I recently heard a colleague say: “Don’t worry about winning a bunch of jobs with really low bids. You’ll make up the losses in volume!” Of course, he was kidding. Because you won’t; you’ll just lose a bunch of money—in volume.
With this last article on paperless estimating, I want to touch on a few of the greater benefits and potential issues you may face. I’m hoping some of you have already purchased and are now using “in-screen” takeoff (IST) software, after reading parts one and two of this series.
I’ve waited to write about paperless estimating until now. I’ve been estimating with digital drawings and estimating software for many years, but I didn’t want to write this until I was 100 percent paperless and working entirely “in-screen,” as one software company calls it.
Years ago, I was assisting a client on a $60-plus million electrical bid. There were more than 35 electrical bid form items, each one with three or four subcontractor or vendor quotations. The mayhem this created can’t be described.
As the construction industry is starting to breathe again, I’m getting calls from small contractors asking if I think they should hire a full-time estimator. It’s a great question, and I’m glad they are thinking ahead, but there is no simple answer.
Although I never recommend it, estimators are often forced to work on more than one project at a time. This is especially true in today’s highly competitive and light-on-opportunities market. It is also very common with prebid estimates, which sometimes share the same bid date.
Electrical estimators are often placed in an almost impossible position. We are given raw schematics of large, complex buildings from which we are expected to estimate the cost of the many intricate electrical and signal installations they contain.
With any project you estimate, everything you count or don’t count is relative to the project’s costs and how much profit your company will make. Calling a project “residential” doesn’t guarantee you will make money. Therefore, do not approach residential jobs casually.
The estimation of a residential project should never be taken casually because they can be just as complex and design-intensive as any commercial one. So don’t just assume you are simply taking off another “rope job.”
There are different types of lighting retrofit projects: fixture replacement, relocation, repair, ballast retrofit, clean and relamp only, and various other fixture-related tasks; some projects may not even involve working with existing lumminaires.
It looks like 2010 might just be the jump start we have all been waiting for; per McGraw-Hill Construction’s “Outlook 2010 Executive Conference” industry analysts are forecasting an 11 percent increase in overall U.S. construction starts, mostly in housing and public works projects.
Are you still wondering if you should buy estimating software? I know this seems like a silly question, especially with it being 2009 and all, but I consistently hear about (and from) many electrical contractors who are still not using software.