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Moving from Excel to a Full Estimating Software Program

Moving from Excel to a Full Estimating Software Program

Posted: July 17, 2020 | Estimating

Fifteen years ago, Steve Schmucker started a painting company as a means to pay his way through college. He built a loyal customer base early in his career by providing a high-quality product with personalized service. Fast forward fif teen years and two changes of location, Cedars Woodworking & Renovations took form, and now they are completing $100,000 projects.

Cedars Woodworking & Renovations stopped creating Excel spreadsheets for estimates and started using Sigma. By switching to estimating software, they saw significant gains in speed and accuracy, and they were able to automate work that they previously toiled at manually.

“We needed something faster and more accurate than relying on our brain. That’s what Sigma has done, for sure.” Steve Schmucker, CEO & Founder, Cedars Woodworking Read More

And he is not alone.

PA Solutions is an automation solutions company that provides unique and expert machine automation services to manufacturers worldwide. Since PA Solutions Southeast adopted Sigma’s estimating software in 2019 as their tool for all automation projects and estimates, they have seen drastic improvements in growth, volume and cost-saving — alongside a whopping 222% increase in revenue, from $45 to $100 million.

Making the Switch Can Put You Ahead of Your Competitors

Making the switch to a software estimating program for your business can seem costly and may seem too complex for your business model, but as Chris Sonderby, (CPE) and the owner of CK Consulting Services, sees it, it can be the keystone to growing your business as it increases your productivity, accuracy and capability of project estimating. Chris is an expert in his field, and he often advises contractors on selecting their own estimating software.

“When a contractor is serious, there comes a point in time when the contractor’s work exceeds the abilities of both themselves and any consultant like me that they could hire... I always tell them that if they like the product of what I create, they need to go ahead and use the software that I’m using.” Chris Sonderby(CPE), Owner, CK Consulting Services Read More

An Excel Based UI — Without the Broken Formulas

Most estimators and contractors got their start in estimating using Microsoft Excel. The Excel interface is globally understood and familiar. Sigma is built to look and feel like Microsoft Excel, and this familiar interface enables new users to become what we call “power users” within a few weeks.

“Because the interface is almost identical to Microsoft Excel, it was easy for me to understand.”, Matthew Morck, Estimator, Oakwood Contractors Read More

Sigma takes the common Excel interface of column and row input ranges and supplements it with a break down structure and tools specifically designed for creating and perfecting estimates. This eliminates the need for creating a spreadsheet and hard programming equations into cells. Broken formulas are a common difficulty for estimators who use an Excel spreadsheet for their estimating. Over time and as different estimators use the template, the formulas and formatting inside of these spreadsheets is prone to difficult to detect errors.

One of the most powerful tools that Sigma offers users is the template feature. This allows estimators to create and utilize templates for any job, which drastically speeds up the process. Sigma has customizable templates already built in for new users, and each template contains smart formulas specifically set up for estimating. The smart formulas are what make Sigma templates easily re-usable, and prevent the common pitfall of broken formulas and cell references that throw off estimates completed in Excel. Sigma also features automatic validation capabilities which provide validation and warn estimators of any potential oversights they may have missed in the estimate.

“Whether you’re a small construction company with a few employees or you’re a large and growing business like Aarsleff, Sigma is the ideal construction case estimation software,” said Jesper Jacobsen, divisional manager of construction, Per Aarsleff. “The value in the software comes from the complexity behind the scenes that’s hidden from the user yet delivers a powerful, transparent and easy way to accurately estimate construction cases.”, Jesper Jacobsen, CEO, Aarsleff – Read More

Speeding Up Your Estimating

On average, estimators who use Sigma complete their estimates 50 to 80% faster than when using Excel. A key feature that makes Sigma faster than its competitors is the smooth estimating interface that allows users to input fast changes with drag and drop functionality. Users can reuse data and entire sections from old projects by simply dragging and dropping the historic data into the new estimate. Many projects have similarities between them that can be taken advantage of with Sigma. Entire estimates can be saved as a template for a new estimate, or as a cost library to capture historical data.

Among Sigma’s other time saving features are quick lookup capability in cost libraries, automatic formula validation, margin adjustments and the live link with 2D and 3D takeoff tools like Autodesk Revit, BIM 360 and Planswift. Standard cost libraries like BNi Cost data can be accessed directly in Sigma, while at the same time custom cost libraries can easily be built up and used in new projects. Cost libraries gives fast and reliable access to material and labor line items, and access assemblies that can be adjusted to the particular project.

Live Connect Quantities from Drawings and Models

Real time integrations with programs like Autodesk Revit, BIM 360, and Planswift let users perform takeoffs directly from 2D drawings or 3D BIM models. Users can connect features inside their construction drawings and parts models to the Sigma estimate, and as updates are made in the plans or model, Sigma will reflect the changes in the estimate. Real time integrations are the power functions inside Sigma, and they allow estimators and project teams to work together to make updates simultaneously between the project and the estimate.

Work Closely with Field Execution

Sigma enables estimators to deliver valuable information and project insights to the teams and managers in the field. While estimating, critical decisions are being made on how the project is to be constructed. This results in choices of materials, equipment, subcontractors and processes. The estimate is a documentation on the project and how it is to be constructed. Sharing this information with people in the field can give them a clear advantage in the purchasing, planning and completion of the project.

The power of information works both ways with Sigma. While Sigma estimators can easily prepare materials lists for purchasing, scope definition, and activity lists, they can also act upon critical insights they receive from the field.

Connecting People, Data, and Workflows is the Future in Construction

One of the major keys to the success of a construction company is its ability to estimate costs and submit bids on contracts. In this highly competitive market, before any ground is even broken on a project, accurately completing the project estimate may be the most important thing that a construction business does — and adapting a professional estimating tool is the key to success.

Sigma is a powerful tool that any business can adopt and utilize to support growth within the organization. The numerous integrations and benefits of using Sigma Estimates has helped many companies to increase their business volume, whether that be by bidding more projects or completing more profitable jobs. The freedom to tailor the software to your needs to connect the people, data, and workflows within your organization is why Sigma is not only good for today but represents the future in construction.

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