Estimating Technology Trends

Estimating Software is an essential tool as well as an important option for your business. Not re-evaluating your software or not having software at all can be a basic business mistake. Technology is a consistently moving target and contractors need to be aware of what options are available, and how to utilize new technology when it becomes available.

How Estimating Software and digital drawings are accessed is one of the biggest questions these days.   The “cloud” is one big confusing concept that contractors have a tough time wrapping their head around.   Contractors hear this idea of the cloud and get the feeling that they need to move to the cloud.   But there are factors to consider and questions that need to be asked.   First, the cloud has many different definitions, but basically, one common answer is being able to access your company information from anywhere through the internet. Now where that information is stored and how it is distributed to you is where it all gets a bit “cloudy”.         

The cloud can be as simple as establishing a remote connection back to your server at the office and accessing that information through the internet.   You can also rent a server in the cloud from several cloud space providing companies.   With this rental, you can access your information on a server (just like back at the office), but not have to maintain it; the company you rent it from will maintain the “health” and backups of all of your data. Finally, there is SAAS (Software As A Service).   SAAS is where the actual software sits on the cloud and is provided from the software company.   For example, you would access your estimating software using a login and password from the estimating software company; similar to logging on to a website, except the website would be your actual estimating software.   The drawback of SAAS is that you don’t own or manage the information you enter into the software.   You rent it, so you must pay a monthly fee to access your jobs and information.   This can become very costly in the long run, but there are options for every contractor out there, you just have to figure out how far you want to go.  In short, talk to an IT professional about your needs and expectations regarding the cloud and also verify that your Estimating software has the capability to run in the cloud!

Digital drawing support from Electrical Estimating Software companies is a game changer for the industry.   Instead of using an obsolete link to connect a stand-alone digital takeoff program, contractors now use one program for all aspects of the estimating process: from the very beginning when they receive plans, through the estimating process, to the proposal and for project management.    Consistency and speed is greatly increased and the possibility of transfer or clerical mistakes has been reduced to nearly 0%.  Digital Takeoff is almost a requirement for any company as collaboration is key, and these programs really make the difference between success and failure. 

Efficiency is a necessity when it comes to digital take off features. Digital take off allows an estimator to introduce plans straight to their computer rather than contending with endless stacks of paper that can only be reviewed by one person at a time. Plans and takeoff can be sent via email to other employees/project managers giving everyone access to see circuits, homeruns, and any changes or additions on the copy of the original plans. When all employees involved are able to view the same set of plans, and info, in real-time, the success of the job increases while the possibility of pre-job mistakes is lessened.   Again, the cloud can be an important factor here because it allows the plans and information to be shared out or reviewed easily.

The latest Digital Takeoff programs now allow you to do design build! Features such as Symbol Designer, contractors can create their own symbols and shapes to add them directly to the PDF drawing.  This allows for a Design Build while you estimate; create a working set of drawings from a blank PDF if you wanted to. It doesn’t get any faster and easier than that. Also, with the compare drawing feature, cut down on mistakes by overlaying an edited drawing on top of the original.   The software will show you the differences and what was changed between the two drawings, giving you complete control of alternate and change order bids! Finally, Estimate even faster with Auto count feature.   Auto count will scan the PDF and will do the count for you, marking and quantifying all of the symbols that you chose to find.   The future is very bright for digital takeoff programs.  Keep an eye out for more and more features; software companies will keep giving you more tools to make your job easier!

An Estimating program can also break down a job into logical sections like floors, offices, sheets.   With these break downs, a project manager could then run specific reports on a section.  Perhaps you are going to install 2nd floor lighting today, the project manager would be able to run a report on that specific part of the job and see exactly how many man hours were bid, material lists, cost of material, and schedules of that specific section of the job.   Having this knowledge and ability greatly increases the success of a job before the job is even close to being complete.  Estimating and Project Management software gets the contractor away from the old “cross your fingers after a job is complete and hope you made a profit”.    Using this software on the Cloud, the project managers should be able to run the reports needed for each section of the job in real time!

Whether you are an estimator or a project manager or an Estimator AND a project manager, having Estimating and Project Management Software can greatly increase your success and help both positions work easily together.  Programs can help you save time in the estimate, then easily move the information over to project management software to save time and better manage the project, thereby minimizing mistakes and only saving the contractor time.

For subcontractors, an Estimating / Project Management system is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Software and computers have proved year after year that without them, you could be losing major productivity.  Either look into software today or Re-evaluate what you have because who knows if you are leaving money on the table?


Paul Wheaton’s Bio


Paul Wheaton is the Vice President of Sales for McCormick Systems Inc.  He has worked closely with the developments of McCormick and is on the front line of computerized estimating. He also instructs on the McCormick Windows Estimating System and develops procedures for e-learning.  Paul holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and is Project Management certified.