Adopt a Model-to-Fabrication Workflow without Breaking the Bank…Or the Shop
March 28, 2024
Written by PypeServer

What is a Model-to-Fabrication Workflow and Why Should You Care?

A model-to-fabrication workflow means sending CAD or BIM assemblies straight to your various fabrication tools using an internet connection. This eliminates manual data entry and minimizes the use of paper fabrication sheets, cut lists and weld logs, all while eliminating file management headaches. It also makes it easier to get model information onto your part labels, all while enabling real-time fabrication status tracking and increasing communication between your VDC, fab shop, and field teams.

Implementing a model-to-fabrication workflow isn’t difficult if you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Resist the urge to go all-in with an expensive and complicated solution from the start. Instead, focus on the basics:

  1. getting parts and assemblies from the model to the cloud for fabrication and tracking
  2. designing labels that have all the information needed by your assembly and field teams
  3. connecting as many fab stations to the workflow as you can: automated saws and linear positioners, pipe profilers, robotic welders, and especially manual tools

Once you’ve got the basics working you’ll be able to make a much better assessment of what else you might need or want. However, even a simple model-to-fabrication workflow will produce significant labor and material savings right away.

Start Small

Even though we recommend eventually connecting as many tools to the workflow as possible, it should be done at a measured pace. A low-risk way to get started is with just one or two manual stations. For example, Therma started in a small satellite shop in South San Francisco, paying monthly for PypeServer Lyte on a manual copper station. Their initial investment was just $75 but it included all of PypeServer’s Revit and AutoCAD plug-ins plus our Cloud service, so they could test out the workflow and make sure it did what they needed before making a bigger commitment.

Once the proof of concept was validated, they expanded to a hanger station built around a portaband with a computer tablet running Lyte. Almost immediately, Therma realized a 20% savings on labor and a 5% savings on materials, which covered the cost of the software very quickly.

Scale Up

Therma’s success implementing a model-to-fabrication workflow in their satellite shop led them to roll out the same process within their larger fab shop in San Jose, California and helped them justify the purchase of a fully automated copper cutting station. Along the way, PypeServer’s Customer success team was there to assist with setting up the software on new stations and adding specific features that Therma needed. Therma’s Mike Chandler put it this way, “The copper machine we integrated with PypeServer Lyte is cutting so fast that the guys can’t keep up with it.”

Therma’s South San Francisco portaband-based hanger station running PypeServer Lyte on a tablet with a label printer.

Avoid Software Lock-In and Tool Lock-Out

Choosing the right software and tools are critical decisions for a fab shop. When you’re evaluating CAD, BIM, or workflow software, look for solutions that offers an Application Programmer Interface (API). An API makes it much easier for third parties to interact with the software over the internet or via plug-ins. The existence of an API is a good sign but be sure the vendor uses their API for their own software’s critical functions and not just for third-party integrations. If not, they may treat their API as an afterthought and fail to maintain it. By extension, try to assess whether the vendor treats third-party integrations as a necessary evil rather than valuable way to meet their customers’ needs.

When evaluating an automated fabrication tool, try to determine if its built-in software can easily communicate with model-to-fabrication workflow software. Of course, you can and should contact the workflow software vendors you’re considering to see if the tool is compatible. That said, it’s a good sign if the tool has its own API or some other internet-enabled means of getting fabrication data. Even if the tool just has a QR scanner to accept programming instructions, it’ll likely be easier to integrate than one that uses only computer flat files. Be leery of machine vendors with their own cloud and fabrication tracking solutions, as they often have little ability to integrate with software other than the manufacturer’s own.

PypeServer takes a “collaborate with all” approach to integration with third-party software and tools. Our CAD and BIM plug-ins and Cloud service are bundled free of charge with our tool control software and have full API integrations with the other major modeling and fabrication workflow software solutions. This lets you get started with PypeServer’s own very affordable workflow solution and later implement other fabrication solutions as your operation evolves. On the tool side, we collaborate with a large and ever-increasing number of manufacturers. You can find the most up-to-date list at our website.

PypeServer is Simple, Powerful, and Affordable

PypeServer has purpose-built our model-to-fabrication workflow software to target the most important features of the fabrication workflow. This streamlined approach keeps things simple, which helps ensure success. By design, we integrate with your current tools and software to keep your operation moving even as you implement a model-to-fabrication workflow.
Whether you’ve got a CAD-based workflow you want to cloud-enable, are moving from CAD to Revit, or are already on Revit, PypeServer has the solutions that can take your business to the next level.

The #1 industrial cutting software on the market.

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

Learn why more than 150 satisfied customers choose PypeServer software to run their shop floors.

Schedule a Product Demo Today!

Learn how PypeServer software works across multiple machine brands and with a variety of CAD and BIM tools to streamline the way your fabrication shop floor works.

Have some questions?  Talk with sales today!  +1 425 333 7736