FOR 25 YEARS, JOHN FOSSUM, landscape designer at Wylie, Texas-based MLJ Landscaping, has followed the same basic routine when drawing his plans. He’d spend two to three days on the client’s property, taking measurements to determine bedlines and the types and colors of the plants to be used.
Once he used that information to draw the plans, he’d use it again to write a take-off sheet that listed the materials needed. He would then have to fill out order forms to the suppliers.
Later came the back-and-forth discussions with the client. “I’d spend three days meeting with customers,” Fossum said. He estimated that it took him a week on average, to finalize his plans and get all of his materials ready. This was before the work even began in earnest.
Advances have been made in the past several years with landscape programs that can run off of computers, tablets and smartphones. These advances have cut the time on these processes down to a few hours instead of a few days—or even a week. This advantage wasn’t lost on MLJ Landscaping, which began using Software Republic’s software in 2009.
However, Fossum deferred the technological tasks to another landscape designer. He felt that he would be weighed down by trying to learn the program. “I could search the web; I could check my email,” said Fossum. “But, I was scared that making a computerized plan would be too technical.”
However, he was forced to learn the program himself in October of 2012, when his designer left the company. Despite his apprehensions, he was able to quickly teach himself how to use Pro Contractor Studio. “I literally learned the program on a Wednesday,” Fossum said. “By Friday afternoon, I was cranking out plans.”
Fossum now relies on the program’s ability to quickly and easily draw plans, making internal communication and performing the job much easier. “Not only can the customer see it, but my guys can use it for the actual installation,” he said.
Landscape plans can be drawn within the program proper. Alternatively, many property owners now possess a digital file of their plot of land that can be imported into the system and used as a starting point. Architects’ CAD files may also be used.
For irrigation designs, Pro Contractor Studio automatically calculates pipe sizes, system hydraulics, and a complete list of materials used in the design. Moreover, it shows the wet and dry areas of a sprinkler layout.
Objects can be dragged and dropped into the plans. Users can customize and add symbols to represent exactly what they want. “I added some symbols,” Fossum said. “I made an oak tree look like an oak tree.”
This use of the technology is somewhat simplified, but customers are quite satisfied by the bird’s-eye view Fossum gives them. “The customer can see the placement,” he said. “If the bedlines are appealing to them, then the plan will be appealing to them.”
Once the project’s material needs are determined, Fossum can use the program to automatically make lists of the plants and parts to be bought, and send them to suppliers. Passing these lists on to the work crews has also made jobs much more efficient.
Software Republic does not sell the software; it is leased to its clients. MLJ pays $75 a month in subscription fees for up to five users. Currently, four of its employees are using the software. Fossum estimates that it saves at least a few thousand dollars per month. “I’d say it’s invaluable,” he said.