Hiwassee Structural Products, a two-year-old building components supplier based in Chattanooga, Tenn., gets plans for roof trusses from architects, builders, and engineers in all kinds of forms, from electronic files to hand-drawn sketches.
“I can confidently say that 100 percent of the plans that come to us need some kind of work,” says Doug Beatty, the plant’s manager. That’s even more likely when builders customize homes with varying wall heights, which can complicate roof intersections.
About a year ago, Berkshire Hathaway’s MiTek USA business unit—whose SAPPHIRE suite of management tools runs Hiwassee’s operations—added a free new software tool called Viewer, which allows manufacturers to collaborate with their customers on house plans using shared 3D models.
Viewer is the latest advance in 3D technology for Chesterfield, Mo.–based MiTek, which started development on its SAPPHIRE products in 2001, and whose SAPPHIRE Structure software allows suppliers to use a single 3D model to manage their operations. (That product works with productivity modules that organize document workflow.)
Gregg Renner, MiTek’s vice president of marketing, tells Builder that Viewer primarily is used for review and confirmation of designs. Its pan, zoom, and scroll functions help users visualize how roof trusses fit onto the house’s wall structures. A roof truss package can have 75 pieces, and the software can show components assembled and disassembled, from different angles. “You can walk through the house and see how many nails are in each connector,” he says.