Fabrication Pricing, Labor and Product Information

I have a lot of people ask how Pricing, Labor and Product Information (ProdInfo) works in Autodesk Fabrication. It’s a simple concept once you understand it. But it’s also rarely illustrated graphically so I’ll attempt a more graphical explanation here.

At it’s core Product Information requires the use of an ID, sometimes referred to as a Database ID. Pricing and Labor can be handled two separate ways depending how you need to price and labor your items. One of those ways is using Product Listed Pricing and/or Labor. When using Product Listed Prices or Labor, you also use an ID.

Generally speaking, 100% of your parts should have and ID. ID’s should also be unique without a very good reason for duplication. There are a couple good reasons to duplicate ID’s across content but we won’t get into that here. If this article is helpful to you, those reasons would only serve to complicate the issue at this point.


Product Information & Product Listed Prices & Labor

When you have an ID associated with your ITM content, that ID serves as the “Glue” to tie together all the other database tables in Autodesk Fabrication. An ITM with an ID, looks up that ID in the Product Information database to find the related product information. IT also does the same for Pricing, Fabrication Labor and Installation Labor.

The following images shows where the ID is stored in your ITM Content. For ITM’s which are NOT Product Listed, you simply type the ID into the “Code” field from the Properties window.

For Product Listed ITM’s, it’s handled slightly different. You add the ID column to the Product List and add the ID’s there. When you add a product listed ITM to your model or takeoff, the value of the ID for the size you select gets automatically placed in the “Code” property. When that ITM is merely sitting in your library on disk, the value here doesn’t matter. It can be blank or any one of the ones in the Product List. Adding the ITM to your model then updates it to the proper ID.


Product Information

Product Information or ProdInfo for short lists additional data about the fitting or item. The following image shows the related data in ProdInfo with the ID column outlined.

In addition to standard product information, you can also change to a Supplier view of ProdInfo where you can add additional columns for any other types of data or numbers you want to track. The following image shows some added data fields like UPC Code and Harrison HPH codes.


Pricing

The following image shows a Product Listed Pricing Table. The ID is outlined. Here’s where you can add pricing information to the ID of the ITM. Note, the term Product Listed Price here is a little confusing because “Product Listed” prices can apply to non-product listed ITM’s. While an ITM may not contain a “Product List“, the pricing table is still a “List of Products” that are referenced by ID.


Labor (Fabrication & Installation)

In the same way Price List’s work, Fabrication and Installation Labor work in a similar way. Product Listed labor can apply to any ITM, Product Listed or not as long as it has an ID. The following image shows Fabrication labor but Installation Labor works identically.


Breakpoint Pricing & Labor

A second way to specify Price and Labor doesn’t require ID’s because they’re not looked up from a list. These would be Breakpoint Price and Labor tables. With this type of Price or Labor table, you build a 1d or 2d Breakpoint Table that uses the part’s size as a guide to look up the proper price or labor rate in a matrix.


Price Breakpoint

The following image shows a Pricing Breakpoint table. You can make more than one breakpoint grid and have each apply to a different material if you have the need.


Labor (Fabrication & Installation) Breakpoint

Similar to a Price Breakpoint, you can make a matrix for Labor as well. With Labor Breakpoints, you can also make more than one matrix and have it apply to various properties of the item labor is being applied to like Insulated or Non-Insulated.


Finding the Right Price & Labor Tables

While all you need for ProdInfo is an ID on an ITM and matching ID entry in the ProdInfo Database, Price and Labor need an extra step.

Price and Labor can have multiple tables to help you organize the values or even manage the price for the same item from multiple suppliers. To handle this, you set the tables in the ITM properties. This is true for both Product Listed ITM’s as well as Non-Product Listed ITM’s.

Setting these tables tells Fabrication which table to look in to find either the ID or the Breakpoint table which uses size and property criteria to apply to the ITM.

The following image shows where those tables are configured in the Costing tab of the ITM properties.

M-Rate is were the Price of the material comes from. This is set typically for bought items where you pay a set price. If you leave this set to “None“, material pricing would be calculated on a “Price per Pound” formula based on the material weight. This is typically done for Fabricated Sheetmetal fittings where the weight of the Sheetmetal is calculated based on area and gauge and then priced per pound. For piping or bought items, this table would typically point to a table that contains the pricing.

F-Rate is where you select the Fabrication Table to use to look up the Breakpoint Table or ID if Product listed labor. This is most commonly set to “None” for Piping items or other bought items where you just buy them but don’t fabricate them. It’s usually set to a specific table for Sheetmetal fittings which you fabricate and want to calculate fabrication labor.

