Here at Countfire, we’ve developed takeoff software and obviously believe in its importance for electrical estimators.

But we sometimes get asked, “do I really need takeoff software? Can’t I just get by with whatever method I’m using right now?”

Of course you can get by with old methods of counting takeoffs, but our take is that it’s kind of like relying on an old Commodore 64 computer while other people have the latest MacBook. The old computer might get you there eventually, but it’ll be a difficult road and the MacBook users will probably get there first.

Takeoff software has become essential for electrical estimating. Here’s why:

Free checklist: How to choose takeoff software
Takeoff software

It saves you time

Time is one of the key reasons takeoff software is essential. The truly old-school methodology of counting takeoffs means manually counting on printed drawings. On big projects, this means multiple drawings, sometimes so many that they can take up most of your office. You get your highlighter out and check off elements, but many “human factors” can put barriers in the way.

For example, what happens when the phone rings, or when a colleague interrupts, insisting that it’s urgent? Not only does it take time to get your brain back to where you were, but there’s a chance of missing something.

Even if you are in a perfectly quiet office with no interruptions, counting can take a long time and you have to contend with your natural human attention span. It’s not that we can’t focus, it’s that it is mentally fatiguing to do so for extended periods of time. This means that despite your best efforts, you may need to take multiple breaks to get through counting a big project.

On the other hand, if you look for takeoff software that has truly automated counting, this can save you a lot of time and mean that it doesn’t matter if you get interrupted. When we interviewed Countfire user, Eric Bronson of Anixter, he told us that once he tried takeoff software, going back to manual counting simply wasn’t an option for him. He found that time was often taken up by large quantities of drawings, or drawings of poor quality:

“When I was doing my takeoffs manually one of the most troublesome issues was the quantity and quality of the drawings supplied for takeoffs,” Eric says. “Countfire takes away all of those problems by uploading the PDFs to the app where drawings are sharpened, stripped of extraneous data and fully prepared for the take-off or measurement process.”

Of course, on large projects all of those paper drawings can take a long time to get printed out and arranged. A takeoff software cuts out that time by allowing the direct upload of PDF drawings.

It helps to improve accuracy

One of the biggest hesitations people tend to have when they’re looking at takeoff software is whether or not it will help them to be as accurate as before – or preferably more accurate. Any sort of mistake with counting takeoffs can be very costly, for example if something is under-quoted but the job still needs to be done for the lower price.

It’s only human to make mistakes when counting manually, so how could takeoff software help? One way is that it counts symbols automatically (so you know you’re not missing any), and a good takeoff software will have a system of checks to ensure that everything has been counted. For example, Countfire has four stages of checking to ensure accuracy on projects.

One of our clients, Steve Cranshaw of Maintec, explained how it has helped him manage multiple large projects with improved accuracy:

“Countfire has helped me produce quotes that are error-free. When you use your coloured pens and you’re trying to count symbols on a massive drawing and there are five or six drawings for the same building, you’ve got to then add them all up and it’s very easy to make mistakes.

“But the thing about Countfire is that it shows you all the errors and you can double-check your work and it’s very easy to use. If you’ve missed something, it’s because it’s physically missed off the drawing. Countfire has definitely increased productivity with regards to producing quotes.”

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Takeoff software

It can give you a competitive edge

Accuracy and timeliness are key benefits of takeoff software, but perhaps underlying those things is that if you can nail them, you can develop a competitive advantage. How? By producing good-quality quotes in a timely fashion and being able to quote more jobs as a result.

Countfire user Kevin Strudley of Open Technology found that using takeoff software cut his quoting time at least in half:

“An example of us using Countfire is when we quoted for a project at a large university, one with large buildings that have extensive new build and refurbishments,” Kevin says.

“If I were doing manual takeoffs on one of these buildings – which can have twelve floors, with various teaching rooms and lecture theatres – it could take around three to four days to do, and that’s before I’ve started the quote. When I use Countfire, I can do my takeoffs in a day and a half, saving more than half the time,” says Kevin.

The nature of providing quotes for tender or other types of projects is that you simply don’t win them all. A typical electrical estimator will spend a decent amount of time on preparing quotes for jobs that the company doesn’t get, and therefore there was no return on the time investment. 

If you can cut that counting time right down, not only is less time spent on jobs that you don’t win anyway, but there is more time to get more quotations done. The law of averages suggests that the company with more quotations submitted will have a better chance at winning more jobs in the first place. 

Takeoff software can help you to count quickly and ensure that you meet tender deadlines. This can give you an advantage over any competitors who use less efficient methods to count takeoffs and have less time to prepare a well-presented quote. If they can’t meet deadlines, those are usually the first quotations placed in the reject pile.

Download here: Checklist for choosing takeoff software

Final thoughts

We live in a world where everything has sped up, including the expectations of clients and colleagues. In our view, takeoff software has become essential for the electrical estimator as a way of harnessing technology to keep up.

Importantly, takeoff software can help you to get ahead too. Getting a competitive advantage from using it is a big deal and can make a huge difference for electrical contractors. If you didn’t have to manually count from a pile of drawings, what else could you be doing?