Are you an electrical estimator looking to up your estimating game?
One way to improve speed and accuracy on electrical estimates is to turn to estimating software to help. Traditional methods such as highlighting drawings, manually counting, and entering information on spreadsheets are cumbersome and prone to error. Software can help with this by eliminating manual counts and automatically creating summaries of your counts.
There are a few different types of software available for counting take-offs, but we firmly believe the best kind is a cloud-based software, such as Countfire. Cloud-based software gives you lots of advantages that hard drive-based software does not.
Let’s take a closer look:
#1. No download required
To begin with, cloud-based software doesn’t require you to download a hefty program to your computer. This means that you can free up storage space and help your computer to perform at optimum speeds.
Another clear advantage of no download is that the program doesn’t have to exist in one place. A software on a hard drive must be used via that hard drive. So if your estimating software is a package that you buy and install, it must be used on the computer/s that it is installed on.
On the other hand, cloud-based take-off software lives in the cloud. What does this mean? Your estimating software is hosted on servers that belong to the company that developed the software, while the program is delivered to you via the internet. This is an advantage to your company because it means that the estimating software can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Users simply log on and make updates to their work.
Consider how this might cut down on things such as “dead” travel time. An estimator can login to cloud-based take-off software from a job site, without having to travel back to the office. The diagram below shows some statistics from an article on the more general advantages of cloud computing. Advantages such as time and cost improvements can be enjoyed through use of cloud-based take-off software too:
#2. The software saves time
Cloud-based take-off software can save time in many ways. For one thing, if you choose the right software, it can automatically count for you. Countfire can automatically count similar symbols across all drawings for your project simultaneously, allowing you to count up to 10 times faster. Be aware that not all take-off software counting functions work the same way – some do not really provide an automatic count at all. Be sure to compare what the detailed functionality of the product actually means.
Another time-saver that cloud-based software can help you with is accounting for any changes to your project. Under traditional manual counting methods, if you’ve already counted drawings and something gets changed or updated, you’re left playing “spot the difference” to update your count. Good software can spot the difference for you and automatically alter your count totals
Also consider what happens if you’re asked to break down your count into certain segments. For example, in the construction of a housing project, you may be asked to break down the counts for landlord areas and tenant areas separately. Estimating software allows you to assign demarcations that split your count however you need it.
Another thing to consider is what might happen if you use a hard drive-based software and the computer were to crash. You might be able to recover your work, but in many cases you can’t, meaning a whole lot of time (and money!) gets wasted doing rework. On the other hand, your estimating work that is stored on the cloud will always be there.
#3. Software minimises errors
First, consider the mechanism by which cloud-based software operates. Given that your program is stored on the cloud, any updates to your work are made in real-time so that anyone who logs in is always looking at the most up-to-date version. There is no “missing” work on someone’s hard drive somewhere.
Secondly, any sort of manual counting is very prone to human error. Even the most focused and accurate estimator could be distracted by a phone call or interruption by a colleague, leading to them missing something or adding figures in twice.
A cloud-based take-off software minimises the chances of these sorts of errors because it is easy to see what you have already counted and where any gaps are. It can handle projects of all sizes, from small to very large, with a high level of accuracy.
#4. You can go paperless
Many companies are looking to support their sustainability goals by reducing the amount of paper they use. Cloud-based take-off software helps with this because there is no need to be printing off drawings for your count. A PDF file of your drawings can be uploaded directly to the software and counted from there.
You may even be able to produce your entire estimate without using any paper, depending on what the requirements of the requesting client are. You could produce all documents electronically and send by email or via an online document sharing service.
#5. You can easily check your work
Accuracy is important to every electrical estimator and to the companies they work for. Checking your work is vital, but it can also be a very time-consuming part of the job, especially if “checking” means re-counting manually!
The easy quality control reports produced by Countfire help you to check your work with ease. In fact, Countfire has four separate stages of checking that help to ensure your accuracy. For example, the first stage allows you to hide the symbols that you have already counted, then easily see any remaining, uncounted symbols.
If your estimate is for fire alarm and lighting control companies, a useful feature is being able to check the coverage of the devices being installed. For example, you may need to know that a floor has enough smoke detection devices to comply with a relevant regulation. This is something that you can check with Countfire, using our coverage tool. Checking this early on can save a lot of rework later!
#6. You will always be up-to-date
If you’re the owner of a smartphone, you’re probably familiar with having updates delivered directly to your phone. In each case, you have to decide whether to go ahead with the update and get the latest version of the software or not, but other than that, it’s a simple matter of having updates delivered directly.
Your cloud-based take-off software is maintained and updated automatically by the responsible company (in our case, us!). This means that any issues that may result from browser providers updating their software, or any improvements that can be made will be automatically taken care of in our software – there is nothing for you to do.
When you run a software package that is not on the cloud, you won’t always be running the most up-to-date version. Updates usually need to be downloaded and installed, a requirement that is easy to miss and can be time-consuming.
#7. It gives you a more professional appearance
How you present yourself to clients or potential clients plays an important role in getting awarded the work. It’s important that your supporting documentation for your bid is clear and highlights your professionalism.
An advantage of cloud-based software like Countfire is that it will automatically produce professional-standard documents showing your drawing records and Excel spreadsheet. These can be used in support of your tender documents so that clients can easily understand how you reached your estimates. Professional presentation helps to convey the message that you are thorough and take your role seriously. It tends to send a positive message about the overall competence of your business.
Cloud-based take-off software can provide electrical estimators, and the companies they work for, with several advantages.
There is an overall shift among businesses to use cloud computing practices due to the efficiencies they bring to business. You can expect to save time and money and with take-off software, improve your overall accuracy.
For electrical businesses in competitive markets, this can all help with winning more tenders. Speed, accuracy and professionalism leads to happy clients. It may just prove to be your competitive advantage.