Sunday, July 09, 2000

Drafting firm offers much more


Contract workers allow flexibility in projects

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer contributor

        The CAD in MAC'S CAD stands for “Computer Aided Drafting” but it describes only one facet of this firm's capabilities.

        In fact, owners Jeff McMullen and Barry Randolph can coordinate a building project from conception to completion. Working from their Middletown office, the two supply architectural and engineering services. They work with reviewing agencies to ensure that a project meets standards.

        “We sell ourselves as a drafting service; it's just that we have these other services as well,” Mr. McMullen said.

        Working largely on commercial projects, they can muster professionals to provide services as diverse as plumbing design and office space planning or to perform time-consuming tasks such as steering a project through an architectural review process.

        But those architects and engineers aren't taking up space in the MAC'S CAD office, playing computer games when things are slow and billing the firm for mileage. The partners contract with professionals who can supply the expertise needed for a particular job; then they pass the savings along to the customer.

        “Our overhead is low because our engineers are independent and self-employed,” explained Mr. Randolph. “Large firms have (these services) in-house, and their overhead is just tremendous.”

        Some of those large firms became clients of MAC's CAD when their own drafting departments were backlogged. As the men established relationships with more independent professionals, they were able to offer more services. Now, say its owners, MAC'S CAD specializes in total projects.

        “There is such a construction boom, everybody is just inundated with work. Some engineering firms are one to two years behind,” said Mr. Randolph. “Our business exploded somewhere around February or March.”

        Not all the partners' clients are located in the Cincinnati-Dayton area. They work with one national developer of assisted living facilities. Another client builds churches in North Dakota. As computer technology becomes more sophisticated, it will help them bridge those distances more effectively.

        “One of the things we're looking to do is develop a computer network system to allow our clients to dial in and look at the plans at the same time we are. We can communicate via videoconferencing,” said Mr. McMullen.

        “They would view the drawing and redline it; we could make changes and there would be no paper involved,” explained Mr. Randolph. “With the price of gas going up and everybody so busy, it would make it easier for even our clients in Cincinnati and Dayton.”

        When working with an architectural or engineering company, MAC'S CAD uses that company's title block, text styles, line types and pen weights so all documents have a uniform look.

        Mr. McMullen and Mr. Randolph don't view anyone as competition. They're just filling a need, they say. And today's client may be tomorrow's service provider. That's the two-way relationship MAC'S CAD has established with Cincinnati consulting engineer Matt Naylor.

        “I might do an initial design or workup and send it to Jeff. He puts in onto the auto CAD itself,” Mr. Naylor explained. “I'm familiar with computer aided drafting but (using them) frees me up to do other things.”

        Those other things include storm water hydrology, geotechnical and structural foundation engineering — Mr. Naylor's specialty. When MAC'S CAD takes on a project that requires expertise on that topic, the partners ask Mr. Naylor to help them.

        “It's a good business relationship,“ he said.

        The partners have also established a relationship with WLJ Engineering of Miamisburg, a company that does structural, electrical and mechanical engineering and plumbing design for commercial and industrial buildings. MAC'S CAD has earned high marks from owner William Johanan for competitive prices, professionalism and meeting deadlines.

        “When they have a backlog they give us even coverage — that is, they keep working on our projects along with others,” Mr. Johanan said. “They are very responsive.“

        Clients such as Mr. Johanan usually learn of MAC'S CAD services from others in the industry. Their first referrals came from contacts the two made earlier in their careers.

        Mr. McMullen trained to be an engineer but stopped three courses shy of a degree. For 12 years he worked with a firm that did civil, mechanical, transportation and structural engineering. In August 1998 he began a drafting business at home, then quit his day job in June 1999 as his sideline showed sufficient promise.

        Mr. Randolph, too, planned a career in engineering. After taking drafting in high school, he entered college bent on a pre-engineering major but ended up with a communications degree. He was managing part of an office furnishings business when Mr. McMullen asked him if he'd like to join forces.

        “I hadn't done drafting in years,“ Mr. Randolph said.

        After taking a refresher drafting course at D. Russel Lee Career Center, Mr. Randolph began working with his friend, at first on a part-time basis. The two men moved their business out of Mr. McMullen's home and into an office last December.

        “We've had a lot of support from colleagues, friends and vendors,” said Mr. McMullen. “Our families have been scared but supportive.“

       



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