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Bennett Steel increases production tenfold with truly connected steel fabrication management

Over four decades Bennett Steel has grown from a small erection company to an award-winning provider of steel erection and fabrication. The industry has evolved since the company began its operations in Northeast Oklahoma. Advances in steel management information systems and the ability to leverage truly constructible data, from estimating to erection, have made it possible for fabricators like Bennett Steel to transform their work, enabling collaboration and a continuous, real time flow of information throughout the project lifecycle.

Key to the company’s growth has been a willingness to try new processes and leverage technology to simplify workflows, reduce waste and increase collaboration across the projects. Bennett Steel was early to adopt fabrication management software and in 2015, after using the same product for 20 years, was excited for new features and ready to upgrade when a new version was released. 

”It didn’t take long for the company to realize the upgraded version wasn’t hitting the mark. Even after a full week implementation, no one in our organization knew how to use the software,” said Matt Bennett, vice president of Bennett Steel.

Bennett and his team began exploring other options. They discovered Tekla PowerFab, Trimble’s steel fabrication management software suite, and as Bennett recalls, the rest is history. “When we saw how Tekla PowerFab handled inventory and production control, we knew it would solve our problems and allow us to work with a continuous and real-time flow of information,” said Bennett. “Tekla PowerFab was a better fit for our organization and we haven’t looked back since.”

“When we saw how Tekla PowerFab handled inventory and production control, we knew it would solve our problems and allow us to work with a continuous and real-time flow of information.” 

Matt Bennett, vice president of Bennett Steel.

Easy to use and customize

After struggling with the usability of its previous software, the team at Bennett Steel was relieved that Tekla PowerFab was easy to use. “Tekla PowerFab didn’t come with the big learning curve you might expect,” said Bennett. “It was intuitive and simple. After a week-long implementation, everyone understood how to use it in their individual roles and was ready to get started.”

Bennett Steel also found the software was easy to customize. For example, the team created custom reports, exactly in the format they needed, from the thousands of different options that are available out of the box in Tekla PowerFab. “This system truly adapts to our company processes so we don’t have to change the way we work to use the it,” said Jeremy Dittman, production manager at Bennett Steel. “There was no need to use every functionality within PowerFab in order to get started. We chose which modules and functionalities we wanted to focus on first and expanded to others when we were ready.”

Although Bennett Steel began adopting the functionalities gradually, the company started seeing benefits of the system right away.

Detailed and organized project management

“Organizing and coordinating a new job used to take us four or five days, now it takes half a day.”

Jeremy Dittman, production manager, Bennett Steel

A key driver in the company’s decision to switch to Tekla PowerFab was the need for traceability. “With the previous software, getting to the information we needed was complex and provided zero traceability of inventory,” said Dittman. “PowerFab gives our production teams complete visibility and traceability of important project information such as drawing logs, transmittals, RFIs and change orders.”

“Our project managers write their RFIs and track change orders and invoicing in Tekla PowerFab,” said Dittman. “It’s easy for anyone on our team to quickly view and understand a change order without the need to check with someone else. By keeping all relevant project information in one central location, we eliminate inquiries and information flows freely to everyone involved.”

Real-time inventory control and tracking

Tekla PowerFab gives Bennett Steel detailed tracking of its entire inventory across all jobs and provides real-time updates as material is received and consumed. Items in inventory can be tracked by the job number using standard steel nomenclature and items for specific jobs can be reserved or returned to stock if they aren’t needed for a project.

“Hands down, Tekla PowerFab wins on inventory control,” said Dittman. “Before, we would spend an entire day looking for one piece of material because we didn't know if we really had it. Tekla PowerFab tells us exactly where a piece is located in the shop and who is working on it. Our managers have real-time visibility into the status of any load and our machine operators track what was cut and when, and the inventory is automatically updated.”

“You know exactly where your piece is in your shop, who's working on it, who inspected it and when it was done - it's all right there on the main screen.” 

Seamless data sharing from office to field and back

Bennett Steel also takes full advantage of Trimble Connect, a cloud-based platform within the Tekla PowerFab suite that allows project stakeholders to view and share constructible data and project information from anywhere, at any time. “Right away, Trimble Connect accelerated our workflows and made collaboration between the shop and the field seamless,” said Bennett. “Work that was once time consuming and manual is now done with the click of a button. It’s what we had been waiting for: a simple way to align our shop and field crews.”

Bennett Steel can upload models, erection drawings, shop drawings and other documentation to Trimble Connect for anyone on the team to view, review, reference or archive with revision history. It can be accessed in the shop, office or in the field by desktop, mobile and even with mixed reality devices. The platform helps Bennett Steel maintain control over changes thanks to constant collaboration, so costly rework caused by outdated information is an inconvenience of the past.

“Tekla PowerFab has made getting information from the office to both our fabrication shop and field crews much more efficient.”

“Our field foremen have access to Trimble Connect,” said Bennett. “All the information is available on their tablets. Field crews also report their progress on the go. They mark what they've erected that day and it automatically updates the model in a few seconds.

“Tekla PowerFab has increased our production tenfold within the shop and helped us work faster in the field,” shares Bennett. “Field crews represent the highest cost for our business and with Tekla PowerFab and Trimble Connect, our crews work more efficiently so our costs are lower and our projects are more profitable.”

Bennett Steel

Founded in 1980, Bennett Steel Fabrication, Inc. is an AISC certified fabricator and erector located in Sapulpa, OK. Its 65,000 square foot shop and fleet of 35 cranes ensure successful project delivery. Typical projects range from 200-1000 tons, with the biggest project at 6500 tons.

Learn more about Trimble's Complete Steel Management Software Suite: Tekla PowerFab