Maybe we shouldn’t use computers for estimating. I can’t believe I wrote that. I am Mr. Computer. My first estimating computer had a whopping total of 16 kilobytes of RAM with two 5¼-inch, single-sided floppy drives.
During the week of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon, my wife mentioned the stunt several times, so we ended up watching it on TV on June 23, 2013. The event itself sounded intriguing, but even more interesting was the description of the preparations.
A long time ago, in the early days of AutoCAD, I went to a seminar where an electrical design and estimating system was demonstrated. It was amazing! The system actually did a takeoff while the design was being done in AutoCAD.
Like bid listing, bid depositories are another method of fighting the practice of bid shopping. Let’s briefly review what happens on bid day because of bid shopping. First, the vendors hold back their prices until the last moment for fear of being shopped by the subcontractors.
When I started to write this article, it came out as a rant, which seemed unprofessional. Assuming I should be professional, I pared the rant down to a summary of the way I feel about the current state of engineering practices.
“How many jobs are you going to win for me?” I have heard that question at every interview I ever had for an estimating position. As an independent estimator, I still hear it. The answer is none, at least not by myself. Estimators need to be enabled, as they are only one part of a group.
There is a debate going on in this country that few people know about. It has to do with a difference in estimating methods between the Eastern and Western United States. Generally, and I stress generally, the West measures branch (meaning conduit and wiring), and the East averages it.
It used to be easy to labor fixtures. I learned a lot about lamps and fixtures in the ’70s and memorized all the standard labor units 30 years ago. For a long time, nothing changed. Apply the standard labor unit, throw in the appropriate factors, and you’re done. Life was easy.
An electrical estimator has to deal with a lot of people, including general contractors, engineers and architects. Many estimators interact with vendors. How they treat those vendors can make a world of difference.
The role of an estimator has evolved, yet it remains rooted in the principles that defined it. A 41-year estimating veteran helps illustrate the means by which estimating has shifted and how the measure of the estimator’s skills plays a key role.
For each forward-looking company that embraces building information modeling (BIM), tablets and time-capture technologies, there are two or three who still use spreadsheets to estimate and paper for daily reports and timesheets, according to a survey, “The 2012 Construction Estimating Benchmark Repo
To get an idea of how estimators operate, we continue last month’s discussion with H. Tom Browning, vice president, preconstruction of The Truland Group Inc., about how estimating work continues to develop and change.
Many estimators in today’s market attempt to bid any and all projects regardless of the type of work. The company’s need to secure work can cause some estimators to lose sight of one of the primary goals of an educated bid—understanding the true cost of a project as it relates to their company.
Competitive bidding in today’s electrical construction market is one of the most frustrating and challenging tasks the electrical estimator faces. Fewer projects to bid coupled with more competitors makes preparing a profitable bid price seem impossible at times.