Construction Estimating Software – Myth or Reality?

In the world of construction estimating software, many people think of construction estimating as being an automated tool that performs and calculates the quantities of material takeoff. Obviously, there are many software programs out there that help in that process. The truth of the matter is, the majority of estimating time is consumed in material takeoff. In any one estimate, an estimator spends approximately 90% of his or her time performing manual material quantity takeoff. While pricing of any estimate is important, still the majority of an estimators time spent is in the material takeoff phase.

Reinventing the wheel, manually re-running the same formulas job after job. That manual process is the major time-consuming problem along with accuracy problems in the bid process. It’s so time-consuming, and why many companies have decided to avoid material quantity takeoff and substitute it with a turnkey number or quote or bid from a supplier, vendor, or subcontractor. That type of business decision could possibly make a contractor less competitive by doing so. Then there are those who takeoff important material parts like: Pipe, Concrete, Masonry, Carpentry, Drywall, Conduit, or Ductwork for example, but decide not to sweat the details of the associated parts. Likewise, there are those who takeoff all the major material parts along with associated parts as well.

Obviously, the more detail there is, the more accurate the estimate will be, and thus a more competitive bid. However, with all that said, in reality, what really separates bids in general is usually not the material takeoff quantities even though it consumes so much of the estimating time; but estimator’s or contractor’s perspective on labor and markups. The big question at this point is, how to speed up the whole process, and become so much more accurate and competitive? The answer is, with an automated construction estimating software program that takes away all the repetitive, mundane, and time-consuming manual work.

So now there must be another discussion about the way software programs are designed. All software developers could only design estimating software programs one way; which is NOT the way each individual estimator estimates, since no two estimators are alike. Software developers design construction estimating software programs as estimating is taught conventionally in construction schools and construction estimating trade reference manuals. All these references list materials and hourly labor with production on the individual material piece, as if the or all contractors were a self-performing contractors. Some contractors are self-performing labor, however, since they have been performing work in their specialty, they most probably have a different way of thinking about labor than the trade references do.

For those contractors who do not self perform much of the work, they are left out in the cold in all trade references. That’s why so many people have deferred to manual computer spreadsheets, even though there are construction estimating software programs out there that are supposed to solve the manual estimating and accuracy problems. In most cases, manual computer spreadsheets are not the answer, but since there are no programs out there that think exactly the way each estimator does, there is no option but to use manual computer spreadsheets or just perform takeoff manually with pencil, paper, calculators and scale rulers. So construction estimating software programs have left a serious void in the estimating community, only because ESTIMATING is an ART, NOT a SCIENCE. That is not intentional, software companies are just trying to follow some single construction estimating process. As said earlier, there are many construction estimating processes. Estimators or contractors can only move forward effectively with technology and software by finding a solution that must be easily adaptable to the way they think and the way they estimate.

It’s wrong for construction estimating software systems that try to change the very ways that made them successful in their area of expertise. Once an estimator or contractor determines which construction estimating process works best for them, then they will be very well equipped to decide which program is best suited for you to execute their estimating operational processes. So there really is no myth about construction estimating software, the reality is, when any computer program allows estimators to create data processes of how they think, then they are living the reality of true construction estimating software automation.