Established in 1981, Cheatham and Associates, P.A. is a consulting engineering firm providing plumbing, mechanical, and electrical engineering and design services. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, Cheatham serves municipal, state, federal, institutional, commercial and industrial clients on a full spectrum of projects. A family oriented company with a strong reputation for exceptional service and integrity, Cheatham offers planning, design and construction administration capabilities built on superior experience and a client-centered approach.
Mark A. Ciarrocca, P.E., joined Cheatham ten years ago to start its electrical engineering group. “I had been using Design Master Electrical before I joined Cheatham,” Mr. Ciarrocca recalls. “The first thing I did when I started here was bring in Design Master, and we’ve never looked back.”
Cheatham currently has four Design Master Electrical licenses and uses the product on virtually all of its electrical projects. “We’re all enthusiastic users of Design Master Electrical,” continues Mr. Ciarrocca. "When starting to use new software, you often experience initial reluctance from staff, and I think we probably experienced that for a short period. But now I believe my guys are the biggest fans of Design Master."
“I need to work through a function and double-verify it before using it. I don’t assume it works like the vendor says it works. We’ve done the extra work to verify that Design Master’s calculations match what we’d have done ourselves,” Mr. Ciarrocca adds.
“The great benefit of Design Master for us is the huge amount of time it saves,” Mr. Ciarrocca explains. “For example, it’s so much easier to do load calculations and complete panel schedules. That can be a tedious process, but Design Master just knocks it out instantaneously.”
“Time-to-value is also really good with Design Master. In just a couple of days new users can get relevant work done.
“The program’s an extreme time-saver—but not at the expense of accuracy. You can do a lot of things to save time in this business. But maintaining accuracy and reducing errors on every project is key for us at Cheatham. Design Master gives us both,” Mr. Ciarrocca asserts.
Mr. Ciarrocca continues: “Another great benefit of Design Master Electrical is its ability to create master schedules for devices and fixtures. This makes it much easier for us to establish and maintain company standards, and ensures consistency from project to project.
“A high degree of standardization is very helpful to both us and our clients, especially when we do repeat business with the same client. For example, our staff knows on every project what light fixture type ‘A2’ means, without needing to look at a set of drawings. We’ve similarly created standards for outlets, switches and so forth.
“In the old days, somebody might add a symbol to a drawing that would never make it into the legend. Then you’d get a call from a contractor out in the field asking, 'What the heck is this?' because that symbol wasn’t defined anywhere. Now those kinds of mistakes don’t happen, which means fewer calls from the field and more time saved for the contractors and for us.
“There’s an upfront investment in time to build standards and master schedules,” Mr. Ciarrocca acknowledges. “But you get that back ten times, twenty times… I don’t know how many times, down the road.”
“The responsiveness of Design Master’s tech support is top-notch,” observes Mr. Ciarrocca. “They listen to what engineers are saying and asking about, and they’re making a serious effort to help us do our jobs. The response and support we get when we run into issues—I don’t think I’ve ever seen any company top that.”
“I could tell you some things that might prompt Design Master to raise their seat subscription price,” jokes Mr. Ciarrocca. “For us the software is a great value. The first big project we implemented with Design Master probably saved us 8 to 10 years worth of our subscription cost.
“I’ve read in some of your customer stories how some other Design Master users don’t want their competitors to know about the software. I’m not out there advertising Design Master to my competitors; that’s for sure. But if somebody asks me how we do what we do, I’ll explain truthfully what it does for us.
“Design Master undoubtedly gives us a competitive edge,” Mr. Ciarrocca concludes.