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McMillan Electric

San Francisco, CA

November 2022


Design Master Electrical RT Makes It Fast and Easy for McMillan Electric

McMillan Electric has offered electrical contracting services out of the Bay Area for nearly sixty years, growing to multiple offices and over a hundred employees. Dean Macy, PE, works in their Reno office as an electrical engineer. “I just got my PE, so I’m very new to the industry in general,” he explains. “I was a hardware design engineer for the last seven years, so this is new, but my family’s all construction industry, so it’s not like it was my first time seeing it.”

“We are all the way Revit,” Dean says of the company’s general workflow. “We don’t use any CAD software at all unless we’re working with another company that has CAD, then we just import it into our Revit model.” In early 2022, his office was looking for ways to expand its design capabilities beyond what Revit offers: “Our preconstruction BIM manager and I were trying a bunch of different software, trying to figure out what we wanna use for one-line diagrams, for arc-flash analysis, for voltage drop calculations.”

Seamless Integration

McMillan Electric still relies heavily on outside professionals for MEP design work, but is gradually building their own design team in Reno, which includes Dean. While researching design tools, he was particularly concerned about consistent information between the one-line and the Revit model; if they aren’t connected, he says, “there’s a large possibility of error.” Another concern was whether they could use their current device families: “That was our biggest concern. We have five years of families built within Revit. If we had to redesign these to work with the software, that was gonna be a real pain in the butt.”

Discussing his research methods, Dean says, “I went on Google and simply typed in ‘one-line diagram software’ was basically how I got started.” He liked the look of EasyPower, but determined that “we weren’t really in a place where we needed something of that size.” There were a few other Revit add-ins that “just didn’t do what we needed or wanted, that would’ve required us to do a little bit too much.” “We were about to make our decision,” he recalls, “then I found Design Master, and it was pretty incredible how it seamlessly involved all of them.”

Beyond the size of the Design Master Electrical RT feature set, Dean says he was also impressed with its simple integration. “It’s just incredible how easy it is to have Design Master layer on top of our projects and work with all of our families. It was really nice.” He remembers the expectation of having to finagle their families to work with whatever tools they adopted, but with Design Master, “It worked out of the box. It was pretty incredible. As long as you have the correct category within each family, Design Master will just do it on its own.”

Dean says he felt proficient with the software in less than a month, and that much of the learning curve was tackled in his first few hours when navigating the tutorial. “If it only takes you two or three hours to figure out a software,” he remarks, “it’s pretty well-made and user-friendly.” He also praises Design Master support for further smoothing the transition, citing long discussions over the program’s fault and arc-flash calculations. When dealing with other software companies, he says, “It was a nightmare working with them. It would take six months just to get a response.” But with Design Master, he continues, “Every single question that I had was easily answered. And it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let’s set something up two or three weeks from now,’ It was, ‘Let’s do this tomorrow.’ I’m sure I’ll have more support questions in the future, but I’m not afraid to ask them.”

One-Line Diagram in Minutes

At the time of interview, Dean had “just finished my first project, and I’m most thankful for how early I found Design Master. It’s just made things a lot easier.” Providing an example, he says, “We’re out of California, so we have to deal with Title 24 compliance. You have to report voltage drop with every design.” He appreciates the wealth of tools available to help with those calculations: “You can change whatever you have to whenever it comes to distances. It already adds that ten feet for the wires going up into the ceiling and coming back down, but you can change that if you have high ceilings.” He also mentions the ease with which he can change conduit materials and upsize wires when needed. Once those changes are made, he says, “It’s pretty easy to just click Calculate Whole Project and put that on your drawings.” For wire sizing, he also appreciates that he can generate a feeder schedule and display relevant shared parameters. “A beautiful thing I found was adding shared parameters from Design Master onto Revit’s panel schedules so you can call out wire sizes for specific things.”

“Nothing can stop humans from making small mistakes, but this does a pretty good job.”
Dean Macy, PE

So far, though, Dean is most thankful for the one-line diagram features, including the level of customization. “You can make it however you want; you can customize just about anything,” he says. “If you have to add a meter in front of a circuit breaker, or switch to a fused switch, it’s just a click.” Beyond the customization, he was also impressed with its efficiency. He explains that for projects that had already been designed and built, “I could create a one-line from those old projects immediately; I just open the project, open Design Master, and within twenty minutes, I have a full one-line.” For another project that included roughly twenty panels, he estimates the one-line “took me about an hour, and most of that time was just getting everything looking pretty. If I really wanted to, I could’ve jammed it out in ten minutes.” Thanks to the connection between the one-line diagram and the Revit model, he also found a misnamed panel in the project. “It could be very easy for me to leave that on a sheet and not see it,” he explains. “Once I type in the panel name, I’m done with it, you know?” He adds, jokingly, “Nothing can stop humans from making small mistakes, but this does a pretty good job.”

Dean has also noticed that using Design Master even provides benefits outside the design environment. “Design Master has definitely improved overall architectural interactions,” he says. “I have yet to find an architecture firm that doesn’t use Revit for its BOD model, and being able to stay within Revit with them has been extremely helpful.” He continues, “In regards to contractors, throwing together a one-line diagram for temporary power during construction has become a painless thirty-minute endeavor.”

A Must-Have Add-in

Dean considers it a stroke of luck that McMillan Electric has adopted Design Master in the early stages of building his department. Before drawing one-line diagrams in Design Master, he says, “we weren’t really doing anything. I’m very thankful we got Design Master right at the beginning; it just made it very easy to make that our standard.” He adds, “As we build our department, it’s gonna be nice to have everybody starting with Design Master and just staying within Revit.”

In his opinion, Dean remarks, “Revit is really starting to take over the market. It’s gonna be important to have these add-ins you can integrate with Revit.” To that end, he believes Design Master will be an essential tool for tomorrow’s electrical designers: “Engineering companies that do any type of Revit design should absolutely have it.”

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