Words: Jeremy Douglas, CSI, CCPR, is the Director of Architectural Services for Hohmann & Barnard
Photos: Hohmann & Barnard
American writer Joseph Krutch once said, “Technology made large populations possible; large populations now make technology indispensable.” I don’t think there’s any arguing that concept, especially in today’s digital work environment. We depend on technology for process management, communication, information gathering and all other aspects of our professional world. Every business now relies upon ever-transformative technology, which is often industry-specific. Whether through speed or process changes, or physical equipment, we are now truly integrated with the technologies we use.
Hohmann & Barnard’s leadership understood that technology is key for daily business, and industries that do not embrace technology and utilize it effectively will be left behind. Even in an industry so seemingly old – but timeless – as masonry, technology must be respected. If you had told me when I entered this industry 20 years ago that I would see a robot laying brick across a wall, and doing it well, I would have walked away thinking you were out of your mind! But here we are in 2020, and we have all seen that robot. It begs the question, “What else is there?” Hohmann & Barnard decided to rise to this challenge and develop a suite of software tools to usher in the next level of technology for our industry.
Ironically, in order to develop useful technology, one must abandon technology. Flashback to winter 2018, when after deliberating many years about taking on this project, Hohmann & Barnard fully invested in a mission to create a series of tools for the professionals in masonry construction – primarily, mason contractors, architects, engineering consultants, and general contractors. In the beginning, we didn’t have a clear vision for what those tools would look like, or what they would accomplish, so we resorted to good old-fashioned legwork.
This meant that a fact-finding mission would be critical to discover exactly which technologies the masonry construction industry would find useful, and actually use. As a result, we created a research team to travel across the country, conducting numerous face-to-face conversations with industry professionals to drill down and discern where the day-to-day pain points in their jobs existed. This vital information would become the seed that would grow into a plan for developing software solutions to help eliminate those pain points.
To clarify, Hohmann & Barnard, founded in 1933, is primarily known, internationally, as a leading manufacturer of masonry anchors, waterproofing materials and other specialized masonry products. We may not necessarily be seen as an expert or a provider in the world of software and technology. So why spend the time and effort in that arena?
Synergy and expertise
Fortunately, a synergy exists that connects the dots between Hohmann & Barnard and MiTek, an international construction products entity, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, who, in 2008, became our corporate parent. You probably know MiTek for their roofing truss connector plates. What you might not realize is that MiTek is a diversified global supplier of software, engineered products, services and automated manufacturing equipment to the building industry. Their success with trusses and connector plates is very much driven by software. In fact, the software allows MiTek to review and approve truss designs instantly using certified engineering calculations. After finishing our nation-wide research mission, our synergy with MiTek allowed us to quickly build an expert software development team with real experience in the construction industry. Software developers, software engineers, quality analysts, project managers, and database developers, oh my!
We decided to use the software development power provided by MiTek to speed up time-consuming job functions. It’s no secret that preparing bids for a job, or identifying all the costs for a job, is unpaid time. That led us to making the focus of our new suite of software products, ProWall Tools, now with an Estimating tool built specifically for the mason contractor, to be a tool that drastically reduces waste of that unpaid time.
In just minutes, our new, easy-to-use and -learn Estimating tool will give the mason contractor an accurate estimate of the job. All the mason contractor needs to do is follow a simple and easy-to-learn process, which consists of loading their plan, scaling their drawing, and drawing shapes to determine square footage and the size of openings. With a single click, you can access your company’s custom catalog as well as the Hohmann & Barnard product catalog to select items for every aspect of the job. ProWall Tools even goes one step further, by allowing the drawing to be associated with the take-off sheet. This allows waste factors, quantities and total cost to be calculated right on the screen.
Will your project have a change? Of course it will! No problem, and no need to start over. With ProWall Tools, we realize that change happens. We built in the ability to swap out the old page with the new page and keep all the shapes that you have already created. You can slide your shapes to overlay on the new page, and you can modify your shape to match the new drawing, if they don’t exactly line up.
