LAS VEGAS — If you were a first timer attending TSI’s user group meeting, it might have helped to keep a cheat sheet to help understand all the acronyms that flew around the Planet Hollywood casino-hotel Sept. 18-21.BIM, MEP, MAP, CAD, CAM, AEC, GPS, HVAC, COBie and BD.

But wading through all that alphabet soup was probably easy for most attendees of Technical Sales International’s 2012 user conference. Many have been attending the annual event for years — a fact noted by Jim Reis, TSI’s chief financial officer.

Attendance numbers were down a little bit compared with 2012 — about 450 versus 375 this year — but Reis is happy: TSI is still growing.

“We’ve been able to sustain growth through some pretty tough economies,” he said.

Reis was excited to announce the debut of Building Data SysQue or BD SysQue for short. The TSI-provided web-based service works with Revit MEP to bring what officials say is the largest, integrated mechanical, electrical and plumbing component database in North America.

It allows Revit MEP to model systems using real-world materials and sizes. And it uses manufacturer names and parts numbers.

With the system, building information modeling data can now include labor, materials, submittal documents and parts numbers directly from the building data “cloud,” officials said.

Moving fast

But the conference wasn’t just about introducing new products. TSI officials brought Laura Agla, a manager with TSI partner Autodesk Inc., to talk to attendees for the keynote address, “Embracing the Changing Building Environment Through the Lens of Autdesk” Sept. 18. 

The construction industry today is moving faster than ever, Agla said, but some things stay constant.

“Designing a building is still like telling a story,” she said. “Rapid change is becoming the norm.”

And while owners are starting to understand building information modeling’s value, “Building performance is something within this industry still undervalued,” she said. 

TSI also used the conference to showcase the experiences some of its customers have had using building information modeling and similar methods of project management as well as its products.

Born to ‘lean’

Among them was Tom Love, a senior estimator with Superior Mechanical in Birmingham, Ala. In his Sept. 19 presentation, “Born to be Lean,” Love said his company may not have picked the best time to embrace lean manufacturing.

“Our lean journey began in 2008,” he said, adding, “just as the economy was crashing.”

Making your company lean starts with a self-evaluation, Love said.

“The first thing you do in lean is identify your waste,” he said. “When you start down the lean path, guys, it’s not easy.”

The company looked at how workers spent their time, identifying when they’re doing unnecessary tasks. The company had to examine every function and commit to doing many things differently.

“There’s a lot of internal changing that has to go on,” he said. “You have got to question everything.”

Perhaps prematurely, the company attempted to implement lean practices on a project early in their transformation — with mixed results. They soon realized results would be slower than company officials might like.

Love told the business owners in the audience they might have to lower their expectations.

“You’re not going to make a ton of money on day one,” he said. But you have to persevere through the process.

“We’re here to change the game, guys,” Love said. “You may not call it ‘lean’ all the time, but we’re going to get the waste out.”

Among his recommendations:

•           Standardize practices.

•           Use just-in-time delivery so you are not stockpiling anything.

•           Be neater.

“Your shop has to stay clean,” Love said. “Organize your time so your workers aren’t looking for things, digging through that big toolbox.”

Also consider removing walled offices to foster better sharing of ideas among staffers. 

Love added that his company was successful using lean when they bid on a multimillion-dollar hospital project. Superior was able to boost its profit margins, thanks in part to lean.


Dave Pikey of the Chicago-based Hill Group was one of several people from the company who talked about their success with integrated project delivery during “Leveraging Technology with BIM and IPD” Sept. 20.

The company was a subcontractor on a central Illinois project that involved sheet metal, piping, plumbing and medical gas work.

Using integrated project delivery made the project run smoother, Pikey said. But Hill officials had to ensure the information they were given was correct.

“A lot of the installation instructions were tightened up,” Pikey said. “Wherever the data comes from, you really have to be careful.”

So far, Pikey said, the company has secured an estimated $58 million in IPD work. Owners are interested in finding out how contractors and subcontractors will use the latest technology on projects, he added.

“A lot of the success we’ve had… is showing how much technology we have integrated into our business model,” he said. “It’s taken years to ramp up.”

Integrated project delivery work is different from design-build, Pikey said.

“In this arena, you need to work with the designing engineers,” he said.

For reprints of this article, contact Renee Schuett at (248) 786-1661 or email



TSI names top innovator, contractor drawing

Technical Sales International took a few minutes during its Sept. 18-21 user group meeting to recognize two companies for their use of its products and that of partner Autodesk.

The company named mechanical pipe-joining systems Victaulic Innovator of the Year for its Virtual Truck Loading Software. The patent-pending software “nests” piping spools on trucks to make jobsite delivery more efficient.

TSI officials called it a major improvement to the design-to-fabrication process. The software works with Autodesk’s Fabrication CADmep 2013.

“The Virtual Truck Loading Software exemplifies the innovation made possible with TSI’s BIM (building information modeling) software offerings,” said Brian Gruel, Technical Sales International’s vice president of technology. “With this software, Victaulic has added an element to coordination and pre-planning and created new efficiencies that will be generated by extending BIM coordination further into the project life cycle.”

TSI said it hands out the award annually to customers that best represent commitment to building information modeling processes that use the full potential of TSI’s products. 

For Drawing of the Year, which is given to the contractor customer that best represents the use of BIM and Autodesk’s suite of fabrication products, there were five nominees: Josh Cravens of Lee Co., Jonathan March of Virtual Design & Construction, Chris Johnson with Limbach Co., Bob Kreidel of Murray Co., and Mike Danelius and Randy Strain of Metropolitan Mechanical Contractors Inc.

The award was given to Danelius and Strain for a BIM model of a University of Minnesota research laboratory.

TSI officials said Metropolitan used the on-site model for pre-fabrication and coordination, schedules and logistics. A “virtual crane” was used to schedule crane pickups of equipment, they added.