A Testament to the Estimate
By Michael Gillum
The humble and lowly estimate: the quiet and critical piece of a complex
puzzle that changes landscapes and skylines simply based on an intricate
assembly of measurements and calculations. Before feet can hit the ground
and changes commence, it is the estimate that pioneers every project. The
estimate impacts the entire team, the total project, and the experience as a
whole. Estimators deserve the methods and technology that allow them to
operate efficiently while effectively delivering benefits to the entire
Slow and cumbersome takeoff and estimating processes – whether manual or
disparate tools hitched together – can significantly hinder bidding success.
Such methods typically require redundancy of data entry, which can produce
inaccuracies, miscommunication, and wasted time: a set up for a losing bid
and/or lost profit.
How can the upfront powerhouse of estimators be armored to win the battle of
the bid? By using seamless construction software for takeoff and estimating,
thus streamlining processes and automating tasks. Contemporary software for
construction estimating helps contractors be more efficient, increase
accuracy, reduce costs, and ultimately improve profitability.
Take On Digital Takeoff
Digital takeoff software allows estimators to simply import electronic
plan files, and then quickly and accurately perform point-and-click takeoffs
on their computer. This not only speeds up the process but also eliminates
the cost and hassle of working with bulky, expensive paper blueprints.
Mann’s Construction is using software to perform digital takeoff of
electronic plans. Katrina Owens handles estimating and project management
for the general construction firm based in Louisiana, and explains the
company’s savings with software:
“We have reduced our takeoff time from two weeks to just four or five days
now depending on the size of the job. And the takeoffs are much more
accurate. The software gives me a way to track every item that I take off,
so, if I’m taking off concrete, I know every square inch of concrete I took
off. There is no question of whether I picked it up in the estimate.”
Contractors using digital takeoff software can typically complete bids up to
10 times faster than by using manual methods. The use of the software
ensures precision, equips estimators to quickly measure the scope of work
and changes, and allows them to react with confidence on bid day. The result
is more bids in less time with greater accuracy, giving estimators insight
into negotiating how to win work with a healthy profit margin.
See how the business reaps the ultimate benefit? The speed and accuracy of
digital takeoff are critical to bidding and executing jobs, as well as
preventing cost overruns and increasing profitability.
Eliminate the Error-Terror
That magical step between takeoff and bid is the estimate. Seamless
workflow between takeoff and estimating applications allows contractors to
complete their measurements and then easily send them to their estimate to
prepare their bid.
With a seamless solution, once estimators take off their plans, that data is
pulled directly into the estimating process. By avoiding the time and error
of reentering data and keeping processes moving along, estimators can ensure
accuracy and avoid costly mistakes.
Thanks to a central database that maintains updated pricing on cost items,
estimators can efficiently and accurately determine costs for a project.
Estimating software also makes it easy to create a bid, allowing contractors
to quickly add, change, and manage cost items. Plus, estimators can properly
prepare and track alternates to negotiate for an advantage over other
bidders, and identify opportunities for additional profit on a job.
Software features, such as dashboards that provide fast, graphic
representation of a bid and the ability to drill-down for details about
proposals, bid details, win-loss statistics, and historical information,
allow the owner and other team members to get a quick overview on a bid.
The great equalizer among competing contractors is bid day, which can be
extremely hectic for most, if not all, involved. Bid day separates those who
work from those who wish. The more preparation you do, the better chance
there is of you landing the job. A seamless takeoff and estimating solution
contains all the pertinent information necessary to produce the final number
- in one convenient location. This allows contractors to quickly and
accurately create, track, and manage their proposals; manipulate a
proposal’s price on the fly; propose “what-if” scenarios; and make
up-to-the-minute adjustments before submitting the competitive bid.
The PIPCO Companies of Peoria, Illinois utilize a takeoff and estimating
software solution where historical data is stored, enhancing accuracy even
further. With details on specific crews and their productivity levels in
performing certain tasks already stored in the software, for example, it is
much easier to estimate labor hours for future bids. Estimators know what a
specific crew can achieve in one day or a certain timeframe. Kim Freitag, an
estimator at PIPCO explains:
“I am able to easily plug in what our crews can do in a linear foot, cubic
yard, day - however I decide to set it up - and the answer is right there. I
also now have access to cost analyses for each project, so that I can review
how long a project or specific task took to accomplish and go back and tweak
the software’s database for future jobs. This is a big benefit of our
Benefits Beyond the Bid
Estimators can appreciate using software for the takeoff and estimating
process for the efficiency and accuracy of producing bids and proposals. And
everyone across the business can agree that a seamless solution is
beneficial, giving them the ability to submit more bids in less time with
precision and profit margin, and ultimately win the work that’s worth the
“I can turn around a proposal far faster using [software] than with the old
method, which keeps me out in the field more for field management and making
sure my crew is moving in the right direction,” says Larry Custodio,
president, estimator, project manager, and field superintendent at Village
Excavating, Inc. in Colorado.
Beyond the takeoff and estimate, the entire process and construction team
can benefit by a simplified workflow. This allows the team to make informed
decisions quickly, while saving time, controlling costs, and improving
profit margins on jobs.
So perhaps now, the often overlooked yet critically valuable estimate shall
no longer be underestimated, and finally take its place of importance in the
process toward achieving and improving profitability. The upfront advantage
is truly secured in an accurate and swift estimate, made more so thanks to
seamless takeoff and estimating software.
About the Author
Michael Gillum is Product Manager - Viewpoint For Estimating at
Viewpoint and can be reached by phone at 800-688-8226. Viewpoint is a
recognized leader in meeting the collaborative and information needs of the
AEC industry, providing construction-specific software addressing all points
of the construction lifecycle, from preconstruction to building maintenance.
For more information on Viewpoint, visit