We’re excited about the Estimating tool, because it’s our latest release (and there are more to come!), but we can’t forget about the other amazing tools ProWall has to offer: Submittal Portal and Wall Compatibility. The Submittal Portal, our first release, allows users to create submittal packages of H&B products as fast as 10 times faster than standard methods. You can select all the H&B products for your project on one page and generate a report that features: submittal sheets, images, LEED, SDS and CAD details with a push of a button. The Wall Compatibility tool allows you to check against your local code and instantly generate a certificate showing that all of your selected products are completely compatible.
Why we’re different
Two things make our software significantly different from other options. As a company, Hohmann & Barnard decided that we had the expertise through MiTek to make this happen. We combined our deep software engineering capabilities with our masonry wall system expertise to create the perfect software for the mason contractor. The list of benefits is extensive and impressive.
Second, we decided to make this tool available to users free of charge. This is amazing, considering the cost of just one of the currently available estimating software licenses on the market today. With the deep knowledge and understanding of masonry wall systems combined with our access to software development, we saw an opportunity to create a game changer for the industry. It’s our way of giving back to an industry that has built our country’s backbone for hundreds of years.
Benefits of ProWall Tools
- It’s free. Hohmann & Barnard is Powered by MiTek®, so we harnessed that power, along with our access to seasoned software experts who could work with our team to create the product. We can help the mason contractor do his job better, which is better for the entire industry. It’s an overall win-win.
- User-friendly, intuitive product. Our web-based software means that your plans are stored in our cloud, and available to you from anywhere you have an internet connection. Because we focused specifically on the mason contractor, ProWall Tools has all the features you need, and none that you don’t.
- Create submittal packages 10 times faster. No more scanning, printing, copying, pasting and formatting text to show the details of every item selected for use in a building. With ProWall Tools, the submittal package is compiled quickly and easily.
- System compatibility. Code compliance is built into our software, so incorrect configurations will be flagged.
- Generate LEED reports. New buildings are often required to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. We can quickly provide the information required to complete the required documentation to win LEED certification, which may help the architect win the job.
- Create system compatibility certificates. With Prowall Tools, developing a certificate of compatibility is a mouse click away, saving hours of often-confusing product research.
Getting started is easy. Visit https://prowall.h-b.com, and register. You could be creating wall estimates, and generating compatibility certificates and submittal packages, in a matter of minutes. Our software comes with a Knowledge Base of help videos, and guidance is at your fingertips when you Submit a Request or simply email one of our software experts.
User-tested and approved
ProWall Tools is already proving to be beneficial in the industry. “I really appreciate the rule-based calculation approach that Hohmann & Barnard has taken to wall assemblies,” says Rick Ruppert, manager of architectural services with Dormakaba. “You’re not only getting a pragmatic run through, there’s actually a visual element, encapsulating questions about compatibility or code compliance. The fact that it’s online completes the entire circle and makes it easy.”
Ruppert also appreciates the ability of ProWall Tools to break down the details of the masonry wall. “When we talk about masonry construction, there are many complexities that go well beyond what we see on the outside,” he says. “We have the veneer face, but that’s just the face of the performance that’s necessary behind the wall. Hohmann & Barnard has done an incredible job of putting that together into a comprehensive and understandable format.”
We at Hohmann & Barnard and MiTek are anxious for you to try our software, and we’re looking forward to your feedback. Visit our booth at World of Concrete (C3019) for demonstrations and tutorials of the software. We are committed to the success and continued improvement of ProWall Tools for the long haul, for the sake of our entire industry.
Jeremy Douglas, CSI, CCPR, is the Director of Architectural Services for Hohmann & Barnard, H-B.com. Jeremy serves as the primary technical resource to the design community and is a national speaker and technical resource on the subjects of moisture control, building envelope systems, reinforcing and anchoring, and masonry restoration.