As a young, ambitious company, F.R.E.D.S Timberframe is always looking for smart, design-led ways to create timber frame structures for residential homes and commercial developments. And technology plays a key role in its excellent
In 2020, F.R.E.D.S revolutionised its design and production capabilities by investing in a state-of-the-art JJ Smith automatic crosscut saw and digital Framing software by Elecosoft.
Integrating leading-edge machinery with sophisticated, agile software has enabled F.R.E.D.S to shorten lead times and reduce material wastage, while pushing the boundaries of timber-frame architecture. It even used Framing software to develop a custom-shaped structure for the UK’s first fully inclusive surf school, constructed by BBC television show, DIY SOS.
Taking control of the design process
Timber-framed properties are a fast-growing market, and F.R.E.D.S Timberframe, based in Swansea, Wales, is one of the newest manufacturers in the industry. Since launching in 2019, the team behind F.R.E.D.S has been keen to bring new ideas to timber-frame production. But with no in-house design team, the company needed to gain more control over the creative process in order to get closer to its goals.
“We wanted software that would allow us to take command over the design process, manage customer deadlines and speed up delivery times” explains Dominic Sauro, Designer at F.R.E.D.S Timberframe.
Framing software was recommended to F.R.E.D.S by a member of the team who had used it in a previous role. After an online demo, the company’s directors came on board immediately and the solution was up and running within weeks – including custom coding to integrate the software with the F.R.E.D.S’ new crosscut saw.
Better drawings, quicker sign-off
Timber-frame software has empowered F.R.E.D.S to bring all its design work in-house, using the Elecosoft solution to 3D model each project.
“Having 3D modelling capabilities gives clients a real sense of what their buildings are going to look like” Dominic shares. And running the entire design process digitally makes it much easier for F.R.E.D.S to respond to customer feedback. Changes are made directly into the software, so that features can be finalised within hours and production-ready plans sent to the factory floor. “Framing software also helps us to balance our creative and commercial goals, as we can look at the materials estimate for each job and scale back the design if needed, to make sure it’s within budget,” Dominic advises.
A notching approach like nobody else
Once the designs have been finalised, Framing software is used to streamline manufacturing at F.R.E.D.S Timberframe, by automating key production processes.
“Previously, there was a lot of back-and-forward during production, as we only had one sheet that everyone had to share,” Dominic admits. “Now everyone has access to their own information sheets needed for their specific role to manufacture the panels.”
The biggest game-changer for F.R.E.D.S has been the introduction of automatic notching capabilities. Unlike other factories, which manually mark and cut every piece of timber, F.R.E.D.S uses the Framing software to machine-cut grooves into the timber where the panels are joined together.
“Very few people in the UK use the same approach as us, so to have a notching system this impressive sets us apart from everyone else,” says Dominic. “Every client that comes into our showroom falls in love with our notching system, especially how accurate it is!”
Framing software also enables F.R.E.D.S to label each panel and stack them in order, making it easy to see what goes where – saving valuable time on-site.
“The accuracy of the Framing software is incredible,” Dominic adds. “We can cut all the timber to size efficiently. The software allows us to create stacking plans, which group and organise all the panels manufactured in the factory into the correct stacks, ready for site delivery. Usually the build process runs smoothly. But if there are any challenges during construction, the Framing software is flexible enough for us to discuss the issue with the on-site team, cut materials to a different size or angle, and send that to the site as quickly as possible.”
The positive impact of Framing software
Since onboarding Framing software, F.R.E.D.S Timberframe has noticed a number of tangible improvements across the company, including:
- Shorter lead times: previously, it would take 8-10 weeks to create manufacture-ready drawings. F.R.E.D.S can now complete this process within a week. This has reduced average complete job turnaround time – from receiving the brief to getting the house onto plot just takes us six weeks.
- Less material waste: increasing the accuracy of timber notching and calculating exact requirements prior to build has enabled F.R.E.D.S to reduce material wastage to just 3%.
- More ambitious projects: better design and production resources are liberating F.R.E.D.S to take on innovative timber-frame projects. It recently completed design and production on Ysgol Y Glowyr primary school and Glanmarlais care home.
F.R.E.D.S also used Framing software to design a surfboard-shaped building for charitable organisation SurfAbility in Caswell Bay, Swansea, as part of a Children in Need special episode of DIY SOS.
“For the surfability project, there were so many curves that we needed to put in small panels to accommodate them, which is not how we’d design a traditional frame,” Dominic shares. “But the Framing software was so accurate that we were able to deliver the shape that DIY SOS wanted and there was not one problem with its installation on-site.”
Greater company growth – the buzz surrounding F.R.E.D.S’ technology investment has led to the company recruiting a new quantity surveyor (QS), to ensure production keeps pace with ambition. They’ve also purchased a second saw to meet customer demand and continue their growth trajectory.
A long-term part of the company
With momentum showing no signs of slowing, additional Framing software licenses are next on the list for F.R.E.D.S Timberframe – and potentially further design resources to help meet demand.
“We keep growing and growing, and if we want to continue this way, Framing software needs to be a long-term part of our business! It’s streamlined our schedules, increased the accuracy of our products and helped us to sell more frames,” Dominic concludes. “We’re confident that even as we add more customers and team members, having the right Framing software will enable us to still achieve our high standards of workmanship.”
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