Faster and better metal buildings with 3D
Schulte details metal buildings 50% faster using the MBS to Tekla link
A pioneer in pre-engineered metal buildings and member of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association, Schulte Building Systems Inc. has an insatiable drive for innovation. After making the move to 3D and robotic welding, Schulte is designing, detailing, costing and fabricating complex metal buildings more accurately and in less time than ever before.
Demand for pre-engineered metal buildings is on the rise and it’s easy to see why. Compared to conventional construction, pre-engineered metal building projects are completed much faster and deliver high value-to-cost, are sustainable and resilient, and require less maintenance. To take on more complex projects and meet demand in a fast-paced industry, Schulte began to look at advances in technology that could pave the way for long-term growth. “We see 3D modeling, robotic welding and other robotic applications as the future of our industry and instrumental in our success,” said Tim Sanchez, business systems manager at Schulte. In 2019, Schulte purchased a robotic welding system. Before Schulte fabricators could start using the system, they needed a BIM solution that could provide constructible data to drive the robot.
This was Schulte’s first foray into 3D modeling. Since opening its doors the company has used purpose-built Metal Building Software (MBS) to design, detail and draft steel framed buildings – in 2D. MBS has been instrumental in Schulte’s rapid growth, allowing the company to process structures in a fraction of the time, without hand or CAD editing.
“MBS is an integral part of our business and plays a role in every phase of our projects, so we needed a BIM solution that would integrate well with MBS and allow us to progress from 2D to 3D without slowing down our work,” said Matt Stone, vice president of sales.
Schulte discovered a new exclusive link between MBS and Tekla Structures, Trimble’s BIM solution, and was ready to give it a try. “The link was exactly what we were looking for, so it seemed almost too good to be true,” said Sanchez. “After the demo, we immediately knew that Tekla Structures was the direction we wanted to go in.”
Detailing projects faster, with more accuracy in 3D
The MBS-Tekla link allows Schulte to begin a project in MBS and then transfer the detailed structure, including all of the model objects that were designed and detailed in MBS, to Tekla Structures. The import includes custom profiles and shapes, all plates, welds, bolts and sheeting. Within minutes, Schulte can go from 2D to a constructible 3D Tekla Structures model and finish detailing the project.
With clients looking for more sophisticated metal buildings, designs are becoming increasingly unique and complex. The link has been a tremendous time-saver for Schulte and will allow the company to meet demand and complete complex projects with the same speed. “With the ability to move seamlessly from MBS to Tekla Structures, and work in 3D, we’re detailing projects 50-60% faster,” said Daniel Midkiff, BIM detailer.
“With the ability to move seamlessly from MBS to Tekla Structures, and work in 3D, we’re detailing projects 50-60% faster.”
- Daniel Midkiff, BIM detailer.
Working in 3D also helps Schulte spot issues earlier in the process, especially on projects with complex features such as hips and valleys or multiple building tie-ins. “In Tekla Structures, it’s easy to spot a connection that isn’t going to work,” said Midkiff. “One of the first times that we used the MBS-Tekla link on a project, we could see the structure’s hips and valleys weren’t lining up and were able to use the model to help our customer visualize the issue. This allowed us to resolve the problem before it turned into a costly error. We couldn’t have done this in 2D.”
“In Tekla Structures, it’s easy to spot a connection that isn’t going to work."
In addition to the time Schulte is saving in detailing, the accuracy of the 3D model has also simplified the review process and led to fewer technical and fabrication errors. “When we were working in 2D, a person would draw the model and another person would check it for accuracy,” said Midkiff. “For every five hours of detailing, we budgeted two hours of checking. Working from an accurate 3D model has allowed us to cut this review time roughly in half.”
In the past, when an engineer made changes to a design, such as adding a beam or member, it could require hours to update the erection drawings, shipping list and shop details. This was a cumbersome, manual process that increased the potential for costly errors. “With everything rolled into one Tekla Structures model, we can go into the model, lay the beam, add the connections and it automatically becomes part of the existing structure,” said Midkiff. “We don’t need to do the math to make sure everything will fit because we know it’s right. This saves us time because we avoid hand calculations and don’t need to make changes in three different places.”
Using 3D models in the sales process for a competitive advantage
Although the robotic welding system was the original reason Schulte embraced BIM, the company first started using 3D Tekla Structures models during the sales process.
Schulte uses Trimble Connect, a collaboration platform for viewing, reviewing and referencing Tekla models, drawings and other project data. With Trimble Connect, Schulte’s district managers and sales teams can send customers a link to the model so they can walk through it together and ensure expectations are aligned with the visual representation of the project.
“Within minutes to an hour, we can create a project in MBS, pull it into Tekla Structures and put a 3D model in front of a potential customer who can then visualize what it will look like when completed,” said Stone. “The ability to come to the table with a 3D model has opened up new areas of business and made us more competitive to the point that we’re winning more work.”
Attracting a new generation of skilled workers
As the construction industry’s workforce ages, Schulte hopes the ability to work in 3D will attract young workers to the company. At the same time, technology can help close the skills gap between workers with decades of experience in the field and a younger generation whose experience is almost entirely digital.
“We see 3D modeling, robotic welding and other robotic applications as the future of our industry and instrumental in our success.” - Tim Sanchez, business systems manager at Schulte.
“The generation nearing retirement has done the majority of their work in 2D and has a level of experience that allows them to, for example, read a set of plans and visualize what something will look like in a 3D environment,” said Stone. “Young professionals don’t usually have on the ground experience. They expect to work in a digital environment because that’s how they were trained. Many of the college graduates that pursue careers in construction tend to seek out larger companies. We’re hoping our use of technology will make Schulte an attractive option.”
With an eye on innovation and fearless adoption of technology, Schulte is taking on more complex projects without compromising quality or speed. The ability to meet growing demand for more sophisticated metal buildings is helping Schulte outperform the competition and setting the company up for long-term increases in profitability and growth.
Founded in 2005 by one of metal construction’s pioneers, Schulte Building Systems is an accredited manufacturer of pre-engineered metal buildings, steel framing systems and building components. The company has grown at an astonishing rate, delivering as many as 1,900 high-quality metal building projects per year. Today, Schulte Building Systems has 630 employees across three locations.
Schulte Building Systems is a member of the Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA).