Estimating the NECA Show

New labor-saving products are out there

In just a few short weeks, the NECA Show, hosted by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), will be underway in Boston. Are you attending? Will your estimators be attending? Do you have a plan for how to make the most of your time walking the isles? Are there any products or specific manufacturers you want to learn more about?
The NECA Show is an excellent opportunity to obtain hands-on insight and knowledge of all the current and upcoming labor-saving products. Let’s face it: labor costs are not going down. If electrical contractors want to stay competitive, they need to use labor-saving products and installation methods.

When you first start a project, do you look into which products will help you build the job faster or do you just let your foremen order whatever they think is needed? Do your foremen know about all the labor-saving products available?

Perhaps you should have your estimators and foremen meet to discuss all the products available. What the heck, add the purchasing agent too. If your entire team is working together on the correct implementation of the best labor-saving products and tools, it stands to reason your contracts will begin to show higher profit levels.

This meeting of the minds could also help with the development of your estimating software’s parts database. You remember your parts database, don’t you? The one you keep cursing because it still doesn’t have all the items you need? The database you’ve sworn to clean up and make more efficient and bring up to date? Yeah, that one!

Your parts database is the engine that drives your estimating software. Having a thought out, organized parts database filled with the components your electricians actually use will help you control costs. It can also help you win more bids and with more accurate prices.

Now, you might ask, “Should I bid projects factoring in these labor-saving materials?” Maybe.

As a general practice, you should always estimate and bid projects using material items that will actually be used to build the project. These material items should carry labor figures that reflect the most accurate assessment of how many man-hours it will take to install them. Then, as you build the project, you shouldn’t lose money on labor. Right? Okay.

But, let’s say you bid and win a project factored on using products that shave 20 percent labor from your initial estimate. Then, as the job is built, none of these products were used. Chances are, your project’s final labor hours will be 20 percent higher and your profit much lower.

Perhaps a safer approach is to estimate and prepare your bid with the standard materials, while keeping in mind how much on labor costs you could save by using labor-saving materials. This knowledge could give you a price-cutting option to use if things get tight at bid time. Like an extra ace in your pocket. Of course, don’t forget: If you bid with it, you need to build with it.
Remember, the NECA Show is also a great place to get caught up on and check out all the latest and greatest estimating software. All the major systems will be there, showing off their latest upgrades and newest features: Accubid, ConEst, Estimation, McCormick, Sage Timberline, Vision InfoSoft and more all under one roof, presenting you with a great opportunity to compare two or three systems. Also, CAD estimating software has really progressed. So make sure you allocate enough time to get a few in-depth demonstrations.

Now, success doesn’t occur by just attending the show, meeting the industry reps, getting the demonstrations and collecting catalogue information. When you get back to the office, you need to dedicate yourself to applying all this new information about labor-saving products into your company’s database and estimating software.

 Immediately hold a meeting with your estimating staff, your foremen and purchasing agent. Inform them of your findings and discuss all the great labor-saving products. Then, develop a plan for how to estimate using them and how to get them all entered into your database.

As I said last year at this time, I recommend you make a list of all the areas you want to cover, things you want to see and information you want to get. Then, don’t forget to take the list. One last thing: Remeber to grab some lovely parting gifts for those in the office that didn’t get to go. And I’m not just talking about pens.      EC

Shook is the president and chief estimator for his estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He has worked in the electrical construction industry for more than 18 years. Reach him at 707.776.0800 or by e-mail at



About the Author

Stan Shook

Stan Shook was ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR's estimating columnist from 2005 to 2012. He works as an electrical estimator in California. Read his blog at or contact him directly

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