Engineering Express® is all about solving seemingly impossible engineering challenges, and bringing the highest engineering standard at affordable costs with lightning speed to those in need. It’s how we got our name and how we’re able to bring the best engineering service to Sandy damage victims in New York and New Jersey.
We just passed our 100th inspection across affected areas and gearing up to send our 5th specialty team into action. Our reports are far more comprehensive and of greater depth than any others we’ve seen, and our fees are extremely competitive (especially for a firm based in Florida). The biggest question we’ve been getting when speaking to clients is how we are able to do such extensive, knowledgeable work at such low fees and so quickly? I realized that what we do here is worth an explanation of how our team of engineers and technology experts are able to accomplish such a feat. Enjoy the tour ‘behind the curtain’…
First, A Look Back
The immediate need at the time was the thousands of screened patio enclosures that were blown away and in need of repairs. A seemingly impossible task at the time, Engineering Express rose to the occasion by implementing state of the art technology at the time and invented a web based system to allow contractors to pre-engineer enclosures of many kinds. With an ‘OK to Proceed’ after an acceptable pre-design, the information was digitally transmitted to the office for immediate formal design and processing. Our online machines even performed the required site specific drawings, making it possible to accurately engineer structures in minutes instead of hours. We received national attention for our innovative use of our software. Try one of our machines for yourself in our Time Capsule. This was to be the beginning of many more years of technological advancements for the firm.[hr_shadow]
Fast Forward to Sandy
So here we are in a new era of iPads, cloud computing, and amazing, fast technology at our fingertips. The challenge: How to utilize today’s technology to cost effectively deploy our engineering services to those in need a thousand miles away in the Northeast? With over 20 very talented engineers, programmers, system specialists, and experienced field personnel in our think tank, the answer would not be far behind. Here’s a summary:
1) Use The Cloud
The first thing we did is build a completely new office structure in the cloud for completely mobile computing. A new cost center complete with its own cloud accounting, project management, and file storage was meticulously researched, rated, and approved for the task and brought online in record time. This allowed us to completely break free from the office and be truly mobile, any answer, any time.
As with any properly and defensible procedure, creating an inspection protocol not only to allow multiple teams gather uniform data, but also allow home base to process the data in many ways, as well as assist in litigation if ever the need arises. Uniform, digital data allows us to create location-based grouped profiles of damage down to the street level, allowing us to scientifically comment if needed during follow up testimony on wind and flood damage to houses based on similar debris fields in the area. Data is collected and can be reported by wind direction, similar product types, roof types, building age and construction type, and numerous other data fields. With an abundance of data being collected by Engineering Express, this information is invaluable in assisting homeowners document and justify data and perhaps the most critical reason to have us assist you and tap into this massive and fast growing pool of scientific data on Sandy.
Sandy hits on the dawn of lightning fast iPad minis coming to market converging with our custom written applications to assist collecting and instantly distributing data to the cloud and over to the office, technicians, and staff waiting to process it. In the photo to the right, Chen Leow, EI uses the iPad’s voice recognition engine to enter data through an earpiece and microphone into our form collection system. This also comes in handy in the frigid cold weather, allowing inspection teams to document data without the difficulty of typing. Data collected also includes photo numbers taken by another team member to converge report data with critical images. The below explains even further benefits of this carefully designed data input architecture.
4) Stay In Constant Connection
Inspection Teams are never disconnected from the office and teams of engineers and experts to help assess and discuss damage items in real time. The data collected on the iPads instantly appear on large TV screens in the office as well as inspector location, job route, and the status of every job. Facetime video conferencing allows real time directing and viewing of inspection work as it is happening. The photo to the right is a screen shot of an actual conversation with Chen while he was deployed to affected areas (Sandy Team 3).
5) The Secret Ingredient: Automation & Light Speed Report Preparation
This is the piece that allowed us to make this project possible. Think about it; for Florida experts to be able to help in New York in New Jersey, costs include air flights, rental cars, lodging, as well as coordination, research, and project review. We still need to be cost effective to those in need. Up until now, just laying out the reports in their basic format (our reports are over 25 pages of site specific, detailed content) used to take hours of billable time. Formatting headers, inserting photos, writing commentary and inspector notes for over 100 damage inspection items was an expensive and unavoidable line item for all of our work – until now.
Our innovations allow us to save our clients significant money and time by automating these taxing processes. Thanks to (Sandy Team 5 member) Gabriel Saslafsky, a custom program was written to transfer digital field data and photographs to a formatted first report draft. This allows the reviewing engineer to focus on what’s most important, the content, and streamline time on each project to a fraction of what it used to be and bring our exemplary work into very competitive range. This first ever sneak peek of this technology illustrates the technical end of our expertise and how our reports are initially assembled in minutes rather than hours. The program even sends us a text message when it’s finished!
Shine The Light and Share
The ‘old’ philosophy among consulting engineers as my mentors used to teach me was to keep your ‘stock in trade’ a secret, never letting the competition in on your proprietary work. It’s been the position of Engineering Express to make the project about our exemplary service, years of expertise, and in getting what you give. By posting over 40 web calculators online over the years, we have attracted bigger clients, and helped us innovate our own products and spin-off companies like our patented CAT-5 Hurricane Net and our nationally acclaimed Building Product Approval Database ApprovalZOOM.com. These projects came from our sharing and learning, and our continued philosophy that we are here for the betterment of our profession and advancement of our industry. From that good things follow.
We’ve recently received a request from another firm to license our technology to them and even prepare the draft reports for their engineers. I expect more to follow, and we couldn’t be happier to contribute such valuable tools to our industry and yield the fruits from our hard work as we help others. Now that’s advancing engineering, and the passion that drives us is combining this technology with those in need. It’s why Engineering Express continues to excel. Get ready for our next wave of innovations as we stay at the pinnacle of our field to help the rebuilding after Sandy’s damage, monitor repair work, and follow up with the continuing effects to Sandy victims and the growing need for proper engineering and most importantly, proper building product use across the Northeast.