Leveraging Productive Strategies from Estimating to Project Management

ProductiveStrategies.gifEstimating 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.

A number of electrical contractors are still using a combination of Microsoft Word templates, Excel spreadsheets, outdated programs, even three-ring binders. This manual approach is both risky and unproductive. Fortunately, there is a better alternative—one that enables the electrical contractors to estimate and document projects more thoroughly yet spend less time managing paperwork. The solution: a centralized and industry-tailored estimating and document management system.

Following the lead of construction firms, electrical contractors are striving to estimate and document every project thoroughly. But unlike the large construction firms, the majority of electrical contractors have yet to adopt software that is specifically designed for them. These software programs are needed to provide that list of checks and balances that a contractor should not live without.

Beginning with estimating software, a good program will allow you to set up the job in an appropriate manner in order to properly manage the job through project management software. This is a must; if the estimating software does not set up the job properly, it will be very difficult managing that job after it begins. The whole purpose of the set-up is to manage the job more efficiently and effectively and drill down to any aspect of the project.

Estimators can work with digital takeoff programs to collaborate plans on the computer instead of having endless stacks of paper that only one person can review at a time. With digital takeoffs, an estimator is able to send their plans to other employees or project managers via e-mail. This also increases the success for the job because everyone has access to the plans and how the estimator took it off, giving the ability to see circuits, homeruns, changes, and additions on a copy of the original plans. Everyone having access to one set of plans from their own computer greatly increases the success of the job and lessens the possibility for prejob mistakes.

An estimating program can break down a job into logical sections like floors, offices, or sheets. With these breakdowns, a project manager could then run specific reports on a section. Say my workers are going to install second-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 will make a profit.”

Realizing how critical project management has become to project and financial success, electrical contractors have been placing a greater emphasis on finding a project document management solution.

Razor-thin margins have forced the industry to cut costs and be more productive with a leaner team. The homegrown manual systems most contractors are using to manage project documentation—word processing software, spreadsheets, paper, three-ring binders, and expanding rows of filing cabinets — make productivity difficult as they are simply not efficient document management tools.

These approaches force already overworked project managers to spend more time in the office managing