D-Tools System Integrator (SI) platform helps Aloud reduce time on-site while streamlining the retrofitted installation in 14-room whole home integration project
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Aloud Custom Installation of Stockholm, Sweden, has more than doubled its size over the past five years. It’s no coincidence that the company adopted the D-Tools System Integrator (SI) platform approximately five years ago, as well.
Going from 6 employees to 15, the luxury custom integration firm owned by industry veteran Dennis Lundell uses D-Tools during each phase of every project, including sales, design, project management, installation, and service and support. Having a system in place that allows Aloud Custom Installation employees to access any information about a project, from product SKUs to delivery dates, has enabled the company to take on bigger jobs and complete them in less time, increasing company revenues and driving the firm’s rapid and profitable growth.
The Villagatan apartment, a four-story home in a classic early 18th-century apartment, was one such project, with 13 zones of distributed audio routed through a Crestron DM-MD8X8 and controlled with a Control4 C4 control system, as well as a complete Lutron lighting system throughout the home and network infrastructure installed by Aloud as the foundation of it all.
From sales to installation and service, Aloud embraced the capabilities of the D-Tools SI platform for Villagatan. The project exemplifies the success of Aloud’s business processes and, subsequently, earned Aloud the 2017 D-Tools Design Award for Best Overall Project.
From Proposal and Budget to Final Plans, Everything Stems from D-Tools
The Villagatan home was a retrofit project—a whole home renovation with the intention of preserving the early 18th-century character and architecture of the home while giving the residents state-of-the-art network infrastructure, lighting control, CCTV cameras, and whole home audio. The team used D-Tools’ extensive Data Library of manufacturers’ products for specifying the entire project.
The house features Sonance Discreet Opening System (DOS) speakers in every room, including the bedrooms, common areas, and even the bathrooms. “Hiding technology is a challenge in every project. It’s always about delivering a high-quality product that is also aesthetically pleasing,” says Project Manager Joakim Ekberg. “We use Sonance DOS speakers because they blend in with the recessed ceiling lights.”
Video systems include a 43-inch Sony Bravia 4K LED TV in the master bedroom and a 75-inch Sony Bravia Professional 4K LED TV in the living room.
Even before a single cable was run, screen hung, or speaker placed, the Villagatan residents knew exactly what they could expect when the project was complete, leading to greater customer satisfaction.
“We did a Visio presentation, as we do for all our customers,” Ekberg explains, noting that the presentation focused on images and feelings. From the materials, the residents could imagine the emotions evoked from having a home filled with music and available with just a touch to the Control4 touch panels spread throughout the apartment. The last few pages of the proposal got down to the budget and hours allocated, which is where SI came in. “The Visio presentation was integrated with and linked to D-Tools. The information provided by D-Tools made it easy for the customers to understand what we’re doing in each room,” says Ekberg.
D-Tools also enabled Aloud to estimate the costs and time involved more accurately, and to create a clear plan of action for the installation team. The information then flowed to the next stage of the process to ensure the integration team delivered what was outlined in the proposal. “The project manager opens D-Tools, and all the information is there,” says Ekberg. “Every room, every rack. Everything stems from D-Tools.”
D-Tools Reduces Time On-site to Reduce Costs and Increase Customer Satisfaction
Just as technology like speakers and screens need to be hidden, or at least well-disguised, finding space for racks is also a challenge in today’s projects. “In Stockholm, where real estate is so expensive, you can’t use a square meter of space for a rack,” Ekberg explains, noting that most homes don’t have basements and attics are typically converted into living space. “You have to decentralize equipment or make smaller racks,” he says.
For instance, in the Villagatan home, the Aloud team split the AV, lighting, and control components into three separate racks placed in different locations. The team used D-Tools’ comprehensive drawing capabilities to create rack elevation schematics. The rack designers then highlighted a section of the rack and noted in which area of the apartment that component resides. “Everything in that rack gets the same number as the start of the component ID,” Ekberg explains. “I view the schematics in D-Tools and get a complete look at how the system will be designed.”
Ekberg says that D-Tools has helped Aloud adjust their building process so that the bulk of the engineering team’s time is spent in the office rather than on-site in the client’s home, and this was true for the Villagatan project. “Before implementing D-Tools we had our own systems of keeping track of where products go, but like most companies, we went on-site to figure things out.”
Rack elevations in D-Tools by Aloud include JPEGs showing the back and front of each component. “The person building the rack could see each component, including where the power and audio connections are located,” says Ekberg.
Having this level of detail available allowed technicians to build and test the racks off-site, saving time and travel costs and reducing the time spent in the client’s home, leading to higher customer satisfaction. “We only spent a few weeks in the Villagatan home,” says Ekberg. “So much of the work was completed in advance at our offices, which makes it easier for everyone involved.”
The “Aloud Standard,” Driven by D-Tools
The depth and detail of the company’s rack elevations have become one part of “the Aloud Standard,” which Ekberg describes as a manual that helps control the quality and consistency of everything Aloud creates. “If a piece of paper comes out of our company, it looks the same whether I created it or someone else did,” he says.
D-Tools was instrumental in helping Aloud create these in-house standards for customized drawing shapes and reports for documentation of projects. “With the development of the Aloud standard, we have improved the efficiency of the design and installation aspects of all our projects,” says John Sandell, System Designer and a driving force behind D-Tools at Aloud.
For instance, every speaker or screen possesses a specific, unique color, size, shape, and font in the design plans. Even the information about each component is standardized for clean, easy-to-read documentation. Wires, too, have specific shapes, which helps reduce clutter in the drawings.
The Aloud team has added some enhancements to their documentation over the years, which further simplifies rack-building and component installation. For instance, each schematic shape also has a box attached that includes the component’s IP address. “We went into the Visio shape, created a separate window, and then linked that window to a custom theme in D-Tools so that you can see the IP address in the schematic,” says Ekberg.
Having More Fun with D-Tools
Since adopting D-Tools, Aloud has increased efficiency and given the project manager more control over each project. The team enjoys diving deeper into the platform to find ways to further simplify and speed installation time. “The best feature of the platform, for me, is just how complete it is,” says Ekberg. “The project managers have D-Tools open 90 percent of the time we are working. It’s the one thing we use all the time. And it’s been fun!”
“Dennis’ vision from the start has been to develop a team that can deliver the best solutions with uncompromised attention to detail,” says Sandell. “D-Tools has been a pivotal tool for the team to deliver his vision and complete projects successfully.”
When you have a platform that helps you improve the quality of your work, increase efficiency, and enhance profitability, winning awards is just the icing cake. “We plan to enter more contests next year but to win our first one ever, and to have it be the D-Tools Design Awards, is just amazing to us,” concludes Ekberg.
Additional information on the D-Tools SI platform can be obtained by signing up for a free personal tour by visiting http://d-tools.com/live-demo-webinar/ or a free 30-day trial, which can be downloaded by visiting http://d-tools.com/hosted-free-trial-signup/.