Estimating Has Evolved
Although little has changed about the basic tasks required in estimating, the tools and technology available has increased manifold. Every construction business needs to use the tools available today to increase their bidding capacity as well as ensure accuracy of estimates. Following the new best practices in construction estimation is necessary not only to thrive but to survive as well.
But Some Things Haven’t Changed
No amount of Technology has changed the first step in the estimating process. Gathering the Information given and understanding the blueprints. This is always the first step even if you do it partially.
I suggest that you do this first step right in one go and send a list of RFIs (Request for Information) if there is information which is missing or conflicting. Ideally, you want this process to be complete at least a few days or a week in advance of the bid date.
While Others Things need to be Changed (Leverage Technology)
Make the best use of the Estimating Tools available. That doesn’t mean buying a fancy estimating software or solution. It means learning to use it for maximum benefit to your business. Softwares can do much more than simple linear and area measurements.
You need to apply and understand features like templates, assemblies, custom formulas, cost database integration to maximize bidding and minimize effort, cost and errors in estimating. The only caveat is if you are a very small business or do very small projects. However, if you plan on growing you will eventually need to learn all this, because the competition is already using it.
The Human Element (Estimator) is still the most important thing
Using technology can make you forget that it still requires a person to make it work. Whether it’s behind the scenes or someone operating it directly. In the case of construction estimation all the technology is, is a tool. It’s the knowledge, expertise and dedication of the estimator that makes sure everything is done right.
Develop your Own Estimating Process and Best Practices
But developing an estimating process is critical, especially if there is more than one person doing the estimating. Ever played the game Chinese whispers? What happens at the end? That is why a WRITTEN process is so important. Checklists, steps, methodology…. Everything needs to be documented and explained. This also reduces the training time for someone new.
Complete the Feedback Loop
Always compare the actual quantities used in a project against what was estimated. Do the same for labor costs. Estimating is not 100% accurate and it doesn’t have to be. It just has to be close and moving closer in time. For that, feedback is essential. But don’t turn feedback into a blame game if things go wrong. Feedback should be constructive. And any errors should be taken as a cue to improve the estimating process.
Final Word – Perfection is the enemy of everything good
Don’t try to implement everything at once. And don’t expect everything to be perfect the first time. Yes, you need a sense of urgency. But remember, what you are doing now does work. Don’t change everything suddenly. Implement one improvement at a time. And sustain the urgency over a long time period. That is the only way to really improve without making some big mistakes along the way.