Improving Fabrication Shop Efficiency – Here’s the Problem
Many medium-sized and smaller MEP contractors want to improve the efficiency of their fab shop but aren’t quite sure how to do it, especially if they’ve already invested in automated machinery. Automation can increase the speed of fabrication but it tends to move the productivity bottleneck upstream due to inefficiencies in the transfer of data from the design model to the fab shop. In order to get the full benefit of automation, you need a model-to-fabrication workflow that allows your automated machinery to use information directly from the model, without the need for manual translation steps, and to make your machines do more with that information.
There are a number of different ways to achieve a model-to-fabrication workflow. Most solutions center around the use of Revit with add-on software that requires a complete overhaul of how your fab shop is run. The disruption, cost, and complexity of getting it all set up, not to mention the fear of making an expensive mistake, often causes companies to postpone implementation. Delay reduces competitiveness and increases vulnerability to the skilled labor shortage.
PypeServer has addressed this situation with software that makes it easy to transfer spool and part data directly from the model to the shop, automate the machines, label and track parts, get real-time job progress info, and collaborate with the field without having to radically change how your shop functions. With PypeServer, you can start automating your shop for as little as $150 a month with no contracts or lock-ins.
Start on the Shop Floor
The easiest first step towards a more efficient fab shop is to add software to your tools that connects to the model to eliminate the need for programming or manual entry of cut lists. The efficiency of any shop machine, even older ones and fully manual tools, can be greatly improved this way.
PypeServer’s Enterprise software for pipe profilers and Lyte software for positioners and saws integrate with every leading BIM and CAD package, including Revit®, Fabrication CADmep®, AutoCAD® Plant 3D® & MEP®, and Inventor® Tube and Pipe, as well as MSUITE®, STRATUS®, EVOLVE® Mechanical, Trimble® SysQue® and Connect2Fab®, Victaulic Tools®, and others. Even if you’re using a specialized CAD package that’s not listed above, our software’s ability to import standard data file formats like PCF, CSV, PSVR, and STEP give them broad compatibility.
Efficiency gains aren’t limited to data transfer from the model because the model isn’t necessarily structured for fabrication. Our Enterprise software for pipe profilers has sophisticated algorithms that analyze pipe intersections in the model to create the holes and end cuts that CAD and BIM programs don’t specify. Enterprise also includes powerful O-let hole creation features, advanced automated nesting capabilities including nesting into the machine’s dead zone to greatly reduce waste, and flexible label printing capabilities. Enterprise greatly increases the productivity of pipe profilers from Lincoln Electric®, HGG®, Machitech®, and now Lone Star Cutting Solutions®, whose machines are a great fit for small and medium-sized shops.
PypeServer’s low-cost Lyte software automates straight cuts in pipe, tube, strut, all-thread, copper, pvc, cast iron, rebar, lumber, and anything else you may need to cut with a saw or a snapper. Lyte controls tools from TigerStop®, RazorGage®, Scotchman®, and Kentucky Gauge®, with more brands on the way. Lyte can nest parts on one stick at a time to minimize waste or, if you’ve got lots of parts of the same length, it can bundle materials and cut multiple parts at once. With the click of one button, Lyte will analyze your cut list and tell you the optimal bundle size at every step of the job. Lyte also lets you avoid defects in your materials, prioritize different parts to be cut with higher or lower priority, and even interrupt large jobs to cut a few urgent one-off parts without losing your place in the larger job.
Both PypeServer Lyte and Enterprise are fully cloud-integrated so they work just as well with data from cloud-based design tools as they do with flat files. With the cloud you get the added benefit of real-time fabrication status updates via a web browser or directly in your design tool.
Use our free Connect plug-ins to link your CAD or BIM programs to your PypeServer-driven tools
The second piece of the model-to-fab workflow is making easy to get spools and parts out of your design model and down to the fab shop. This has traditionally been done by exporting a flat file in the design software’s native file format. The problem is that those file formats don’t always contain all the information needed to fabricate the part, particularly if you’re using Revit.
Fortunately, Revit’s functionality is easy to extend with add-on software. If you’re already using Revit add-ons like MSUITE®, STRATUS®, EVOLVE®, Trimble® SysQue® and Connect2Fab®, or Victaulic® Tools®, you’re ahead of the game because PypeServer software connects seamlessly to all of them
If you’re not using Revit, or if you are but you don’t have a need for these add-ons, or if you can’t justify their cost, PypeServer still has you covered. PypeServer’s own collection of plug-ins for Autodesk products is called Connect and includes Connect for Revit®, Connect for Fabrication CADmep®, Connect for AutoCAD® Plant3D® & MEP®, and Connect for Inventor® Tube and Pipe.
PypeServer Connect plug-ins makes it easy to select parts for fabrication directly in your model and send them to your PypeServer-driven tools either as flat files or via our Cloud service, whatever suits you best.
Best of all, if you’re using PypeServer Lyte or Enterprise then PypeServer Connect is absolutely free.
Use our free PypeServer Cloud service to send cut lists without file transfer hassles
File transfers work fine for getting cut lists to tools but they can be cumbersome and pose an IT security risk because you either need to setup a shared file folder with the machine or use USB sticks to transfer files manually. Internet cloud connections make it easier to transfer cut lists and bypass a lot of IT hassles but cloud services usually add cost and complexity. To deal with these issues, PypeServer developed its own easy-to-use Cloud service that we provide for free with both our Enterprise and Lyte software.
The PypeServer Cloud service is simple and fast. You can login directly from our Connect plug-ins and they’ll remember your credentials so you’ll stay logged in until you decide to log out. The same is true on the receiving end in Lyte and Enterprise.
PypeServer Cloud also lets you do a lot more than just send cut lists to tools. Both Enterprise and Lyte take advantage of Cloud to report real-time fabrication progress, which can be monitored using any web browser or directly within our Connect plug-ins. Cloud also lets you create projects and workgroups, so you can collaborate on work both within your organization and outside of it. And with the most recent updates to our Cloud service, we’ve also added the ability to direct specific jobs to specific machines, which can be a huge help if you have more than one machine that could cut a particular job.
Easy to setup, easy to grow, easy to evolve
PypeServer Lyte, Enterprise, Connect, and Cloud make it easy to set up a model-to-fabrication workflow from scratch. However, it’s important to know that PypeServer’s workflow solution is also designed to adapt as your shop evolves.
For example, if you’re currently designing in AutoCAD Fabrication CADmep with our Connect plug-in, you can move over to Revit with Connect for Revit and your fab shop workflow will stay the same.
Another example is if you’re using Revit with PypeServer Connect and Cloud and decide to bring in MSUITE®, STRATUS®, EVOLVE®, Trimble® SysQue®, or other add-ons. In that case, you can easily switch PypeServer Lyte and Enterprise over to connect to those add-ons and take full advantage of their native cloud data transfer, status tracking, and productivity monitoring abilities without a hitch or any added expense from PypeServer.
In short, PypeServer’s software and infrastructure has been designed to grow with your organization.