Getting Rid of the Input Blues

You know that brief euphoria you get when the takeoff is complete? You sit back, take a deep breath, and then the bubble bursts. You realize you still have to manually input the takeoff into your estimating system.
In the past, the Estimating column touched on the direct takeoff feature, but there is more to know. If you are not familiar with paperless technology, you may want to read those articles first (Find them here, here, and here).

A little history
One of paperless estimating’s newer features is the ability to establish a direct connection to an electrical estimating system. This feature has the potential to significantly reduce the time it takes to input your takeoff. To understand how, let’s go back to the way it was in the late 1970s B.C. (before computers).

As a young estimator, I was taught to condense the takeoff into one line on the pricing sheet for each type of material. If I was bidding a 10-story building, I would total the takeoff from all 10 floors and list them as lump sums on the price sheets. If we won the project, we would have the time to do an extensive floor-by-floor breakdown.

Now let’s move forward to when computer estimating came along. Regarding the level of detail to be input into the computer, nothing changed. Unless a floor-by-floor breakdown was required for our 10-story building, I still added up the takeoff from all 10 floors and only once entered the totals into my estimating system.

Back to the future
Within the last few years, many electrical estimating systems have added direct links between their software and paperless takeoff programs. The direct links enable you to connect an item in your paperless takeoff program, such as a duplex receptacle, with an assembly or list of components in your estimating software. The links also enable you to specify where to input the takeoff item in the estimate breakdown. Depending on which system you have, the takeoff is either instantly sent to the estimating system or sent when you click on a button. Also dependent on your system choice, linking can be done before, during and/or after the takeoff. For all systems, manual input is eliminated.

It bids when?
Estimators are always under the gun, so does a linked system save time? Based on my experience and conversations with many users of these systems, the answer is yes. How much time you save depends on your current method of takeoff, listing and computer input. The estimators who currently record all of their takeoffs on paper or computer spreadsheets and then input the completed takeoff into an estimating system benefit the most. If you currently input your takeoff directly into a system while you are counting, the time savings is considerably less.

I have also found that projects with more complex breakdowns have a greater benefit from direct input links. For example, I recently completed an estimate for a 12-building housing project. Each building had three floors. My customer wanted a breakdown by building and by floor, which meant I would have to input most of my takeoff items 36 times (12 buildings times three floors). Manually inputting this takeoff would have taken four to five hours. Using a linked system that employed the “send button” method took less than two minutes after clicking send.

It’s a great time to add a linked paperless takeoff system to your estimating tools. The benefits described in past articles, the low cost of large monitors and the advances in paperless technology all combine to blow those paper plans right out of your office.

CARR has been in the electrical construction business 41 years. He started Carr Consulting Services, which provides electrical estimating and educational services, in 1994. Contact him at 805.523.1575 or

About the Author

Stephen Carr

Estimating Columnist

Stephen Carr has been in the electrical construction business since 1971. He started Carr Consulting Services—which provides electrical estimating and educational services—in 1994. Contact him at 805.523.1575 or, and...

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