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HDR Building, Omaha, Nebraska. Photo courtesy of PVS Structures

Integrated Innovation: PVS Structures Powers Shop Automation with SDS2

The Challenge

As technological advancements push the structural steel fabrication industry forward, fabricators like PVS Structures must continually adapt and improve, balancing everyday reliability in their tools and processes with innovation and advancement.

The Solution

PVS Structures maintain their competitive edge—and status as one of the top industrial fabricators in the US—through digitalization and automation, integrating state-of-the-art precision equipment like the Zeman robotic welder with the automated design capabilities of SDS2’s 3D steel detailing software.  

Benefits of SDS2

  • Fabrication-driven set-up options drive adaptability and flexibility in fabrication plans
  • Seamless integration with Zeman robotic welder improves overall efficiency, accuracy, and throughput
  • Using an all-encompassing detailing software with automated connection design streamlines operations, drives collaboration, and helps deliver daily success


Leading Through Digitalization

With a history stretching back to 1885, PVS Structures—first founded in Omaha, NE, as Paxton & Vierling Iron Works—has a long-standing reputation for quality and reliability in the structural steel fabrication industry. But they’re not about to ride on the coattails of yesterday. As a company committed to continuous quality improvement, striving for data-driven improvements in efficiency, effectiveness, and flexibility, their sights are set on today—and tomorrow.

To stay on the leading edge of an evolving industry, PVS Structures has turned to automation and digitalization, leveraging precision equipment in their shop and the streamlined design capabilities of SDS2 Detailing.

“The industry as a whole is moving more towards electronics, robots, and digital drawing,” said Mike Marian, project engineer at PVS Structures. “People want things built faster and cheaper all the time.”


Automated connection design streamlines fabrication

One investment PVS Structures has made is in the Zeman robotic welder. Paired with SDS2 Detailing solutions, the robot is changing the way they do connection design.

“The old adage in the shop was that bolted connections are always better,” Marian said, but since implementing the Zeman, they have been working in more welded connections like shear tabs, angles, base plates, cap plates, and gusset plates.

The fabrication-driven set-up options available in SDS2 help them take the automation to the next level. Most other detailing software solutions would require them to manually update the connections when the fabrication plans change. SDS2 helps fabricators stay nimble by handling changes like this automatically, making it easy to change and update plans, even in the middle of the job.

"We can tell in real time if the connections will work, and we can cater the connections to what goes best in our shop. Since we’ve integrated SDS2 with the Zeman robot, we’ve seen a lot of increases in efficiency in our overall throughput. We’re able to take on more projects, get more work through our shop, and get work through our shop faster."

Mike Marian, Project Engineer, PVS Structures

They might, for example, design bolted connections for a project that’s intended for their main bay with manual fitters and welders. If plans change and they move the project to their automated bay with the Zeman, Marian said, they can shift towards welded connections “at a whim.”

“We can tell in real time if the connections will work,” Marian said, “and we can cater the connections to what goes best in our shop. Since we’ve integrated SDS2 with the Zeman robot, we’ve seen a lot of increases in efficiency in our overall throughput. We’re able to take on more projects, get more work through our shop, and get work through our shop faster. SDS2 integrates directly to our’s a seamless plugin.”

It is also—and more importantly—reliable. As an “always paranoid” project engineer, Marian said he likes to double-check the automated calculations, which SDS2 provides. “It’s always right,” he said.

Being able to deliver the calculations and a clear, visual model to the engineers and general contractors makes for seamless communication and approval processes—another major factor in PVS Structures’ ability to quickly adapt and optimize fabrication.


Capitalizing on the right opportunities

A streamlined process enables PVS to consistently deliver on projects small and large all around the world, but first they must secure project bids. SDS2 can help users capitalize on the right opportunities—and walk away from the wrong ones.   

It enables fabricators like PVS to take on BIM coordination and clash detection, which Marian said more and more projects are asking for. 

It also helps them draft more accurate bids. “If we can rough in the model in SDS2,” Marian said, “we can do a better material takeoff and get a better idea of what a structure actually looks like.”

“And not only winning projects,” he added. “It helps us stay out of projects we don’t want.” Particularly when dealing with a backlog, they can use SDS2 to help formulate estimates and go after projects with the highest profit margins.  

Among PVS Structures’ recent portfolio of the “right projects” is the global headquarters building for HDR, an architecture and engineering firm in Omaha, NE. The project was featured in the March 2020 issue of Modern Steel Construction magazine.  

SDS2 helped them work through difficult connections required for the building’s complex geometry, particularly the SidePlate® connections, which had never before been implemented in Nebraska.

“Being able to have the SidePlate connection already in SDS2 really sped the detailing along,” Marian said. “It helped to familiarize our shop, the engineer, and even the erector with that connection.”


The all-in-one solution driving daily success

PVS Structures has been using SDS2 since 1988. The software has become ingrained in their daily operations, used for everything from estimating jobs to sharing models with customers. 

“We use it for everything we do—estimating, detailing, BIM, fabrication, connection design, feeding our automated shop equipment,” Marian said. “Honestly, it would be tough to say what our workflow would be like without SDS2.” 

From the shop to the construction site, SDS2 saves them time and costs. “I definitely see cost savings in the connection design, fewer questions coming from the shop floor,” Marian said. “But especially when it gets to the field, they know it’s going to fit.”   

“A good detailing program and good details lead to good fabricated parts at the end of the day.” 

PVS Structures also prefers to work with businesses and subcontractors who use SDS2. Marian estimated that 95 percent of the subcontractors they go to use SDS2. 

While he has used other detailing software solutions before, Marian said he prefers SDS2 because it is the only solution that includes connection design. When connections are designed in another program before being implemented into the detailing model, Marian said, it adds time and introduces opportunities for error to the process. 

“I really like that SDS2 is an all-encompassing program,” Marian said. “You do the connection design as you’re going, and you know it’s going to be dependable. It’s hard to imagine anybody selecting another detailing solution that doesn’t excel in that.”