The material ECs have to work with has changed over the
past few decades, and not for the better, said Stephen Carr,
president and chief estimator at Carr Consulting Services and
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR estimating columnist.
“Electrical drawings are continuing to get worse,” he said.
Electrical engineers with less time and, in some cases, fixed
resources are putting drawings together with limited detail,
and contractors have to do the best they can with what they get.
In addition, project contracts often come with more
exclusions and qualifications, and the building information
management details are frequently put into tables, which
requires contractors to scroll to two places to learn what used
to be apparent in a single drawing.
As a result, Carr said, “Bids are taking more time.”
In the long run, he added, reforming the standards for
engineering drawings would benefit contractors. In the mean-
time, ECs must work with the additional challenges that have
become part of the estimating and bidding playing field.
ECs seeking the best estimating software need a product
that’s simple to use, flexible enough to make changes for different conditions, and valuable to project managers long after
the bid is accepted. It also needs to be something the crew can
access on-site, in the office or at home.
Software drives estimating changes
Estimating software significantly benefits builders and general
contractors with the ability to respond to more complex bidding
requirements. Since the software provides breakdowns in many
ways within one estimate, expectations are higher than ever.
“The estimate is often an introduction to the company and
the quality of work that you do, so don’t submit an estimate
that’s sloppy, incomplete or late,” said Bill Ruffner, founder and
CEO of TurboBid.
When it comes to large projects, the entire process is starting to change, said Stanley Shook, senior estimator at Rosendin
Electric in San Jose, Calif. Shook, an estimator for several
decades, started an estimating company in 2001 and wrote
on the subject for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR from 2005–2012.
An increasingly popular building method, integrated project delivery (IPD), provides a collaborative alliance of the
related companies that manage a project beginning with the
estimate. Shook calls this the “big room concept,” bringing a
team together in the earliest phase of a project, even during
Over the past few years, Shook has seen the estimating
and bidding process shift to this model. With large projects,
it becomes a matter of negotiations and interviews as much
as a budget estimate. These lengthy processes may take place
without drawings, and the resumes of team members are just
as important as the proposal.
A savvy EC looks at the companies and individuals it would
be working with and assigns staff accordingly—for instance,
putting a superintendent on the project who worked well with
the general contractor in the past.
Of course, numbers are important. With a proposal, a budget
estimate needs to be detailed.
“It’s not just a roll-of-the-dice guess,” Shook said. “A lot of
time goes into it.”
Contractors and customers look at those estimates not just
to determine what prices will be, but also whether the company
has put detailed effort into its calculations.
Often, one or more interviews follow. Shook said estimators
should educate themselves before interviews to ensure they
understand the project and know who will be at the meeting
so that their presentation is relevant.
Estimators can field queries for tens or hundreds of different
pricing breakouts, and that’s where the software is imperative.
“You have to know the specific job,” Shook said. “The bidding form has changed dramatically. Customers today can get
asked for every breakout under the sun.”
Software companies are improving their offerings to make estimating and project management tasks easier.
Software cuts estimating time by at least 75 percent over
the pen-and-paper method, according to Paul Wheaton, vice
president of sales, McCormick Systems, Chandler, Ariz. It’s also
faster and more effective than the computer-based system that
often required printing digital drawings, scanning documents
and then transferring them to the customer’s software system.
In the past year or so, 95 percent of McCormick Systems’
estimating programs come with its On Screen digital drawing
support, which enables ECs to estimate directly on a PDF file,
review drawings digitally, annotate, add layers of fixtures or other
quotable items, and share that drawing with project managers.
“McCormick built On Screen Estimating Pro right into our
estimating software, essentially creating one big super pro-
> FOCUS BIDDING EFFICIENCY
Continued from page 118