Spreadsheet software is made for crunching numbers, but database programs are made for crunching data, and they do it better. Consider the following reasons why a database is a good platform for electrical estimating systems.
I was recently following a forum discussion about issues related to using spreadsheet software for estimating. It turned into a spreadsheet–versus–database argument and got a little heated. The truth is both systems have a place in your estimating toolbox.
Determining how much of the National Electrical Code (NEC) estimators should know depends on several factors, including how much they initially knew when they became estimators, the type of work they are bidding, who they are working for, the completeness of the bid documents, and their goals as est
Whether they know it or not, most estimators are in the marketing business. Every time they speak to someone, they influence that person’s feelings about them and the company they work for. If estimators are rude to vendors, they may not get the best pricing.
Before I get started, I want to let you know that the following is based on my experience with three software packages. While the basic concepts are the same for most software in this category, the specifics of how they work may be different.
As estimators, we are sometimes called on to create and maintain schedules. Many of us actually hold the position of estimator/project manager, so we are wholly responsible for scheduling our own projects.
While preparing estimates, the methods and rules that estimators follow depend on several factors, including training, experience, the type of project and company culture. In some instances, estimating practices may not mesh well with project management requirements.
I have been fortunate during my career to hold the positions of estimator and project manager, both separately and at the same time. This experience has given me perspective from both sides. Unfortunately, things were not always as harmonious as they should have been.
Contractors that are still putting estimates together using pencil and paper are not only wasting time and money, but they also are losing business. Contractors who think they can’t afford estimating software are just plain wrong.
Last month we talked about why bid listing laws are a good thing. In summary, general contractors use bid shopping to take profit from the subcontractors and keep those profits for themselves. Bid listing laws are a very effective way of stopping post-award bid shopping.
There is a lot of discussion about bid shopping in several of the forums I participate in, so I thought this would be good time to revisit the subject and bring things up to date. I learned very early in my career that having the low number at bid time did not guarantee you a contract.
We had to buy a new car recently. My wife’s car was 16 years old, and keeping it running was costing us almost as much as an entire car payment. It was definitely time to say goodbye, which created another problem—shopping for a new car.
The company I worked at while being trained as an electrical estimator already had an estimating system: a mainframe computer system called Estimatic. We had to convert each takeoff item and assembly into a 10-digit code. We entered the codes and quantities into a teletype machine.
I have been wanting to write about several topics that are not long enough to fill this column by themselves. This month, I decided to combine a few subjects into one column, so I could finally get them off my mind.
To export, or not to export
A friend recently asked me, “What’s so hard about bidding electrical work? You don’t even need a college degree to be an estimator.” I said he was oversimplifying things and told him it can be a complex, highly detailed process with many strategies and chess-like moves.
When I became a trainee estimator, I never worried about what I was going to bid next. My method was simple; I bid on every project my boss told me to. That strategy changed when I moved on to my next employer.
Many of us bring our work home. One weekend, my young daughter was watching me do a takeoff; I was counting, measuring and highlighting the plans as I went. She got very excited and, with big, round eyes, asked me, “Daddy, is that what you do at work?
I have always been interested in labor-saving gadgets and how they affect an estimate. For the purpose of this article, I define a gadget as a material or tool meant to perform a task better and more quickly than the previously used material.
During my career, I’ve learned a lot about things that are not exactly estimating but are closely related. For instance, I had to learn about relationship management with vendors and customers. I was required to learn enough about electrical engineering to finish the incomplete plans we often get.
In the previous two articles in this series, I wrote about how to get information out of a database and into an estimate. So, let’s say you have entered all of your takeoff and have a file full of the selected electrical materials, each with its own price and labor unit attached.