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H+W Engineering

El Cajon, CA

May 2023


H+W Engineering Says “Yes” to Design Master

H+W Engineering was formed in early 2017 when Bryan Wayne, PE, joined forces with the founder of Harmon & Associates, mechanical engineer Tom Harmon, PE. Their firm has experienced significant growth in the last six years; “we’ve got about 50 people that work here,” Bryan estimates. And with projects that include commercial TI, life science, data centers, hospitality, and multifamily dwellings, they stay busy. “We’re doing something right,” he says.

The H+W Engineering electrical department first purchased Design Master Electrical for AutoCAD in 2019 to evaluate its effectiveness, then ramped up its use in early 2022. “We started to use Design Master [beyond evaluating it] about a year ago, and now we’re trying to use it exclusively for everything. Our goal is to be 100% Design Master in both CAD and Revit by [2023].”

Advocacy to Adoption

“I’ve known about Design Master for a very long time, but personally, I’ve always been kinda old-school,” Bryan explains. “I had a template in Excel for everything. … But they’re all just separate, they don’t interact together. So if you make a change in your panel schedule, it doesn’t have any effect on your fault current or voltage drop.” He elaborates: “You’d have AutoCAD and Excel open, then you type in the Excel file, then you’ve gotta insert your Excel file into the drawing, and it was all manual. And you’d be checking, ‘how far away is this, what’s the voltage drop over here, how’s this gonna work?’ Before, we were using a table for voltage drop that would reference the load and wire size, and you’d have to look it up.” Fortunately for him and his team, “now we don’t have to do that. Design Master just tells you, ‘okay, this is what it is.’ I don’t have to be looking at three different things to work it out.” He also recalls having to rely on still more disconnected programs to perform photometrics: “We had to do egress photometrics in Visual or AGI or something like that and import them in. We would use several programs to do all this stuff. Now we just use one. We have one thing for everything, and that makes it a lot easier.” He concludes, “Our old processes have kind of gone the way of the dinosaur; they’re being archived because they’re not as efficient as Design Master is.”

Bryan’s resistance to change was eventually outweighed by the advocacy of team members with previous Design Master experience. “I’d known Design Master does all those things, where if you make a change in one thing, it updates everything; I’d just been kinda set in my ways and had my process,” he explains. “But then there were people in the office who’d worked with Design Master previously, and they were making the push to transition. I was all for it; I just needed a couple people to sort of take the reins. So, basically, we had one team of people working together in Design Master, getting the standards and getting it going, then they started training everybody else. They got us to where we needed to be.” He recalls how having these advocates in the company also eased the transition: “We actually had formal Design Master training where I had a couple of our Design Master gurus go train the other teams. We’d do two-hour training blocks, y’know, specifically for lighting photometrics, and another training specifically for circuiting and panel schedules. But you don’t start really learning until you start doing it. Once people started doing it, they started picking it up and moving with it.” By his recollection, it typically took about a month “for somebody to transition from knowing nothing about Design Master to being able to operate independently. We’d do some training, we’d give them a project, they’d start doing the project, and they’d come back to the guru and ask questions.” He remarks, “We all know the initial setup takes longer with Design Master, but once it’s set up, then it’s faster.”

Once they started using Design Master, it rapidly snowballed into an integral part of the company workflow. “As soon as I saw the results,” Bryan says, “we’re like, ‘okay, we need to get this across to everybody.’ And then we went [from five people] to 20. Basically everybody on the electrical side is on Design Master. Everybody is up to speed on Design Master, all of our systems and operations are set up to run Design Master, and it’s helping save time for sure.” When asked if anything made him hesitant to adopt the software fully, he responded, “The biggest hesitation was the server.”

Investing in Long-term Success

“One of the issues was we were using Box as our server, and you can’t have two people in the same file at the same time,” Bryan clarifies. “All of our data was in the cloud, which worked really well for us during COVID. We were already set up in Box, everybody had laptops. So when COVID happened, we said, ‘everybody just take your laptop and go home.’ There was a seamless transition for people to work at home.” He continues: “That’s actually one of the things that helped us grow because we had no downtime in transitioning to working remotely. People would come to us like, ‘hey, what’s your plan for working remote?’ [Pause] ‘We’re gonna keep doing what we’ve been doing.’” As we point out in our knowledge base, making Design Master work with a remote network infrastructure can be tricky. “Eventually, the answer was, ‘let’s get a physical server with a cloud backup, so we can all remotely connect to the server, then everybody can work on the same files at the same time,’” Bryan recalls. “So we actually have invested in a new physical server that’s backed up on the cloud. That’s been a big step for us, transitioning into having a central server everyone can VPN into. And that’s helping us because then multiple people can work on the same Design Master file at once.” He adds, “It took an investment to get it going, but in the long run, it’s gonna be saving us a significant amount of time.”

