Our Vernon pipe profiler gets the information it needs directly from the PypeServer Connect AutoCAD plug-in, so the process has been streamlined from a page-by-page spool sheet review that could take hours to a quick five-minutes to send the data to the Cloud, bring it into PypeServer Enterprise, and double check that everything that needs to be fabricated has been sent to the shop.”

2. Plan and standardize your model-to-fabrication workflow.

It’s crucial to understand what your model to fabrication workflow will look like. This process includes:

  1. translating BIM or CAD models into cut lists
  2. figuring out how to transmit the cut lists to the machine(s) via flat files or a cloud connection
  3. determining how to make fabrication-specific design changes (e.g. adding root gaps, lands, etc.)
  4. deciding who/when/where you’ll nest the parts for cutting
  5. deciding what information to include on part labels
  6. figuring out how to track the status of parts
  7. managing change orders and re-cuts
  8. sending information downstream for welding and assembly

Understanding the designed workflow and having a clear communication between all parties involved can save time, reduce errors, and increase the overall success of projects.  SVM’s Garza recommends, “Be patient and have a clear road map for where you want to go. I’d recommend tackling one piece of equipment at a time and making sure you have a dedicated test team who can stay on top of the process to refine the workflow.“

3. Send Cut Lists directly to machines in the fab shop.

PypeServer is a powerful tool that is revolutionizing the way the construction industry approaches prefabrication. Its ability to seamlessly integrate with design models allows VDC teams to easily generate cut lists for pipe cutting machines and other machines, eliminating the need for manual takeoff. This not only increases the number of assemblies that can be prefabricated in the shop but also enables a wider range of structures to be created. The ability to send cut lists directly to machines on the shop floor significantly reduces time and resources required for fabrication, resulting in more efficient operations and increased productivity. Furthermore, with pre-fabricated assemblies becoming more common, field assembly becomes much easier and less time-consuming.

PypeServer has emerged as an essential tool for leading fabricators, offering VDC teams a streamlined solution to meet fabrication needs.  When Urbana, Illinois based A&R Mechanical sought out a solution to streamline their VDC and fabrication processes PypeServer offered the right solution.  Justin Powers, VDC & Fabrication Business Unit Manager led the initiative and offered this feedback, “PypeServer brings excellent value to our fabrication process increasing the efficiency and speed with which an operator can begin cutting from a spool assignment.  Custom parameters such as negative root gap allows us to lengthen a piece to account for a land being ground onto the pipe and gives us efficient nesting across multiple projects and spools.”

4. Prefabricate pipe spools and hangar assemblies.

Using pipe cutting machines to prefabricate pipe spools and hangar assemblies is a smart way to improve the quality of completed projects. By creating these structures in a controlled environment, it’s possible to ensure that they meet precise specifications and are free from potential defects or errors caused by on-site conditions. Additionally, prefabrication can save both time and money, as materials, tools, and personnel can all be brought together more efficiently. That’s why more and more industry professionals are turning to pipe hangar assemblies as a source of prefabrication success. Not only can they be easily transported to the job site, but they also require minimal fitment, making it easy to install and get the job done right.

Fresno, California based Strategic Mechanical found that they could easily send multiple types of hangers to the shop, including single clevis hangers on all-thread rod and trapezes with strut and all-thread, without having to worry about the correct lengths getting cut in the wrong material.  Using PypeServer Lyte in conjunction with a TigerSaw proved to be a winning combination.  As Miro Telesmanic, VP of Operations tells it, “PypeServer has completely changed the way we export hangers to the fab shop.”

5. Label parts for assembly in the shop and field.

The final stage in the model-to-assembly workflow for using pipe cutting machines involves assimilating individual parts into completed assemblies. This is where the PypeServer software really shines, offering two key features that make the process more efficient. First, fabricators can use advanced labeling capabilities to create custom templates for parts, drops, and weld joints, including essential information and graphics. Second, the 3D Assembly Viewer provides a three-dimensional view of the design, giving VDC teams, machine operators, and field crews a clear understanding of the final product.

With these tools, fabricators like W.E. Bowers found that they can complete their work with greater accuracy and speed, bringing high-quality finished products to customers in a timely manner.  Mark Caudle, Shop foreman explains it this way, “Our machine operators save at least 12 hours per week by importing the PCF files directly into PypeServer Enterprise. Based on that, I figure we’re saving about $35,000 per year in labor for each machine.  Add on time saved with the new O-let functionality, and there’s tens of thousands more in labor costs saved.”

Leading contractors have improved the value of their pipe cutting machines by integrating them into a larger model-to-fabrication-to-assembly workflow.

The integration of a pipe cutting machine into the model-to-fabrication-to-assembly workflow has become a game changer for leading contractors like A&R Mechanical, Silicon Valley Mechanical, W.E. Bowers, and Strategic Mechanical, among others. This approach has helped contractors deliver projects faster while also improving profit margins. By optimizing the prefabrication process, contractors are able to expand their business into new lines of work, making them more competitive and efficient than ever before. To learn more, head to our case studies and discover how newfound prefabrication capabilities can improve your bottom line and help your business grow.

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Since 2010 PypeServer has been the industry leader in machine automation for industrial cutting. 

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