Any construction estimating team needs to win projects to make money and keep the workforce busy. As an Estimator, this means there can be a lot of pressure to quickly create bids whilst also ensuring they are accurate and competitive. It’s important to streamline your process to get the most out of each day and prevent you from becoming stressed and overwhelmed.
The following three tips will help you simplify your day-to-day processes and increase the amount of value you can add as a trained professional.
What is construction estimating?
Construction estimating is the process of calculating how much it will costs to build a physical structure. It is possibly the most critical step in the construction process. Contractors win and lose projects based on estimates, and once secured, the bid needs to be as accurate as possible. If costs are off just slightly, the slim margins could be lost and the consequences could be fatal.
Project owners also use construction estimating to establish a project's feasibility, scope and budget allocations. When done correctly, it helps the contractors, clients and owners stay under budget and in profit.
1. Dismantle data silos in your company
Data silos can pose huge issues when it comes to gaining insights and economies of scale. If you’re not able to access historic data (because it’s stored in random and untraceable locations), you’re missing out on a huge data reservoir. You might have priced the same detail before, but the workings are lost.
Estimators also deal with streams of ever-changing data like prices, materials, and labour costs. If this information isn’t stored or accessible in a central location, you risk duplicating efforts and producing inconsistent costs.
Working separately can also create data sharing problems. With endless cost data spread across several systems, you run this risk of spending time chasing a quote that you already had from a previous job, or someone else on your team. Rather than having to phone or email someone, you could simply search in the cross-company database.
Dismantling silos and creating a single source of truth encourages a culture of knowledge sharing. Estimating teams can find the latest costs from a single source that’s regularly updated, ensuring your bids are competitive, accurate and timely.
Access to shared data saves everyone time and effort and prevents people from doing the same work in parallel – over and over again.
2. Standardise the way you work
It’s no secret that ‘subjective’ pricing is a problem in the construction industry. Building bespoke spreadsheets for complex projects is baked into the way estimators operate. But there are glaring issues that arise again and again.
Cells get missed or deleted or formulas are wrong. Then it’s impossible to query or trace the mistake back to the origin. It’s an unhealthy combination. Who is to blame? It’s easy to look to the estimator when things go wrong post-contract, and lots of people do.
Standardise the way you work and improve your output. Even if you do a task daily and are confident and comfortable with doing it ‘your way’, implanting a standard process will help you trace errors if and when they happen.
Here are some of the benefits that standardised processes bring:
Improves clarity: people spend less time figuring it out and more time doing it when guesswork and ambiguity is removed.
Ensures quality: working with a standardised process means you can be confident about the quality of what you’re producing as it will always be rooted in a core process.
Increases productivity: reducing time wasted on identifying and correcting errors means you can focus on adding value where it counts – drawing on your experience and expertise as an Estimator rather than reviewing Excel formulas.
Boost morale: standardisation helps establish relationships between people and their work processes. Mastering them brings a sense of pride and ownership in the quality of work.
Reduces errors: if everyone is working from the same set of processes, these ‘rules’ stop unnecessary errors.
3. Choose one tool to perform construction estimating tasks
If you find yourself using a series of disconnected tools, formulas, websites, and indices to price work then know you’re not alone. Most Estimators rely on this type of process – nothing does everything you need, but together they get the job done… with a few hiccups along the way.
Here are a few of the ‘systems’ we find people using:
- Product-specific calculators for various materials
- Spreadsheets that old colleagues left behind
- Bespoke spreadsheets that get repurposed for new projects
- Pen and paper
Working in this way can make things messy when putting together a final price. Even the most 'tried and tested’ spreadsheets have errors and margins are too lean to handle missteps. You stick the figure on the quote, then save the scattered exports and spreadsheets in the project folder. Not only is this a risky approach to data management, the look and feel of the submitted bid may be unprofessional.
Choosing one tool to perform estimating tasks can change the way estimating teams work for the better.
Everything to do with each bid lives within one system. This saves you time scrambling between different tools and hunting for information. Your historic bidding data can also take on a new life here- automatically brought up to date for benchmarking, along with access to industry standards.
Implementing a tool like this across the board means there is a standard company best practice. Each person knows what they are expected to produce and feels that they have the tools needed to do so.
The pressure to win projects never stops. But these tips will help you relieve the workload and give you the power to get more done. Look after your process, and your results will look after themselves.
Get access to our bestselling on screen take-off tool with the purchase of 5 Estimating Essentials licenses – for a limited time only. Click here for more information.