E-Rate – This table is for Installation Labor. The “E” in “E-Rate” stands for “Erection” if that helps you remember. This will be set for most contractors who are installing duct or piping. It would typically be set to “None” if you were a fabricator only selling to others who install.


Summary

Hopefully this helps give you an idea how pricing, labor and product information functions (at a high level) in Autodesk Fabrication. There’s a lot more strategy and nuance you can get into but this is a good place to start understanding the basics of how it all works.

ESTmep Cost Exposed in Revit

If you’re a user of ESTmep and Revit Fabrication parts, consider yourself warned. I’ve recently had some dialog with an industry colleague and the discussion of Cost data in Revit came up.

We know that that a Revit file which uses Fabrication Parts contains a copy of your Fabrication Configuration (Database). We also know that the Fabrication Extension for Revit now allows you to run reports. Those reports can also report on Cost data. That’s generally a good thing in most firms using ESTmep, exposing that Cost data to Revit users can be very helpful.

Now when you send someone your Revit model, they do NOT have access to your database (Unless you send that to them a well). Without your database, the Fabrication Add-In will not find the reports and the option is grayed out.

You also can’t change the configuration either because the drop down is disabled. They need your database to do anything….maybe.

So this sounds like we’re OK but let me assure you that’s not the case. Your database isn’t “available” to the person who had your Revit file but it is contained within the Revit file itself. And even though the Revit API’s don’t give you access to the costing data, it can be extracted.

I won’t go into details for the sake of security in our industry but rest assured, there is a process where as a user can extract your cost data. This includes being able to figure our your vendor pricing multipliers.

What To Do?

That leaves the question about what to do. Some may be familiar with the option in Edit Configuration that disables the storing of EST tables in DWG files. This has NO effect or control of Revit. Sure would be nice if it did nit that’s not the case.

So there’s really 2 options that I can see….

  1. Remove or Rename the COST.MAP, ETIMES.MAP, FTIMES.MAP and SUPPLIER.MAP tables from your database. These are where labor rates, times and costs are stored. Without these tables,, Revit can not store this information in the model. If you’re previously had a Revit model with this information saved, rename/remove the files and reload your configuration and the data will be removed. The down size is you’ll no longer be able to use ESTmep.
  2. Make a copy of your database without the COST.MAP, ETIMES.MAP, FTIMES.MAP and SUPPLIER.MAP tables and have Revit point to that. Each time you update your Fabrication database, you’ll need to refresh this copy. It’s fairly easy to script this process and have those files removed. The down side is you’ll no longer have access to Cost data in Revit but at least you can keep using ESTmep internally.

If you feel this is unacceptable, please submit a support ticket with Autodesk. The more people that raise the issue, the more likely that it will be addressed in a future release or update. To date, all they told me is the option I’ve outlined are the ONLY way to address the issue.

Autodesk Fabrication: Best Practice #4

Make sure ALL of your ITM content has a Database ID assigned to it.

A database ID is a unique identifier for content. There should be a single Database ID for any ITM that is NOT Product Listed. For Product Listed ITM’s, there should be Database ID for each entry in the product list.

For ITM’s that are not product listed (typically fabricated sheet metal fittings or other content where the ITM only represents one size, you can put the Database ID in the “Code” field of the ITM Properties as shown in the following image…

For ITM’s that are Product Listed, the Database ID should be in the ID column of the Product List. When you place an instance of a product listed ITM in your model, you select a size from the product list, When you select that size, the Database ID associated with that size it automatically entered into the Code field of the ITM Properties like shown earlier, The following image shows the Database ID column in a Product List…


Why Use A Database ID?

The Database ID is a useful component to managing an Autodesk Fabrication configuration. This Database ID can be referenced by other aspects of Autodesk Fabrication should you choose to use them. The Database ID is what can link your content to….

  • Price lists
  • Fabrication Labor
  • Installation Labor
  • Product Information (ProdInfo)

Even if you don’t use ESTmep for estimating  and don’t want to use the Price and/or Labor features of the database, Product Information is tied to the Database ID and is used to store additional meta data about your content like Manufacturer, Size, Description, etc. Even if you’re not using ProdInfo now, it’s still a good idea to use Database ID’s because adding them to the content is the most time consuming part. It’s easy to add them when building content, more cumbersome later after the fact. If all your content had Database ID’s assigned, it’s much easier to implement ProdInfo, Price and/or Labor later down the road.

The following Video shows how to access the Database ID of Product Listed and Non-Product Listed ITM’s. It also shows you 2 different sizes of a product listed ITM in a drawing and how Autodesk Fabrication automatically assigned the Database ID from the Product List for the corresponding size into the Code field of the ITM Properties.


