Digital Fitting Input Tool saves contractors money, time

Technology brings fitting design to digital arena; paper drawings thing of the past

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Change is good, especially when it leads to better business. Contractors are finding, in fact, the change technology has brought to the unionized sheet metal industry helps them save money and make their project designers and fabricators more efficient.

The Fitting Input Tool (FIT), introduced to the industry via the Benchmark building information modeling software, is an example of how sheet metal project designers have moved from paper drawings and messengers to three-dimensional computer images and electronic delivery.

The FIT software allows a designer to input the appropriate measurements and check all the angles before it’s sent to the fabrication shop for creation.

Ralph Aguiar, mechanical, electrical and plumbing coordinator and building information modeling designer at Preferred Heating and AC, Inc. in Southern California, takes his FIT tool on the road. Because the process is electronic, communication with the shop is consistent and instantaneous. The software allows Aguiar to manipulate the drawings into a format fabrication shops can read easily.

When drawings were created by hand, errors were far more common, Aguiar said.

“I had problems where the fabrication shop would call me back to ask questions,” he said. “There was a loss of time there. Now, I’m doing it right off my CAD drawing. I’ve been able to knock it out a lot quicker, and they haven’t given me any problems.”

Dan Beyersdorf, project coordinator and designer at U.S. Sheet Metal in Saginaw, Mich., uses his FIT in house. The company receives paper drawings or measurements from other contractors in the area, and Beyersdorf uses FIT to digitize the process. Once measurements are in the system, a three-dimensional electronic model is created, allowing Beyersdorf to tell if the measurements are correct and the fitting is exact. Before, many errors weren’t realized until the piece was burned on the table and finished.

“If you mean to push ‘12’ and you hit another ‘2,’ so instead you type in ‘122,’ you can see it instead of sending it to burn and wasting $100 on metal,” he said. “Not all programs have that. It saves a lot of money.”

FIT was created by the International Training Institute (ITI) to help contractors and workers make the best of their time. ITI is the education arm of the unionized sheet metal and air conditioning industry. Unionized sheet metal workers in good standing can register and complete the online course for free by visiting www.sheetmetal-iti.org. Once the course is completed successfully and the designer becomes certified, he or she can download the software to use at work.

“FIT eliminates all the do-overs and mistakes of the past. FIT is the most cost-effective avenue, because the designer knows exactly what he’s getting the first time,” said Mike Harris, program administrator for ITI. “If the job is close by, the design can go from the screen to the table and burn within a matter of minutes. Before, the process took time. FIT cuts that time and gives it back to the contractor.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association (SMWIA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Alexandria, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI or the FIT online course and software, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

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