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Myth #1 In Electrical Estimating

ALL ESTIMATING SOFTWARE DOES “BASICALLY” THE SAME THING.

Purchasing estimating software and purchasing a bandsaw are two different things. I would think that most bandsaws are very similar.  A bandsaw purchase typically is a brand name choice or preference.
 
An estimator should use software for producing estimates.  When used as designed, an estimator will spend approx. 85% of his or her time utilizing software. Quality software should provide the ability to organize projects and the ability to perform direct entry takeoffs organized and as quickly as possible.  Software must provide the estimator with the ability to analyze the estimate by phases, systems, labor codes, and material percentages. 

Bid summarization is the last step in estimating.  This very important step when handled incorrectly will nullify an accurate detailed takeoff.  

Software decisions must be made that provide the best methodologies and processes, not the price of the software.  The wise contractor will evaluate the overhead costs of the estimating salaries in relation to the productivity the software provides.  If better software increased the estimators’ production by 30% or more, the cost of the software is irrelevant.  
 
If a contractor needs ditches dug for conduit installation eight hours a day, five days a week, he could provide his worker with a shovel or a trenching machine.  The shovel is the cheapest tool that he could purchase, but it certainly is the least productive.  Most would not opt for the shovel based on its cost, because the labor cost in operating the shovel is far greater than the rental cost or purchase cost of a trenching machine.  So, most contractors would spend more money on the equipment to save labor in the operation of the equipment.  I think you get the picture. 
 
Having personally estimated more than 700 million dollars in electrical projects, what do I need an estimating program to do?

  1. Minimize my time of take-off.
  2. Provide breakdowns of the systems, areas, floors, buildings.
  3. Know labor hours and percentages by labor installations.
  4. Have the ability to substitute items in my audit trail. ie: die cast EMT fittings to steel compression.
  5. Reassign takeoffs in my audit trail to the proper takeoff breakdown.
  6. Have a live extension that I can easily and quickly change labor, pricing, and quantity.
  7. Have the ability to identify my takeoffs in my audit trial.
  8. Provide a simple method of copying lighting, fire alarm, and other system device counts to send to suppliers for pricing.
  9. Quickly analyze my labor risks.
  10. Have the ability to manage the database simply.

How are your estimators and estimating software working for you?  The focus must be on producing a greater volume of estimates with less overhead salaries.  Having used four major brands of estimating software, I can testify that all estimating software IS NOT created equal.
 
I provide assistance for electrical contractors to maximize software usage and software implementation.  Please contact me if you would like to improve your estimating department.
  
Remember, estimating is expensive, poor estimating is costly, but quality estimating is profitable. 

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