Key Database ID Takeaways

Here’s a few pointers when working with Database ID’s:

  • Each Database ID should be unique and not assigned to other content or sizes.
  • Managing Database ID’s using a spreadsheet or other database makes managing them much easier.
  • Your database ID can be anything you want but should have some sort of naming standard associated with it.
  • Your Database ID Naming standard can be as simple as a prefix followed by incremental numbers to something complex with special codes and formatting to indicate other aspects of your content. (e.g. Valves, Pipe, Sheetmetal, etc)
  • You can use Autodesk or other Vendors ID’s if they already have them assigned and use your for anything you create or replace them all with your own company Database ID’s if you are particular about naming standards,
  • Don’t reuse ID’s if the content that once used them is now obsolete. Legacy/Archive drawings still reference these numbers. Simply flag them as being obsolete in the Spreadsheet you are managing them with.

Beware: Autodesk Subscriptions, Industry Collections and Trust

Everything Must Change

It’s no secret that Autodesk is moving to an annual subscription model. There’s a number of reasons Autodesk tells you it’s for the flexibility and benefit of the customers. Some of these benefits include…

  • Predictable annual licensing costs
  • Lower initial cost for procurement (no more large initial upfront cost)
  • Flexible licensing model (add/drop licenses as your business needs)
  • Ability to release product updates anytime

All these benefits are true, legitimate reasons a customer would want to move to a subscription model. If you look at the current pricing promotions, converting existing licenses to the Industry Collections looks very financially attractive.

A number of years go, Adobe rolled out subscription licensing. Revenue suffered for a couple years and then rebounded. Customers were no longer making large upfront purchases but as time went by and subscriptions increased, revenue rebounded and higher profits ensued. And because revenue wasn’t tied to an annual “release” cycle of software updates, it’s a more predictable and stable revenue stream. It’s no wonder Autodesk is following in Adobe’s footprints. As a business, they’d be foolish not to and even as a customer, I don’t begrudge them to make a profit and give them more flexibility in running their company.


The Problem

When Adobe made the transition, revenue was significantly impacted and returned in a couple years. Autodesk is seeing the same thing with one key difference. Autodesk has underwent 11 straight quarters of losses. Adobe never lost money. Clearly, Autodesk’s customer base isn’t as understanding and you see a lot of public facing criticism in public forums against being forced into this model.

Part of the problem is the longevity of the data Autodesk customers produce compared to Adobe. Autodesk customers often maintain engineering or product documentation for decades. That pretty marketing graphic made from Adobe products likely isn’t managing product or building data 2 decades later.

The other part is Autodesk’s horrible track record with pricing. Autodesk isn’t a software company, they’re a sales organization and they’re very good at it. They have a history of squeezing the re-seller channel, taking over their major accounts and competing with their third party partners.

Here’s a few examples…

  • Autodesk tells their re-seller channel they’ll partner with them on major accounts. The fact is many find themselves frozen out of the discussions, especially if there’s any hint of looking out for the customer’s interest.
  • It was very common to be able to “upgrade” your annual maintenance contracts to higher end software. To go from AutoCAD to AutoCAD Mechanical or AutoCAD MEP or was cheaper or only slightly higher than staying on AutoCAD. When your maintenance contract was up for renewal a year later, you then see the deferred price increase you just were hit with. If you wanted to “downgrade”, you paid a fee, typically the cost difference between the two products.
  • When Autodesk stopped selling the Revit MEP Suite, they rolled out the Building Design Suite. If you were already on the Revit MEP Suite, you were grandfathered in could maintain your contract. It was during this time the sales channel was running a “promotion” to upgrade and telling customers they should act fast before they were enforced to upgrade at a higher price. The problem, a) The Design Suite promotions ran almost continually to show vertical product sales increases to Wall Street and b) They would “uplift” customers to the Design Suites for free a mere 6 months later. One company I worked with, Autodesk tried to sell over $300k in upgrades this way only to get them for free months later. They claim they didn’t know but how could they not? I’m just a dumb customer, I knew…because it’s happened before.
  • Autodesk had their sales staff and resellers promoting selling Perpetual licenses “while you can still get them”…and customers did. All the while I suspect they knew they’d just increase the maintenance subscriptions to more than the annual subscriptions. Your “savings” in cheaper annual renewals just was wiped out.

If you look at the various changes has made over the last 2 decades, rolling out maintenance subscriptions and finally making them mandatory to replace upgrade charges or rolling their new annual subscription model, you’ll notice a common theme. All of these changes create an “Artificial Crisis” for customers which results in collecting as much as they can while delivering as little as possible,  Given their track record of deceptive and misleading sales, it’s no wonder customers have a lack on trust and are resisting these changes.


What Should You Do

Customers like to think they have control. Autodesk likes them to think that as well. But the fact is, you don’t. I hear a lot of talk from customers about maintaining their existing perpetual licenses and resisting the move to subscription, Personally, I think that’s misplaced.

