Over the years the estimating process hasn’t really changed, to provide an estimate for work we still need to work out how much it will cost us and how much profit we want to make. What has changed mainly falls into 3 areas, the data we use for our prices, the tools we use to build up the estimates and the way in which data is exchanged.

If we look at the first point, the Construction industry has become more reliant upon subcontractors carrying out the work and therefore estimates are largely based upon a set of subcontract prices. This means that, from a main contractor’s stance, there is more emphasis on dealing with subcontractor enquiries than there is on analytical or first principle pricing. However, as you look further down the supply chain, it becomes obvious that at some point, items of work still need to be priced based on the raw commodities of Labour, Plant and Materials, in other word analytical pricing is still being carried out at some point!

Looking at the second point, the tools we use now largely involve proprietary estimating software or the ubiquitous spreadsheet, there are very few ‘fag packet’ estimates being produced, although they do still exist!

Another area that definitely has changed over the years is the way in which information is being sent and received. Paper copies used to be the norm and we used the good old postal service as the means by which this was sent and received. As technology improved, the fax machine took over but it still meant that an estimator had a ‘hard copy’ of a Bill of Quants to work on and to get that into estimating software meant having to scan the BoQ and import it into the software. Then along came the most sensible solution to the problem, a standard digital format that all could use, the most popular being the CITE standard. However, despite this being an easy solution to the data exchange problem and despite the fact that most BoQ production software and most estimating software can use that format, it is now largely forgotten about and has been replaced with Excel. Goodness knows why this is the case but it is and with it can come problems due to the fact that there is no standard format for BoQ produced in Excel.

Ask any estimator what his biggest problem is and most will come back and say that time, or to be more precise, a lack of time in which to produce his estimate. Which means that any estimating software he uses must cut down on and not add to the amount of time taken to produce an estimate.

Trying to look at estimating software and, say 10 points that are key to estimate production, I have come up with the following:

1. Excel import – the ability to be able to directly import from Excel but in doing so to automatically overcome inherent problems such as different font styles, descriptions spanning more than 1 cell, multi sheets etc.

2. Copy from other estimates – a function that will allow the estimator to find similar items in other estimates that he or his colleagues has produced, but get the software to find them!

3. User defined views – this may not sound important but we all work differently so it is important that the data we want to see is there in front of us without having to go and search for it.

4. Dynamic displays – any view should be able to show us where the data has come from without us having to go and find it.

5. Document links – we may want to attach a drawing or thumbnail sketch to an item to show why we have priced work in a particular way.

6. Change data – a function that easily allows changes to be made to the whole estimate including the ability to substitute one resource for a different one.

7. Enquiries – speeding up the process of sending and receiving enquiries using ‘Cloud Technology’.

8. Reports – flexible reporting that allows Excel reports to be generated plus a facility to combine several reports into 1 (Report Portfolio).

9. Quantity Take Off – a tool that can be used outside of the estimating software that will allow measurements to be made from electronic drawings and these measurements will directly populate the estimate.

10. Easy to use, flexible and above all else, enjoyable!

All of the above points, and a lot more, are built into Causeway Estimating, a product that improves estimating productivity and in user’s own words is a joy to use!

Causeway is running a series of Web-Demo session though out the year, click here to learn how to cut traditional tender enquiry costs by up to 50%.

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