Get in the Fast Lane with a Digital Templating Solution
By Dan Peter, edited by Sarah Peiper
Whether it’s the labor shortage, supply chain ramifications, capacity or operational costs, businesses face all kinds of uphill battles when it comes to creating growth opportunities or even just keeping up with demand. With advancements in technology, there are certainly a few ways you can make your operations more efficient, increase profitability and up your capacity by allowing you to complete more jobs per week or even expand your services. The emergence of digital templating and fabrication offers a host of solutions that can keep you ahead of the game.
The average kitchen (60 square feet) can take an hour or more to template by hand depending on the complexity of the job. With a digital templating system, you can template the same kitchen in about half the time. Create cut-ready digital files in the field, email them back to the shop and move on to your next job. Slick, right? Productivity soars and you’ve just solved for at least some of the labor shortage you may be facing. No need for ladders or scaffolding to access hard-to-reach areas. Point-and-click templating from a single location reduces operator fatigue and risk of injury, too.
There’s also a cost savings to be had. Manual templating requires an ongoing budget on materials such as luan, coraplast, glue, staples and more. A digital solution will help you template, fabricate and install correctly the first time (no remakes!) without the need for a lot of these materials. And let’s not forget the sustainability we’re all looking to achieve — this means less waste for the landfill, too. You can reduce gas consumption, emissions and your overall carbon footprint with the use of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars due to the compact design of digital templating systems and the elimination of cumbersome physical templates.
Tackle Complex Jobs with Ease
With a digital templating solution, you can let the software solve complex problems for you. It makes it easy to template curves, arches and other complicated designs, as well as capture imperfections and contours of walls for accurate measurements and installs. Select from several DXF files of sinks, outlets and more to add to your template. You can even add new DXF files to build your library. If there is no DXF file available, template it digitally — no problem.
Expand your business beyond countertops. Now you can template vertical or complex applications such as full-height backsplashes, fireplaces, windows, showers, balustrades, stairs and more.
Streamline Your Workflow
A lot of solutions will include the ability to create estimates, shop sheets, customer signoffs, contracts, saw pages, slab layouts and jobsite photos into one complete package that keeps all job information together. Eliminate paperwork, filing systems and other outdated processes and stay on top of the job with one comprehensive dashboard.
Making the Leap to Digital
You’re interested, but where do you start? Digital templating is the first step in the transition to becoming a fully digital shop, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. While there is an investment to be made when going digital, the increased revenue and operational cost savings provide a quick return on investment. Often providers will offer flexible financing options, so the investment can be affordable.
There’s an entry point to a digital workflow for every kind of shop. All it takes is a first step: an open mind on how you might do things differently and the promise of how your business can benefit from the transition. Because once you have a digital templating system in place, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the leap sooner.
The good news is you don’t have to make an entire sweep of change all at once. You can transition to digital at your own pace. For example, you can start by combining with a vinyl plotter as a first step to becoming more efficient and profitable at templating before going fully digital. Some software will allow you to import your templated file into the plotter and print out a vinyl template to arrange on a slab for manual fabrication. Mastering this part of the process makes the transition to a full digital process with a CNC easier.
What does the digital templating process look like? Here are some points of interest that just might convince you to make the transition:
—Existing cabinets or countertops do not have to be cleared or removed. Just set up your laser, select your line color, then point and shoot the cabinets. Use the auto-fillet feature to automatically connect corners as you shoot.
—Switch your line color to template walls and centerlines. Scribe walls to capture imperfections or intricate wall designs for accurate installation. Add centerline locations for sinks and other items, too.
—Calculate for overhangs, edge profiles and backsplashes with ease. What edge profile and how much overhang does the customer want? What height does the backsplash need to be? Enter the information into the program, including multiple profiles, and simply tap the corresponding sides to add to the countertop template. Need to do a full-height backsplash? Switch to a vertical plane and template the walls, no problem.
—Sinks and seams are a no-brainer. Remember the centerlines you added? Select the sink from a drop-in library or include a custom sink. Tap on those centerlines to add them. You can also add and identify seam locations.
—Separate seams made easy. Begin file prep for fabrication by separating the sections that will need to be fabricated. Sections will be separated by seam location along with the sections that were templated individually.
—Slab layout is a snap. With the separated sections, you can use the slab layout function to lay out and move each piece on a virtual slab for optimal slab usage. Just enter the slab size into the program and lay out the sections.
—Shop sheet and dimensions at the touch of a button. Easily pull up dimensions and square footage (segmented by type) for reference and estimates.
—Cross-functionality with CNC saws, yes please. If you have a CNC or are looking to purchase one, create a saw page that can output fabrication-ready files. With a fully digital operation, you can import your templated file into your CNC and let it do the rest.
—Generate estimates on the fly. Since it’s all customizable, estimates are based on your pricing structure, so everything is automatically calculated as you template.
—Go paperless. Estimates, photos, signoffs and email are at your fingertips. Take job site photos and include them with the template files, estimates and customer signoffs in one comprehensive file and email it back to the shop for fabrication.
Going digital doesn’t have to be a daunting move, from both a technical and fiscal perspective. The same fundamentals and experience from manual templating still apply with digital; they’re just executed in a different and more efficient way.
With continued labor challenges, rising material costs, and a high level of construction and remodeling activity, the evolution of your company to digital can help you grow and sustain your business now and down the road.
About the Author
Dan Peter is a senior marketing manager for Laser Products Industries, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on how you can make the switch to digital, visit www.laserproductsus.com.