Beyond the time and money investment to acquire and install the server, Bryan also recalls upgrading the company laptops and running HVAC to the server room, among other complications. But he felt the headache was worth it, explaining, “The catalyst to really make it happen was the time-saving. I saw people working on projects independently with Design Master, and they were succeeding and starting to do things faster and having Design Master do everything. As soon as I saw that, I’m like, ‘okay, we’ve gotta pull the trigger, we’ve gotta get this done, we’ve gotta transition everybody.’ I knew that was the way we should go.” He continues: “It’s always tough transitioning from one thing to another, getting everybody to transition that way, especially with all the technology upgrades we had to make. But I saw the investment that we’re making now is gonna save us a bunch of time in the future, and it already has started to. Now that we have all this stuff dialed in, there’s probably 25% time-saving per project versus the other way using multiple systems.”

“As a business owner, you never wanna say ‘no.’ If you tell somebody you’re too busy or you can’t meet this deadline, they’re gonna go to somebody else and may not come back. Design Master is helping us say ‘yes’ more.”
Bryan Wayne, PE

More Time Saved, Fewer Headaches

Bringing the discussion to the present, Bryan says, “So far, we’ve been using it for circuiting, voltage drop, fault current, and egress photometrics. We haven’t really taken it further than that. I know there are more features, but we haven’t gotten there yet.” Even though he admits they aren’t leveraging everything the software offers, what features they use have already made a big difference. “You add an outlet, it updates the panel schedule, load summary, voltage drop, and fault current all at once,” he explains. “You don’t have to go back and, y’know, ‘what’s this gonna do here and there?’ It just does it all the way through.” He adds, “If we would add loads to a panel before, you gotta add the loads on the panel, then you’ve gotta make sure it’s connected to this panel upstream, then make sure it’s connected to this up here, oh, the load changed here so I’ve gotta update the voltage drop and fault current calcs. With Design Master, you only have to update one thing.”

Bryan says some of their projects span a hundred sheets and can have up to five people working on them simultaneously, which makes Design Master’s automation especially helpful. “With multifamily housing, there could be 100 to 400 units,” he says. “So let’s say it’s a project with 400 panels. Trying to do voltage drop and fault current on that many panels is pretty challenging using Excel. Sometimes we would do worst-case for all the panels, sometimes we would do it in SKM and that becomes very complicated. So, in general, it really saves a lot of time when you have lots and lots of panels. Because once you build the tree, you can have 400 buses a lot easier in Design Master versus 400 buses in SKM or Excel.”

Thanks to the time and effort saved by these features, Bryan and his team can devote more time to other aspects of the project. “The quality of our work is going up because these things are being simplified,” he says. “It’s definitely making sure we have voltage drop and fault current done properly. Not that we weren’t doing it right before, it was just more work. Because we’re saving time here, we have more time to spend doing other things like quality control.” As a result, he says, “We’re saving time on our projects, and now we can do more work faster. We can take on more stuff and get more things done in the same amount of time with less headaches. We’re not saying ‘no’ as much. As a business owner, you never wanna say ‘no.’ If you tell somebody you’re too busy or you can’t meet this deadline, they’re gonna go to somebody else and may not come back. Design Master is helping us say ‘yes’ more.”

“The App for Electrical Design”

Had his company not adopted Design Master, Bryan says, “We’d have to work with AutoCAD, plus the Excel files, plus we’d have some lookup tables.” He adds, “Design Master streamlines that to just using Design Master for all those things. I don’t know how anybody else does it.” He acknowledges that Revit includes electrical design tools, but it leaves much to be desired: “Revit has their own built-in system that we don’t really like. That’s why we’re using Design Master [Electrical RT] on top of it, because we don’t really prefer how the electrical systems for Revit work.” Because they have Design Master to fill in the gaps in Revit’s electrical workflow, he remarks, “it’s making people want to use Revit more. People didn’t wanna use Revit because the internal design tools were no good; now people are like, ‘oh, I wanna use Revit with Design Master,’ and that’s helping us.”

“We wanna buy the best tool available to do the job, and Design Master is the best tool for us,” Bryan says. “Just like there’s apps for everything now, Design Master is the app for electrical design. Any consulting engineering firm like ours would benefit from it.”