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D4COST Software


Signs of a Clunky Estimating Process 
By Rick Dill

General Contractors, this article might just be the most life changing thing you read this year. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you should read this if you are experiencing any of the following:

  1. Are you having to stay late at the office or work weekends to finish your work?
  2. Are you having subcontractor coverage anxiety?
  3. Is your extra work affecting your marriage or home life?
  4. Are you losing sleep at night?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, you may be suffering from a syndrome called CEP (Clunky Estimating Process). This syndrome is very common but the prognosis is good. It is easily curable, sometimes in as little as 24 hours using software focused entirely on the preconstruction bidding process.

The primary causes of Clunky Estimating Process include:

  1. Having separate spreadsheet(s) of subcontractor data instead of a centralized database that can be shared company-wide
  2. Selecting subs and sending invitations and addenda manually
  3. Lack of an integrated Online Plan Room portal
  4. Tracking bid responses manually
  5. Keeping subcontractor info and Prequalification forms updated

All of the above efficiency killers can go away using web-based bid invitation software that will automate your preconstruction process. There are software providers such as PipelineSuite® or other comparable programs that will import your existing spreadsheet of subcontractors for you and have your company up and running within 24 hours. Let me explain each of these key pain points and the cure:

1. Separate vs. centralized database shared company-wide.
Having separate lists of subcontractors for each estimator is clunky. Imagine having one database that your company can access anywhere via the web on a laptop, tablet, or mobile device. When one estimator updates a company, everyone else in your company will see that sub’s current data.

2. Selecting subs and sending invitations and addenda.
Manually selecting subs is time consuming, but software makes it simple to select subs by trade and quickly filter and invite only those subs that are more likely to bid (based on geographic area for example). Another advantage of software is that you can send an addendum notice without bothering the subs that said they won’t be bidding.

When emailing manually, it’s not easy to know who actually opened your emails, but with many bid invitation software systems you can see the day and time the email was delivered, opened, and when they clicked on your link. If you send faxes, you no longer have to stand at the fax machine and dial numbers individually; the software sends them via its own fax server. Tracking which subs received your emails and opened them is valuable, especially when sending a critical addendum.

3. Online Plan Room portal.
Emailing plans and specs only works if the files are small. The most efficient method for both parties is a single portal where your subs can get everything they need in one place. Most portals allow subs to respond Yes or No to bidding, view and download plans and specs, view project info, launch a map and get directions to the job site, view any addendum notices, submit an RFI, and update their company info. Some software systems also allow you to post public projects on your company website using a simple widget.

4. Track who is bidding, who submitted a bid, and even who is awarded.
Many GCs still manually track which subs are bidding in a spreadsheet, as well as which submitted a bid and then which are awarded. There are several efficiencies gained by using software to automate this process.

a) Subcontractors are able to click a button in their email to respond Yes or No, or via the Subcontractor Portal after they view the plans
first to see if they want to bid. Their response automatically updates the GC’s bid list thus eliminating manual entry.

b) Subcontractors can upload their bid into the portal.

c) The GC can send a “Thank You” email to subs that weren’t awarded. This helps eliminate follow-up calls from subs wondering if
they were awarded.

d) By tracking this in a software program, GCs can view historical
metrics about a sub including how responsive they are and what percentage of projects they are awarded. Tracking history and metrics manually is too time-consuming to do manually.

5. Automating Subcontractor Prequalification and keeping company info updated.

A Prequalification process that is paperless saves time for both the GC and the Subcontractor, since neither have to retype any data. The old way of subs manually filling out forms requires the GC to manually input and update… a painful waste of time. The automated way allows the GC to email a link to an online form embedded in their company website, and once approved, the subcontractor is automatically updated or added to the GC’s database and ready to invite to bid on projects.

By automating these key points in the bid process using preconstruction bid Invitation software, companies can overcome their Clunky Estimating Process and improve their quality of life. What most don’t realize is how fast and easy it is to get setup…in just 24 hours, Clunky Estimating Process can be cured!

About the Author: Rick is the President of PipelineSuite® which he founded in 2002. Rick is also a member of the American Society of Professional Estimators, Orange County Chapter 3. For more information, visit www.PipelineSuite.com or you can contact Rick directly at rdill@pipelinesuite.com.

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