David Weekley Homes Customer Profile
David Weekley Homes, LP., used SwiftView to quickly establish a system for distributing electronic house plans, eliminating paper when communicating with outside vendors and subcontractors.

The Company
David Weekley Homes, LP., is a privately-owned home builder established in 1976 in Houston, Texas.  Over its 26-year history, the company has built over 35,000 homes and is currently located in 14 cities throughout the United States.  DWH is the second largest, privately-owned home builder in America, with a 95% customer satisfaction rating, well on its way to becoming a billion-dollar company.  DWH sees homebuilding from the customer's point of view. From design and decorator selections, to construction and warranty work, the entire process is customer-driven.  The company is the first home builder in history to receive The Triple Crown of American Home Building, an honor that includes "America's Best Builder," "The National Housing Quality Award" and "National Builder of the Year".

The Challenge
DWH customers are very involved in the design of their homes.  The company's focus is giving its customers innovative design, a long list of choices to personalize their homes, and inspired service.   DWH offers hundreds of floorplans and elevations, and Custom Choices provides customers with thousands of options and upgrades, as well as choices in: flooring, appliances, countertops, lighting, fixtures and more, to make their homes unique.  In addition, DWH's Personal Builder program allows customers to work face-to-face with the person who's actually building the home.

Because customers are so closely involved in their home design, builders need to share many drawings with them.  DWH in Orlando knew it needed a technology solution to improve the workflow efficiency of delivering drawings, replacing its costly, slow, and labor-intensive paper mailings.  "We needed a method to view our plans without having to print them, which was simply too time consuming, and a waste of paper, toner, etc.," says Michael Finocchio, Purchasing Manager for David Weekley Homes in Orlando.  The technology also needed to support a variety of options and communication with builders, and the online presentation of drawings and printed output had to be as accurate as the paper plans.  Also, the solution would have to be web-based, because email was, "difficult due to the size of the files we send," according to Finocchio.

Another challenge was the need for simplicity in the solution: vendors and subcontractors had varying levels of computer skills, network connections and hardware.  Since the floorplans were created in a complex CAD system, many native CAD-based viewing solutions would be too complex.  DWH already knew that Adobe's PDF format was ill-suited to drawings because the conversion into PDF is often inaccurate, it increases the file size, and can take much longer to view, zoom, pan, and print.

The Solution
DWH was already archiving its plan files by plotting from their CAD system to HPGL (Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language) files as .ptl.  "Although here in the central Design department we do not keep HPGL files, only AutoCAD files, we have been providing HPGL files to all the offices through the WAN for the past seven years for printing with a Windows printing interface that I wrote," says CAD manager Jim Massey.  But while internal staff had experience exchanging and printing HPGL, an open and accurate format, they could not view plans on-screen or selectively print them.

DWH Orlando first started to look at HPGL viewers, not the Houston Design department.  "Ironically, SwiftView's website was passed on to us by Orlando's copy machine technician," says Finocchio.  Massey agreed with Finocchio that SwiftView was the best HPGL viewing solution.  "We looked at another company's product, but there was really no comparison in the quality of the image that was generated," says Finocchio.  "SwiftView was obviously the best choice because it was also easy to use by just about anyone.  Even people with minimal computer experience find it easy to use."

DWH chose the SwiftStamp license which batch "stamps" any number of HPGL files with a SwiftView license.  By licensing files, instead of networks or desktops, drawings can be widely distributed, and anyone can view the drawings with SwiftView for free.

"From the outset SwiftView use has been driven by each purchasing office in each city," says Massey.  "The Design department does not directly provide HPGL to customers or vendors - it would be impossible to keep up with hundreds of vendors throughout the US from this central location.  Instead, it adds the SwiftView license 'stamp' to files and sets up each market office with the licensed files.  Purchasing officers then decide on their own what to do with the files.  By early 2004, the following DWH locations have been set up with 'stamped' files: Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, Nashville, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas.  Houston has been started and Denver is last on the list."

"We started by adding the ability for our own people to view HPGL with SwiftView, but it was a simple stretch to consider offering it to vendors and subcontractors," says Massey.  Orlando, one of DWH's smaller markets, was able to integrate SwiftView and pre-licensed HPGL files easily, with no obstacles, and was quick to extend the use of electronic files to vendors and subcontractors.  "On a local level, we started using SwiftView toward the end of 2002 - we were able to integrate in a few weeks, it was so easy to implement," says Finocchio.  "Company-wide, I know it'll take a little longer due to the several thousands of HPGL files we have in our archives."

As the office that "discovered" SwiftView, Orlando has also been at the forefront of upgrading their electronic distribution methods.  DWH Orlando started by distributing CDs with drawings to vendors and subcontractors in and around Orlando.   This soon grew to sending via FTP to those further afield (who wanted files fast, but were too far to stop by and pick up a CD).   Now, Orlando is quickly posting drawings on the company's website.  Finocchio says the Orlando office has about 30% of their drawings on the website, but will soon have them all up.  Although Orlando still sends CDs and ftps, Finocchio thinks the web model will be the most popular as other offices begin to use the electronic plans.

DWH Orlando saw immediate financial benefits from using SwiftView and electronic files, not only in reduced paper mailing and printing costs, but also increased productivity.  "SwiftView saves us time and money by not having to make printouts and copies.  Our productivity is increased, and our processes are streamlined and better organized by not having to deal with so much paper - we love not having to make paper copies."

SwiftView was quickly adopted with minimal technical support.  "We currently have about 250 internal users on SwiftView, about a quarter of all the users in our whole company," says Finocchio.  "This will expand as each of our divisions utilizes the web-access capabilities of SwiftView.  More important, in Orlando we are now delivering thousands of document pages per month electronically to vendors and subcontractors.  That's a lot of time and paper not being wasted."

DWH exploits some useful SwiftView features, such as viewing compressed files directly without "un-zipping" them.  Using smaller, compressed files mean faster transmission across a network, which is a boon when sending to anyone on slower modems.   In addition, "the ability to zoom in on an area and print it out is also a great feature since we use 1/8-inch scale on all our plans," says Massey.  "Everyone is are able to zoom in to fine print and details."

SwiftView's innovative licensing has kept DWH's implementation costs low, and new functionality from SwiftView has also drawn their interest.  "We are currently testing SwiftReprint for use in our plan redlining and notes," says Finocchio.   "There are so many small changes to the plans for each "custom" job - placement of electrical outlets or light fixtures, changes in dimensions as a result of materials and finishes like flooring, cabinetry, or wall tile.  The ability to note these changes directly on the electronic plan and maintain that version for a job could help speed up communication and eliminate potential errors."  As with any of DWH's "stamped" files which are licensed for free viewing with SwiftView, the page extraction, markup and annotation features of SwiftReprint are also provided for free.  SwiftReprint's markup feature allows any number of contributors to make notes on a drawing.  The notes do not alter the original drawing and can be selected, de-selected, and tracked by the author with ease.

Finocchio thinks that the best feature of SwiftView is how it has increased vendor and customer satisfaction.  "Customer satisfaction will always be the yardstick by which we measure our true success, so the speed at which we get new and accurate plans to our vendors and subcontractors is very important.  They are very happy to get drawings so fast and they especially like not having to pick up plans or wait for them in the mail, or store paper plans in their files.  I think it has provided us with a competitive edge."

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