Autodesk wants you on subscription and that’s where you’ll go, sooner or later. You don’t have a choice without switching software, Want to Upgrade, Downgrade, Cross-grade to another product, move from Standalone to Network Licensing, you’ll have to go on subscription. Unless you don’t want to pay more annually to maintain your perpetual licenses than it would to go to subscription, you’ll move…sooner or later.

Willing to stick it out? Feel free but in industries like construction that are really evolving with new technology workflows and require all team members to be on the same page to leverage collaborative project workflows it’ll be tough to do. Even with the evolution of technology to the cloud and big data analytics, other industries are going to be hard pressed to not upgrade. How many people do you know running AutoCAD r14 or even 2008 for that matter?

Still not convinced and plan on hanging onto your perpetual licenses forever? Good luck. That “Navisworks Manage” you have you’re free to run forever as long as you can find the hardware that will run it. In fact, you can’t even buy a maintenance subscription anymore because we at Autodesk stopped making it. You’re welcome to buy a subscription to our new “Navis Quantum” anytime however,

If you’re really dead set on maximizing that initial investment you paid for your perpetual licenses, you really have only one option…stop paining maintenance subscription now. Ride it out a couple years and buy subscriptions when you need them. They’ll be running a promotion sooner or later. With a fiscal year end of January, the new years is always a good time to negotiate pricing.


What’s the Future Hold?

So let’s just assume you’re on annual subscriptions down the road. What can you expect next?

Because you can add/drop licenses easily with annual subscriptions, they’re easy to scale with your business. When business is good, so is Autodesk. But what if there’s another recession and people start dropping licenses?

While most resellers and Autodesk are promoting Industry Collections, there’s a little know catch that every contact I asked either in the reseller channel or at Autodesk didn’t know (and I asked many). The Industry Collections limit you to running 2 concurrent products for the same user on the same computer. If you’re in the Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing construction industry, it’s common to run AutoCAD, with CADmep (runs in AutoCAD) and Navisworks at the same time…maybe ever Revit too.

You literally can’t find information on the FAQ’s regarding this restriction and the sales people are telling you that you can drop your Navis and CADmep licenses and migrate your Revit/Acad to an AEC Collection and save money and licenses without disclosing this restriction.

The only place you find information is on the Knowledgebase (if you search for “concurrent usage”)…

https://knowledge.autodesk.com/search-result/caas/sfdcarticles/sfdcarticles/Industry-Collections-Licensing.html

Or in a single Discussion group post by Autodesk…

https://forums.autodesk.com/t5/installation-licensing/industry-collection-licensing-basic-information-amp-licensing/td-p/7250896

It’s not found in the other countless pages and links your most often referred to. Reading closely, you’ll notice, one talks about the restriction generically and the other only pertaining to network versions. Autodesk re-sellers don’t have access to Collection licenses (only individual products) and can’t even test. So hows this work and how does it apply?

Upon much research by myself, my industry colleagues and Autodesk, come to find out it’s not a “technical” limitation rather a “policy” that’s not enforced with technology. So, what happens if/when…

  • They start enforcing the policy?
  • They perform your next license audit and see you use more products that you should concurrently?
  • The economy slows and their revenue drops so they implement a “no concurrent usage” policy?

As you can see, Autodesk is in complete control and your only option once on subscription is to pay or or stop using the software. There is no longer a perpetual license to fall back on.

Ok, fine, you can just buy an extra Navis or Revit subscription. But those need to be assigned to a specific user who also has access via the Collection. Or if you’re preference is network licensing, forget it. Revit and Navis are no longer able to be purchased with network licensing unless on a subscription.

If you don’t think it’ll happen, think again. For the second time in just a few short months, Collaboration for Revit isn’t enforcing licensing. The first time this happened, when they turned it on many users were left without access to their projects and unable to work. They should have had licenses, true but C4R configuration and setup is not straight forward. It’s common to grant access to people in a project. They may not realize you also need a license provisioned in another system. In fact, it’s very easy to have multiple licenses assigned to the same user from different companies essentially giving Autodesk double revenue and you’ll never know.

Given their misleading tactics in the past, how do you know this disabling of license checking isn’t intentional in an effort to get people to start using and depending on the software only to force a purchase down the road? It’s well known that AutoCAD was as popular as it was due to the easy of piracy back in it’s infancy.

So in summary, there’s really only a few practical options,..

  1. Give in and move to subscription, you’ll be there anyway eventually.
  2. Drop your maintenance subscription now if you can and ride it out a few years
  3. Move to another product/vendor.
  4. Maintain your perpetual contracts and pay more than any other option,