Automated take-off software can be a game-changer for busy electrical estimators.

It’s your opportunity to speed up the process of counting take-offs, without compromising on the accuracy and quality of your estimate. With the right automated tool, you can even bid on more projects than would have been possible using manual counting methods.

Before you retire the highlighter and spreadsheet, it’s important that you have a great program to help with counting take-offs. There are a few questions you should ask to ensure you get something that meets your needs:

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#1. What do you really need the software to do?

There are a few different take-off softwares on the market and it can be overwhelming trying to decide between them. One way to cut through the noise is to start by writing down what you need to get from the software.

Start with a few goals for the software purchase, for example;

  • Improve the accuracy of your bids
  • A quicker bid throughout
  • Software that is easily understood by all skill levels

Clarifying your key objectives can help you to hone in on exactly what you need out of software features. What you could then do is list out the features you would like, then rank them in order of importance. What are your must-haves? Which features are “nice to have” but not an absolute deal-breaker?

Here are some examples of what you might look for:

  • Software is easy to use
  • Software has good support and/or knowledge base available
  • The software will be easy to implement in the company
  • Reporting covers what I need
  • I can check my take-off count

Automated take-off software
#2. What is the support like for the software?

Decent support should be a must-have on any software list. You don’t want to find yourself with one of those softwares where it’s difficult to get questions answered, and implementing the software takes up more time than it should.

Support should be speedy and answer whatever you need. No one wants to go down the rabbit hole of being passed around from person to person, re-explaining your issue each time. If you can’t get a timely response from the software company, this should be a red flag.

In addition to finding out the response time, you should also look into how support is provided. Does it use a medium that you prefer? For example, you might not want to wait on hold on a phone for a long time, but would prefer to submit a request electronically and await a response.

Lastly, you should check into whether there is any extra cost involved for accessing support. Yes, some companies do charge! Ideally, support should be part of your purchase package.

At Countfire, we provide support directly in-app using instant message chat. First response times are less than a minute so that clients aren’t kept waiting. We’re also prepared to get on the phone with clients if needed.

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#3. What are the customer reviews like?

Customer reviews can be a great resource for getting the full picture of a software. What do the real users of the product have to say? Look to a reputable review site (such as Capterra). Some software “reviews” you’ll find online are not to be trusted, as there are many sites which act as affiliates for the software program. These are hoping you’ll click on their link to make a purchase, thereby earning them a commission.

We would look for a software that has a lot of reviews already. Most will have a mix of glowing and not-so-good reviews, so read a range of them to get the general feel. Sometimes there will be bad reviews as people do tend to be more likely to supply a review when it’s a negative, but look for what the positive reviews say too. Has the issue that caused the poor review been taken care of already? Does it appear that the issue was just a blip and no one else has complained of it?

Another thing you could look for is testimonials from people who are easily verifiable. These are often used on company websites. If someone is giving a review with their own name, company name and title, this is easy enough to look up online, or even message them directly to check.

#4. Is the counting actually automated?

This might sound silly – you’re looking for automated take-off software, right?! However, there are some software options on the market that do “digital take-offs” rather than automated. These are essentially “point and click” solutions, where you still have to click on each item, just as you were doing with your highlighter manually.

In this sense, those software solutions aren’t automated at all when it comes to counting. In fact, some of them will take you more time than manual counting!

#5. Does the automated counting work for you?

There are software packages which claim to have automated counting, but the implementation is so poor that it’s a stretch to class it as truly automatic. For example:

  • Will it work on busy construction drawings?
  • Are you able to hide and/or control the background, or other parts of the PDF file to make take-offs faster?
  • Does it automatically count entire projects simultaneously?

Always ask to see a demo so that you can be sure that the method of counting will work for you and the sorts of projects you need help with.

#6. Does the software require special installation?

Software that requires installation or the involvement of an IT department to get up and running tends to be more complex to get started with. You might be quite comfortable with that, but if not, look for a cloud-based solution that allows you to begin using it right away.

Cloud-based solutions don’t take up hard drive space, are automatically updated, and can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection.

#7. Is there a contract period?

Some software solutions require you to sign up for a minimum contract period, or, if you don’t want a minimum period, they charge you a much higher subscription fee in return for no contract.

This is a detail to check out. Are you happy with the contract terms? Can you get a good overview of the product first, before committing to purchase?

Automated take-off software

#8. Can you check your take-offs?

An important feature for any automated take-off software should be the ability to check your work. You need to know that it’s accurate before submitting a bid! Yet, this is a feature that very few solutions offer.

Countfire allows you to check your work, getting through an entire project in about five minutes. There are four separate stages of checking built into your process, so you can be comfortable with your accuracy.

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Final thoughts

Purchasing an automated take-off solution involves a commitment of time and money, but you hope to get a good return in the form of fast, accurate counting. It’s important to do a bit of homework on the potential solution first, to ensure it will meet your needs.

Knowing what your must-haves are is a great strategy to help. Every company may have slightly different views in terms of their needs, and some software solutions will meet these better than others.

If you’re interested in seeing for yourself how Countfire stacks up, request access here. We are available to answer any questions that you have to ensure you get the best success from our solution.