Bang for your buck

Hardscape Profit Builder - Hardscape Profit Builder

You may not being getting most of your design software.

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June 12, 2017
Katie Tuttle

© vectorplusb | Thinkstock

Whether you’re making the leap from hand drawing to software, or simply switching from one brand to another, Phil Ogilby, CEO of Stack, says it’s important that once you make a commitment to a design software, you stick to it.

“The tendency is when they run into something they don’t know how to do … a lot of times folks will move back to what they used to do, he says.”

David Sloan, marketing director at Drafix, says you need to make sure you and the relevant team members are trained on it, similar to how your crews would be trained on the in-field equipment you use.

“It’s a tool just like anything else, he says. “It just needs to be used properly.”

In-action use.

One technological advancement people may not realize is available is in-field use of the software.

“What I hear from a lot of contractors is they’re using new technologies in their designs,” Sloan says. He means things such as Google Earth and drones.

“It’s more difficult to start a design from scratch, and there’s other technologies that allow you to bring in plot plans or drone shots to calibrate images,” he says.

Make the sale.

Once you have your software, and understand how to use it, it’s important to also recognize how it can improve your sales presentations.

Finding a software that can work as a mobile application, allows you to use it on a tablet in the field.

“It gives him the ability to interface with the customer on site – being out there and doing a basic sketch, a basic drawing on site while walking around with the customer,” Sloan says.

Another technology that can impress clients is 3-D modeling.

“The integration of 3-D modeling really is the future of landscape software for presentation purposes, and something people are really starting to get into in a big way now – 3-D modeling with photo-realistic rendering,” says Joe Salemi, product marketing manager with Dynascape.

Salemi suggests landscapers look into 3-D rendering options now, because with things such as shows on HGTV, the ante has been upped on what homeowners expect out of their designs.

“Adding 3-D to your repertoire – to your toolbox – is really important,” he says. “It’s going to be the standard in three to four years, so if people don’t jump on that now, they’ll be left behind.”

Along with the design being impressive, accuracy is always key. Sloan says some of the design software products out there are created to properly know how to calculate how much material is needed for a specific space.

That helps you keep track of how much the design will cost to create, so homeowners aren’t surprised or given incorrect numbers.

Leveraging these options to your benefit comes down to what you and your crews know and understand of the software you’re using.

“No matter what they’re using, they need to be comfortable,” Sloan says. “Don’t just buy a piece of software and then not learn how to use it.”

An eye on updates.

You probably know when your favorite equipment companies update or release new lines of mowers or trimmers, but do you know when your software companies does?

One automation option Dynascape has added a tool that counts the symbols in the drawing, meaning the designer doesn’t have to go through and count by hand how many sprinkler heads need to be installed.

“It’s a tool that can detect a unique symbol,” he says.

The company has also worked to streamline the integration between the CAD software and SketchUp.

Design software allows a rendering to have the look of a hand drawn design, but can be finished faster than someone drawing it by hand.
Photo courtesy of Dynascape

“We thought about building our own 3D software,” Salemi says. However, research resulted in them realizing Sketch Up offers a solid program, regardless of industry.

So Dynascape shifted its focus and put a lot of effort into a request they’d received from people in the landscape design profession.

“They want a color-rendering plan that replicates what they do by hand,” he says. The updated software is “able to turn someone that’s not an artist into a landscape artist.”

Drafix Software upgraded PRO Landscape to version 23 this year. The company is also doing an asset purchase in 2016.

“Part of that is we added a lot of better images in our library,” Sloan says. “Normally the company adds around 1,000 new images to the system each year, but this year it tripled with 3,000.

Pro Landscape 23 has also been updated to work better with upgraded 4K monitors and Windows 10.

“Some of the newer monitors on laptops and desktops are 4K monitors, which is a higher resolution,” Sloan says. “Some older pieces of software have a harder time running on those.”

As far as design updates, Pro Landscape 23 users are now able to identify and color code zones for irrigation plans right in the design.

“Don’t just buy a piece of software and then not learn how to use it.” David Sloan, Drafix

Stack is actually a blueprint designing software, which is useful for commercial contractors, as well as multi-family areas.

A major update Stack did was move the whole design process to the cloud, making it mobile for users.

“It’s immensely convenient to a contractor,” Ogilby says. “They can use the software on Mac and PC, but can take it out in the field as well. As long as they’ve got access to the internet, they can do a blueprint measuring.”

When uploading drawings into the system, Stack also automatically names the files and renders the images so a 200-page PDF is displayed as thumbnails which are easy to look through for a specific page. The system also automatically counts items – for example sprinkler heads – so customers can see where they all are, and know how many are needed.

Stack is also set to roll out a new Excel add-in feature, which will populate an Excel sheet with all the data from the blueprint design.

“It (also) links the data, so later if they go back in and makes changes, those changes are updated the next time they open the Excel sheet,” Ogilby says.

With any software, you’ll want to make sure the updates will remain compatible with your system.

“Technology constantly changes,” Sloan says. “Find somebody who changes with it. It’ll cost money, but there’s value in it.”