REVIEWER:  Frank L. Bennardo, P.E., president of Engineering Express.

BACKGROUND: Founded in 1995 and incorporated in 2003, Frank L. Bennardo, P.E. Inc. has evolved into a unique structural engineering firm assisting contractors, architects, developers, manufacturers and homeowners with a variety of engineering projects, both large and small, in many states throughout the country. It has been our goal to provide these services with the highest quality standards, utilizing the latest technology and a talented staff to provide prompt, professional work at competitive fees. Engineering Express is the realization of that goal.

PLATFORMS: Our server system is configured on a series of Dell computers running Windows Server 2003, XP, with various Flash connectivity and ColdFusion applications, and all RAID and backup functionality. Work is distributed via our managed Web site and via our corporate intranet. Express Tools are custom Internet Flash calculators and machines made from Crystal Xcelsius.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Engineering Express uses Crystal Xcelsius to allow contractors, building departments, homeowners, architects and other engineers to easily and securely interact with complex office calculations to provide critical, instant results, pose what-if scenarios and provide ordering tools for engineering designs. Examples of this include providing answers to wind pressure versus wind speed questions to aid in the recovery efforts of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, along with assisting in the actual designs of wood, concrete and aluminum structures to not only design per code requirements, but also illustrate all calculations and processes to easily explain building techniques and required materials for use in construction.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The use of this revolutionary engineering system dramatically decreases office/client consultation and interaction, while substantially increasing accurate, efficient designs and orders for engineering work, an increase in the level of expertise, presentation and flexibility for the user.

STRENGTHS: The ability to create highly interactive, intelligent, intuitive and helpful tools for assisting in the business of engineering design is of paramount importance to us. The Flash tools make complex calculations as easy and fun to use as Internet video games, and they invite clients to visit our Web site, employ these useful tools and order engineering designs electronically right from the completed calculator.

WEAKNESSES: We are hoping to see even more useful object widgets. There are some cross-browser limitations, a small number of Excel variables that are not permitted in Crystal Xcelsius (such as the useful lookup function) and minor missing features such as tab order, multiple fonts and easier XML integration options.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Before selecting Crystal Xcelsius, we interviewed and tried various Java script software applications and code, Excel Web applications, HTML and ColdFusion programming, among others. This product was the only one of its kind to offer rich, complex and graphically oriented Flash interaction with Excel.

DELIVERABLES: The product delivers printable, letter-size Flash content via the Internet. Using private logins, the program captures not only requested engineering data, but incorporates session variables directly into the document to print out highly customized results with unique, dynamically visible views that can change from user to user, input to input and calculation to calculation.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The Crystal Xcelsius support was excellent. The project could not have been completed without their hours of telephone support and review of our Flash models. Their continued advice helps us advance the models to ever higher levels.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation within Crystal Xcelsius is extremely useful. The many animated help pop-ups made it easy to understand. Web help documents, tips and monthly newsletters also assisted in explaining complex procedures. Free Web seminars helped with Web connectivity issues as did numerous question and answer sessions.

Crystal Xcelsius
Business Objects
3030 Orchard Parkway
San Jose, CA 95134
(408) 953-6000

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