With increasing competition in the construction industry, bidding more is perhaps a mode of survival now for most contractors. Getting more estimate done in the same amount of time (or even less time) is one of the easier and high impact changes you can do to improve your business.
Use an Estimating software
If you are not already using an estimating software then you are probably spending a lot more time on an estimate than required. If you estimate using pdf/cad files, then there is no excuse for not using a software to estimate construction costs. There are very rare cases where it doesn’t make sense.
Don’t be put off by costs or the learning curve. A software will pay itself back very quickly, for both cost and time.
Or hire an estimator. If you are not willing to use the software yourself, then hiring an estimator or even outsourcing your estimates would be much cheaper (if you put a monetary value on your time) and perhaps more accurate as well. You can spend time refining the bid and just checking the estimate.
Make a Template
Develop custom conditions that you keep using across jobs to save time. Many software will allow these custom conditions to calculate multiple items at once. (See the assemblies section)
An Excel Template is also a good option for making calculation beyond the takeoff.
Assemblies are the sum of all the materials (or many as are relevant to you) that go into the construction of an item. This could be a wall, floor, roof or any other construction item.
Many software allow you to create assemblies. Another option is to use an excel spreadsheet to create assemblies.
The idea is to calculate all the materials and add ons needed for an item by just making a single measurement for the item.
For example, lets take a concrete slab. You would take off a slab by measuring the area in square feet. However you also need to calculate the concrete quantity in Cubic Yard and apply a price to it. You need the perimeter for calculating the length/square feet of forms needed and apply pricing. You would also need to apply a factor to the area for labor for installation and finishing. The list could go on depending on your preferred estimating style.
Study the job before diving in
Resist the temptation to jump into measuring a job. Study it first for 10-45 minutes depending on the size and scope of the job. Study the scope, read the specs, identify both available and missing information early. Think about the best way to estimate the job. Send RFIs (Request for Information) if required.
Standardize the estimate for difficult / recurring situations
Some types of jobs or items can be difficult or time consuming to estimate. You might want to develop a shortcut that gets you as accurate as possible.
For example you might assign a complexity factor based on predefined criteria. And then add a markup based on the complexity. The best way to develop this is to keep track of actual costs and compare it to the bid amount you estimated.
Another method is to use a fixed cost per item. You can create categories for the item and then count items in each category. Apply a different cost to each category. Again, always compare to actual field costs incurred as far as possible.
Spend time learning the software you work on
In the daily rush, we can become stagnant and stop learning. There might be cool features – old and new which you are not aware of. Most software have training videos online. It can even make sense to get paid training for you or your estimator. One good tip can lead to time savings on every job.
Can you add to this list? Please do share your feedback and any other suggestions you have for readers of this blog by emailing me or commenting on our social pages, where we share this article.
Blog post by Nishant Agarwal
Senior Estimator at Advance Informatics