Preferred Engineering, PLLC offers consulting electrical engineering services to architects, contractors, facility managers and building owners. Based in Lewisville, NC, Preferred Engineering is a one-person firm owned and operated by Greg Mulholland, PE.
Mr. Mulholland purchased Design Master Electrical immediately upon starting his business in 2011, having heard about the software at a large regional architectural firm where he’d been Director of Engineering. “My former position had evolved to be mostly managerial, so my CAD skills were a little rusty,” Mr. Mulholland recalls. “Literally the next day after I left that job I had a project to work on. I got a trial copy of Design Master Electrical and went through their tutorial and was designing faster than ever in no time.”
“Design Master paid for itself on that very first project,” adds Mr. Mulholland. “A yearly license costs less than one day’s worth of my time, and it easily saved me more than that—so for the rest of that first year I felt like the software was free.”
“For the longest time I’d been thinking that somebody ought to be able to automate what I call ‘rule-based’ engineering work,” explains Mr. Mulholland. “There are certain things that are the same on any project. The wiring and conduit size for a 400-amp feeder is always the same, for example. Likewise, the conductor properties of #4 copper wire don’t vary from project to project.
“Rather than me having to look those figures up in a code book and punch them into a spreadsheet, why couldn’t software automatically input the right information, so I could save time, avoid errors and focus on the creative aspects of engineering design? That’s one of the big things Design Master does for us—and the time savings are huge,” emphasizes Mr. Mulholland.
“Design Master not only makes mundane engineering tasks easier, but it also simplifies and automates a lot of the CAD work that goes along with design,” Mr. Mulholland relates. “When you insert a symbol it automatically comes in on the right layer at the right scale… When you have to do all that manually it’s time-consuming and often you make mistakes.
“Straight out of the box, Design Master produces attractive drawings. But it also allows you to easily make your drawings look the way they’ve always looked.
“Design Master is just a more efficient and accurate way to produce engineering drawings. I’ve seen some of the other so-called engineering software out there and most of those packages are just drafting aids, whereas Design Master is actually an engineering tool—it helps us with aspects of our engineering work that those other programs basically just ignore.
“For example, as you ‘draft’ in Design Master, the software is keeping track of all sorts of information ‘in the background’… things like voltage drop and fault current. You don’t even have to think about those things; the software ‘knows’ where panels and other equipment are. By clicking a couple of buttons you can tabulate all sorts of information in a matter of seconds. That sort of work could take hours or days, depending on the size of the project, if you had to do it manually. And as changes come along, all that information updates automatically,” reiterates Mr. Mulholland.
Mr. Muholland continues: “Another thing I love about Design Master is you can click a couple of buttons and print out a materials list. I do a lot of design/build work with contractors and it costs me no time to include these takeoffs along with my drawings.
“For things like quantities of light fixtures, switches and receptacles the data should be highly accurate, because Design Master is tracking all that information in its database. At the very least it can serve as a check against the builder’s own counts.
“I know the contractors I work with find these takeoffs a big benefit and time-saver,” Mr. Mulholland clarifies. “This is something very valuable I can give my customers, with no extra effort, that my competitors can’t.”
“Design Master is very intuitive to learn and use,” offers Mr. Mulholland. “But anytime you get into a bind you can give the support guys a call or shoot them a quick email and they immediately respond and get you straightened out. These guys are engineers themselves, so when you call with a question they speak the same language and can understand the issue you’re calling about.”
“I’m a one-man show, so I don’t have time to waste trying to figure things out or wait on replies from people. It’s great to get that support when you need it,” Mr. Mulholland says.
“Design Master offers an annual user conference where you can obtain intensive, hands-on training from the people that wrote and maintain the software,” Mr. Mulholland states. “I’ve attended one conference and found it to be very beneficial. I plan to attend future conferences.”
“Thanks to Design Master I’ve been able to undertake projects that otherwise I’d have no business doing,” laughs Mr. Mulholland. “In the old days we would’ve had several folks from the engineering staff on them for months.
“These are large, complicated projects with very short schedules and lots of changes during design—Design Master really helps address all of those issues. Without the software there’s no way I could’ve completed some of them by myself,” asserts Mr. Mulholland. “I can’t imagine even trying…”
“Using Design Master, I don’t get bogged down in all the minutiae of doing ‘CAD’ work,” Mr. Mulholland reflects. “When you have an idea in your head you can put that on paper quickly and easily, and move on to the next thing. You don’t have to put your creative process on hold while you figure out how to do something in AutoCAD.
“Design Master almost makes my work fun,” Mr. Mulholland concludes.