We introduced shapes and blocks for packages late last year and as I was writing the introductory blog post and documentation at that time I realized that I had omitted an important feature in the specification as it relates to wire pulls and decided to hold off on fully introducing this feature until we could resolve that issue in a future release.  Well SI 2017 is here and I am proud to be able to (re) introduce Shapes and Blocks for Packages v2 with the new ability to discount labor time in packages.  I will explain exactly how this works as it relates to wire pulls and how it can greatly simplify your drawings while making estimating more accurate.

In previous versions of SI we never had the ability to easily render a device package as a single shape or the ability to represent a package of wires as a single shape.  This was not too much of an issue on the schematic and elevation pages but the line and especially the plan pages can benefit from this new enhancement.

The use case that we created for this new feature was a company that installs a lot of structured wiring where multiple cables are run from a single headend/location to wall plates in the specific room where the wall plate can contain multiple products.  The best we could do in previous versions was to render a single device of the wall plate package and run all of the cables to the device so the reports would tie out.  It looked something like this where we would have three wires from a headend going to a wall plate.  Effective, but a little messy and more time consuming to set up and render.

This is what the Wire checklist connection report looks like for the drawing above.  Everything ties out as expected.

I think a cleaner, more appropriate way to view something like above would be a wall plate package and a device package designed to connect to each other to create a simpler drawing but still report out as if all of the individual wires were connected.  On the drawing we get something that looks like below.  I should note that you can now set up the packages to render a custom shape on the plan and line pages, as in the case below where I have selected a custom wall device (PAK-001) and a custom wire shape (PAK-002).

This is what each package consists of:

The connection reports for the packages render the same as if you connected each of the individual cables in the package to the device but instead of making three individual connections you just need to make one.  We created some new installation reports that reference the Package ID so the installer can easily reconcile which wires are needed as part of the package with the floor plans for the project.

One of the more interesting aspects of this new feature is that you can drag a package of wires on to the schematic page from the Project Editor and they will render as three separate wires with the appropriate wires ID numbers on that page.

Group Wire Labor Discount Factor

The next logical step in this process would be to introduce the concept of a group wire pull into SI.  The idea behind this concept is that pulling multiple wires from the same headend/location to the same device in another location should take less time than pulling the same wires individually.  Currently SI tracks labor for each wire in the run based on the length of the wire and the time it takes to run which can inflate labor costs in the project when multiplied by the number of wires in the specific run.

The first version of Shapes for Packages did not have the ability to discount, or more accurately factor labor time in the package.  We started the process with a simple price discount field but we realized that what was needed was a way to reduce actual labor time in the package, not just lower the price of the labor.  This turned out to be much more complicated to implement as factoring labor has many more touch points in the system than just adjusting price.

Let’s take a closer look at this feature.  In the new Package editor UI below we have a new Labor section in the lower right with three fields.  Hours, Factor and Net Hours.  The Hours field totals up the labor time for the individual items in the package for a reference.  The Factor field allows the user to increase or decrease the hours of the individual items in the package by a percentage and the Net Hours field gives the user the new labor total for the package.

The theory behind this feature in the case of multiple wire runs from the same location is that the software should take advantage of the labor savings when pulling multiple wires at once.   I do not have any hard and fast rules as to what this labor discount factor should be but this new UI lets the user clearly see what the adjusted labor hours are for this type of package.

I also learned a cool tip as I was documenting this feature that I want to make sure you are aware of.  Instead of assigning hedends to wires on drop for each wire you can now pre assign headends to specific wires in the package with this UI.  In general speaker wires go audio headends, Coax goes to CATV headends and Cat 6 goes to Network headends.  You just have to set these types of packages up with your company standards and you can bang out wire runs on the plan view in fractions of the time it used to take with more accuracy.

I hope you this new feature useful.  Please get back to us with any questions.

Happy Estimating!