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Taking it to the Next Level

By Giancarlo La Giorgia

A materials supplier is the backbone of any home builder’s business. They can either facilitate the production process by saving builders time and money or simply be a source of constant headaches.
The effective use of cutting-edge tools is one factor that can separate the best from the rest, putting the growing number of Canadian suppliers using Weyerhaeuser’s iLevel structural framing software ahead of the game.
iLevel’s suite of computer programs provide suppliers with advanced structural design and product selection tools to identify the most resource-efficient, cost-effective, and appropriate materials necessary to create a strong structural frame, without overbuilding.
“With our Javelin structural framing program, users can create a 3-D model house, specifying materials and tracking vertical loads from ridge to foundation and then walk through the entire structure before a single frame is installed,” says Tim Debelius, iLevel’s software tools and e-business marketing manager.
According to Debelius, iLevel’s suite of structural framing software offer materials dealers and fabricators three key advantages over the competition. The first is a greater efficiency and productivity. With Javelin, a design team will be able to reduce turnaround time and process materials faster. The second is a better optimization of the structural frame by reducing waste, increasing precision and ensuring members are properly distributed. The third is a more accurate design plan. By virtually showing builders how the final product will look and even predicting how floors will feel, iLevel creates more realistic expectations among its users.
One of the program’s key features is its ability to process the attributes of each design object, both individually and as a whole.
“Each component ‘knows’ how it relates to all the others, so if you make a change in one place, the material list and all the elevations are updated automatically,” says Debelius. “The program calculates almost instantaneously how the load has been shifted throughout the structure.”
It also takes some of the guesswork out of floor construction by allowing designers to accurately predict a floor’s feel underfoot with iLevel’s TJ-Pro Rating system. This evaluates the combined effects of TJI joists, spacing, floor decking and attachment methods to efficiently produce squeak-free floors. Javelin can also save designers time by rapidly converting joists to beams or vice-versa, rather than deleting and redrawing the framing members, as well as allowing easy material list and framing diagram printing.
“Javelin allows a client to troubleshoot a design without requiring a draftsman looking it over and its 3-D rendering is good enough that changes can be done on-the-fly,” says Allan Yucoco, engineering manager for Trail Building Supplies in Edmonton, Alberta, who has been using iLevel software since 2005.

Efficient Cuts Equal Savings
Once modelling of a structure is completed, Javelin can output its material list to Stellar, an automated material cutting and handling software for greater productivity.
“In fact, you can export multiple Javelin projects to Stellar at once to get the most out of your materials inventory,” says Debelius.
Batching jobs creates more efficient production runs and makes better use of excess material, which can be added back to inventory or automatically cut into blocking panels. Stellar software also produces paper instructions for crews to load and stack the saw output for better material processing.
Yucoco points out that Javelin and its companion applications produce better designs more quickly while using fewer materials — something builders appreciate.
“One of our biggest customers used to give half his business to our main competitor. Since we upgraded and streamlined our facilities, we’ve become his only supplier,” he says.

Not Without Growing Pains
If there’s a downside to all this it’s the time commitment required by iLevel clients to learn how to use the software.
“We assign each new user a local representative for a 30-day training period, followed by a three-day intensive learning process at our headquarters in Denver, Colorado, and finally a two-month follow-up,” says Debelius, noting that the cost of training is included in the price of the software, which he estimates is under $1,500 per user, per year.
Yucoco concedes that his staff’s productivity went down for several months after completing their iLevel training, but eventually ramped up to the point that he was able to cut his design team from eight to six people.
“I’d say there’s a 12- to 18-month learning curve, but the significant savings in design work make it worth the investment. Once your team gets used to the streamlined workflow it pays for itself — the savings on just one house should cover the licensing fee,” he says.

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