Chapter Corner

Insights Magazine: September/October 2013

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The Latest Tools and Trends in Estimating

Estimating software is no longer a luxury; it is a must-have tool in the old tool belt. Contractors who are bidding new business are spending countless hours of wasted time if they are not using some sort of estimating tool. In the past, estimating software was a luxury; an expensive one. But with today’s market and with software developers recognizing the need for a less expensive software, it is a cinch to purchase one and get it up and going in no time. Most software companies now offer several levels to their software, making it a lot more affordable and doable. They even offer some sort of trade-up program so that you are not stuck with a smaller version of the software forever.

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Industrialization of the Construction Industry

The quality of life for every American relies on the products of the U.S. construction industry. The construction industry accounts for between 4 to 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually in the United States over the past 10 years and employs 5 to 9 million workers or 3 to 6 percent of the total U.S. workforce. But such a key industry is under constant pressure to improve productivity, reduce cost, and minimize waste in the operation. While the productivity in the manufacturing industry has improved by 400 percent over the last century, the construction industry’s productivity has, in the best case, stayed flat or turned negative.

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Union Representatives May Participate in Walkaround Insepections in Nonunion Companies

In a new letter of interpretation publically released on April 5, 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced for the first time that during an OSHA inspection of nonunion worksites, employees can be represented by anyone selected by the employees including outside union agents.

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Leveraging Productive Strategies from Estimating to Project Management

Estimating and project management software is a requirement these days, but by just owning software or by not using the software to its fullest, processes can still be missed and important information can be forgotten. By learning all features and advantages of software, an electrical contractor can create productive strategies that can increase profitability and decrease costly mistakes. It is imperative that a contractor comes up with a list of checks and balances that can be utilized on every single job, every single time.

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Find the Leading Edge: The Art of Negotiation

An essential skill in any good leader’s arsenal is the ability to negotiate. “Negotiation” is defined as “discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.” As anyone in the business world can attest, this is not always the simplest of tasks. We need a series of guidelines to achieve unity of purpose in any productive discussion. The specific method to use for optimum give-and-take is that of principled negotiation.

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Building Information Modeling

Industrialization of the construction industry is happening everywhere. Building information modeling (BIM), simulation, computer-aided design, and many other product and process modeling technologies are becoming daily requirements in the construction industry. Managing complex and fast-paced jobs and prefabrication have increased higher demands on modeling. BIM has revolutionized the industry as a solution for product modeling, allowing for better integration between the parts and pieces that come together for building. However, the new wave of technology will focus more on process and information modeling beyond the building components and toward the builders and their work requirements. To stay competitive plus take advantage of the cost savings afforded by use of this technology, they need to be able to build a strategy to use BIM, product lifecycle management (PLM), and three-dimensional(3-D) experience within a virtual construction environment. The product models require input from engineers and designers to lay out the building. The new process models must include the input of the worker to be effective.

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For Productivity, It's About Time We Focus on Time!

As the electrical construction industry slowly emerges from the economic downturn, much has been written about the need to increase productivity and overall efficiency. In fact, the construction industry as a whole has been viewed in very unfavorable light in terms of matching the productivity gains of other United States industries and businesses. “Underperforming,” “flat,” and “multiple factors behind” are just some of the unflattering descriptions for construction performance in this area.

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Open Wire Management

Building construction has failed to keep pace with productivity improvements found in other segments of the economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm (manufacturing) productivity has improved 200 percent since 1964 while construction productivity has actually declined. Studies also indicate that only about one-third of the working day is physical, hands-on installation and testing. The rest is overhead activities associated with installation or nonproductive time such as breaks, cell phone use, and so forth. Whatever the causes of lost or unproductive time, electrical contractors must identify new methods that will improve productivity and remove impediments to success.

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Maintenance Musts: Stop. Look. Listen

Businesses that have a fleet of vehicles need to teach their drivers to stop, look, and listen when it comes to proper maintenance and minimal repair expenses. That’s because over the last few years, there has been a major shift away from generalizing the recommended service intervals for all vehicles to having very specific service schedules from every manufacturer for each make and model. Failing to adhere to specific guidelines established by the manufacturer may prevent repairs from being covered by warranty.

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Confusing Revenue for Relationships

Be forewarned: this advice is not all pretty, just like business today. The silver lining is that the new economy is forcing a move from shiny wrapping (indulgence) toward valuable content (importance). As during any transition, confusion reigns.

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