As an electrical estimator, how long does it usually take you to count a set of drawings for a five-floor building?

Estimators always walk a fine line – you need to be able to count quickly enough that bids can be finalised and submitted on time, but you also need to be highly accurate. If you’re the sole person in charge of estimating, as Michael Moran of William Farrell is, then you’ve got to find ways to make this process as accurate and efficient as possible without additional human resources.

William Farrell is a client of Countfire, and we caught up with Michael recently to chat about how the software is working out for them and what he has experienced as a result.

Let’s check it out:

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About William Farrell

William Farrell (WFL) is an engineering solutions contractor specialising in the commercial, industrial, medical and educational sectors. The services WFL provide range from full ‘design and build’ turnkey packages to installation, fit-out, maintenance and 24 hour on-call services.

The company has been around for more than 32 years, expanding to add more accomplishments, such as OHSAS 18001, ISO 14001 & ISO 9001 certification in October 2017. WFL are members of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), the Register of Electrical Contractors (RECI), the Association of Electrical Contractors (AECI) and the Construction Employers Federation (CEF). Many of their projects involve electrical work and Michael Moran is the sole estimator for those.

Discovering Countfire

Michael had previously used a different software which he describes as allowing him to do “semi-automatic” counting of takeoffs. His goal was to find a more automated solution to really help him to save time. When you’re the sole estimator in a company which regularly bids on large projects, you quickly discover that if you can use tools that are powerful, fast and accurate, they allow you to spend less time on the tedious parts of the job.

After a Google search in April of 2015, Michael discovered Countfire and has been using it ever since. A major benefit he discovered was that Countfire allowed him to quickly produce an accurate bid, but also to make any adjustments as needed later on, quite rapidly.

“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.”

Michael indicates that a job of similar scope undertaken without the assistance of Countfire would take about two full weeks to count all of the drawings.

“Personally, I can spend less time on tedious elements of estimating and more time procuring quotations and assessing the information I receive.”

This time-saving allows Michael to devote more of his time to ensuring that any supplier or subcontractor quotations are in on time and appear accurate, which in turn helps him to meet tender deadlines in good time.

The combination of speed and accuracy which estimators require is also a factor in how many bids they can throughput. There’s a good chance that if you’re able to put through more accurate bids more often, you’ll also find that you win more work, just as a law of averages. You can’t win the tender if you’re not in it and you can’t be in it if you don’t have the time to put together a good, accurate bid!

A combination of speed and accuracy factors in the bids that estimators can throughput Click To Tweet

Creating rock-solid bids

As Michael says, software can’t make commercial decisions, dictate market conditions, affect how competitors bid on the same tender or any other factors which go into tender decision-making, but what it can do is give you a tremendous boost in the accuracy of your bid.

“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,” Michael says. “When I use Countfire I know I am 99% right in my takeoffs. Rock solid bids can then be issued with confidence.”

The company benefits because when they put together their construction budgets, there are no surprises. The client is happy too because they don’t have any unexpected surprises coming. There have been many tales of underbid projects where the contractor couldn’t pay suppliers, so the client ends up in a sticky position as well. Your accuracy helps to protect your business, your client’s business and your overall reputation when it comes to bidding on future projects.

Michael talked about accuracy being a bonus when it comes to project lead times as well. If the construction budgets are all accurately completed and there have been no last-minute scrambles to incorporate new counts due to inaccuracies, the company is in a good position to take advantage of longer lead items for project delivery.

Beyond the bidding phase

What happens once your company has won a bid and is ready to move to the construction stage of the project? There are often changes made when crews get onsite, and these need to be accounted for in drawings and for budgeting purposes.

Michael says: “software allows us to reload the symbols we have used at tender for recounting at construction stage and then change orders or variations can be produced very quickly and extremely accurately. This alone pays for the software as we don’t have to rely on clouding and correct revisions of drawings to be altered correctly by the consultant as the software highlights them for us.”

Traditionally, such change orders would cause a “back to the drawing board” situation, where the estimator is once again getting out a highlighter to manually go over revised drawings. If we think about the scenario where Michael stated two weeks might be a norm for a count without software, the project could already be put considerably behind at the construction stage. The mantra of every project manager tends to be “on time and within budget,” so anything you can do to help make this a reality will be likely to go over well!

Get our actionable takeaways from William Farrell’s experience here

Final thoughts

Construction is still in many ways rooted in traditions, but is seeing efficiencies made possible by modern technology. To anyone who is sitting on the fence about whether using Countfire will be useful for their business Michael says:

“The software is now so evolved. Anyone involved in estimating or counting will love it, when they get to grips with all the features.”

Countfire also comes with useful training videos and help desk articles. You can try it out for yourself and see how it helps your company to develop rock-solid bids by signing up here for a free trial.