6 Reasons automated take-off software can boost project success

What’s the bottom line for you when it comes to creating electrical estimates?

For most estimators we talk to, it’s something like “I want to be able to create an estimate quickly, but the bottom line is that is must be as accurate as possible.” The consequences of inaccurate estimates tend to be costly!

Using traditional, manual methods of counting take-offs on drawings, the process is usually quite tedious. As an estimator once said to us; “you can have your estimate quickly, but it might not be accurate, or, you can have an accurate estimate, but it won’t be quick!”

When you’re trying to balance speed with accuracy, it can be tricky to achieve the sort of output that you’d like. This is where automated take-off software can help. In fact, there are several project-boosting benefits of a good automated software, which we’re looking at here:

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Benefit #1: Accuracy

The old-fashioned way to count take-offs involves spreading out the drawings on your desk and getting your highlighter out. You then manually count every single symbol on the drawings and record numbers, often on a spreadsheet of some kind. The problem with this is that it is very prone to errors.

What happens when the phone rings in the middle of your count? What happens when you get distracted and count two floors instead of three? Nearly every estimator you talk to will recount some tale of horror, when a counting error resulted in a major discrepancy in their estimate.

Automated take-off software drastically reduces the likelihood of counting errors, because the software will count symbols automatically. A software such as Countfire will provide you with checksheets, so that you can easily double-check your count and look for any missing symbols.

As Michael Moran, Estimator at William Farrell said to us:

“When Countfire is used to its full capacity. It constantly shows up people who count by hand as their quotations are incorrect because they have missed vital quantities. When I use Countfire I know I am 99% right in my takeoffs. Rock solid bids can then be issued with confidence.”

Automated take-off software

Benefit #2: Efficiency

Automated take-off software allows estimators to achieve that golden combination of accuracy along with speed. This can add up to several extra efficiencies.

For example, perhaps the estimator can complete more bids in a shorter period of time, or find themselves under less time pressure when there is a shorter due date, because they can confidently get their count done quickly.

The other thing that commonly happens with electrical projects is that things change. The client alters their requirements or a project manager discovers that another way might be better than the original plans. For manual counters, this can involve a frantic recount of new drawings, more time spent on the part of the project that isn’t making your company any money.

On the other hand, automated take-off software handles any changes to the plans with ease. Countfire identifies the changes in a new set of drawings without an estimator having to play “spot the difference.”  As Michael Moran related to us:

“To put into perspective how good and fast Countfire is, I counted 120 drawings with over 20,000 symbols in 8 Hours. WFL won that tender and we have used Countfire to process any change orders or variations to our contract. When there are multiple construction revisions, Countfire just loves these as it just uses the same symbols to recount over and over again. If this were to be done manually, it would be a very tedious and time consuming task.”

Benefit #3: Timely decision-making

When updates are made to projects, it can involve a significant period of time where you need to assess how those updates affect workflow and cost, and what those will mean for your project performance as a whole.

At the same time, you’re often under pressure from clients or project managers to come up with the numbers as quickly as possible, because they are required to report back or make decisions for the project.

The accurate and timely estimations that an automated take-off software can provide you with help to foster timely decision-making and alignment of resources. Project managers can plan out and supervise progress across their team and any subcontractors, while clients can also plan ahead and make any decisions required of them more quickly.

Another factor here is that you may be able to throughput more bids overall. When we interviewed David Slater of AM Fire and Security, he told us:

“We’re more accurate and it isn’t costing us any more money. With the extra work we’re getting, a key goal for us is to employ a new apprentice for me this year to help. We’re growing our business through maximising our time.”

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Benefit #4: Cost effectiveness

Cost effectiveness is achieved in a couple of different ways by automated take-off software. For one thing, increased accuracy means that you’re less likely to make a costly error. Who’s had that dreaded feeling when you realise you’ve missed something on a count and it’s going to cost the company a significant amount of money?!

David Slater’s comment to us was; “As soon we saw how quick and accurate it is, we realised that the cost per month to use it pays for itself. This is a tool that picks up more than humans can see – you’ll probably recoup your costs within one project through better accuracy.”

Secondly, there’s cost effectiveness due to time savings. Countfire can save the average estimator five days of work per month. In the UK, the average pay rate of estimators is £300 per day – that’s a savings of £1,500 per month per estimator. For many companies, this can make a difference in how many full time team members they need to hire. At this rate, they may only require four estimators instead of five, for example.

Automated software can also help to reduce your printing and storage costs. There’s no need to print off drawings any longer, because they can be digitally uploaded. In turn, there is less physical need for storage and filing, which can save costs, particularly if you’re needing to rent storage space.

Benefit #5: Work from anywhere

In today’s digital world, there has been a trend toward working remotely, but in the electrical and construction industries, the nature of the work has involved people spread across different sites since forever.

Back in the day, you would’ve had no choice but to come into the office to access the programs and documentation in use, but today, an estimator can work from the jobsite or from anywhere they’re able to access the internet.

A cloud-based automated take-off software such as Countfire enables estimators to work from anywhere, because they’ll be able to access everything they need. This can mean extra savings in time and cost where an estimator doesn’t need to travel. It can mean that work is getting done, no matter what the traffic conditions are!

Automated take-off software

Benefit #6: Environmental savings

Environmental concerns are increasingly also the concern of businesses. We use incredible amounts of resources and humanity has a large impact on the environment. Businesses and customers are demanding solutions that are kinder to the environment and that prioritise sustainable approaches.

Automated software is just one tool that can support sustainability efforts. If you’re not printing stacks of drawings, you’re not using up reams of paper. Considering every person in the UK consumes 4.48 trees worth of paper each year, you can really start to make a dent in that by going paperless.

How does this impact project success? Well, for one thing, efforts at sustainability can be a significant drawcard for clients. They’re looking for sustainable buildings themselves, and they will often favour companies who can highlight their own sustainable practices. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for your business reputation.

These tools are helping electrical estimators work remotely. Download here

Final thoughts

Automated solutions have always had their skeptics, but take-off software can truly deliver upon fundamental needs of the business. Estimators can improve accuracy, save time, facilitate timely decision-making, operate cost-effectively, work from anywhere and save environmental impact.

Automated take-off software is poised to be the estimator’s tool of the future. Get started with Countfire yourself today.

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