This year at Countfire we reached a huge milestone in our vision to build the future of estimating software. Which is always supported by the time we spend with our customers; electrical and mechanical estimators in the field. On a daily basis, our Product Specialists work with customers, hear about challenges in the industry, trends and developments. As well as adapting to emerging trends through the software we develop, we also wanted to look at wider trends affecting the construction industry as a whole.
Here, we share five key trends expected to impact electrical estimating in 2022.
1. Automation and AI to enable faster, more efficient estimating
In any trends report there is always talk of new technology “disrupting” the industry. Often the hype of such technologies outweighs the reality. However one type of tech that we believe will be utilised by estimators in 2022 is automation.
Traditional estimating and even many estimating softwares, are still based on traditional processes. Paper printouts, manual takeoff and hours of time spent granularly checking for inaccuracies while estimating.
Studies suggest European businesses will invest up to €3.3 billion in automation in the year ahead to boost productivity in staff members. In 2022, we believe more estimators will follow this trend and adopt automation, not to replace human labour, but to reduce it where it makes sense. By adding a level of automation into estimating (for example, using true automated takeoff to count all symbols across drawings), more time is left for estimators to get their heads into the finer details of the project.
Similarly, estimating tools built on a level of artificial intelligence can begin to learn common estimating techniques used by estimators. For example if you regularly price a certain component the same across all estimates, this can be automatically priced within a new estimate, saving time where manual effort isn’t required.
2. Remote work continues for estimating teams
The pandemic accelerated the transformation of traditional IT practices in all industries, including electrical estimating. Speaking to customers this year, many lost the space and tools they had previously relied on to complete estimates, for example the ability to print on large sheets of paper, or work over a plan table.
This led to estimators searching out cloud-based tools that they could rely on to complete estimates digitally, and while working remotely.
As the pandemic persists throughout 2021 (and likely 2022 too) we expect remote working, and/or hybrid working, to continue for many estimating firms. Foresters’ Cloud Computing Predictions for 2022 state that organisations will be looking for “cloud-native” applications that can support such working practices.
As well as estimators continuing to rely on cloud-based tools, in 2022 we believe there will also be higher demand for tools that offer collaboration & “multiplayer’ working practices. Helping to replicate the “in office” environment many estimators use to create effective estimates, and win more projects.
3. Further rise in costs affects profit
It may come as no surprise to most estimators that during the first seven months of 2021 the prices of critical construction materials observed “double-digit increases every month.”
ONS similarly reported that this had an effect on growth of the construction industry as a whole. While the sector saw growth in 2021 Q1 and Q2, this fell by 1.5% in Q3, which the Monthly Business Survey for Construction contributed to the rising prices of raw materials such as steel, concrete, timber and glass. Supply chain bottlenecks, alongside an increase in wait time and material costs, are both factors we expect to continue in 2022.
Meaning that protecting profit will become even more crucial for estimators looking to see growth, and survive, throughout the year ahead.
4. Increased uptake of prefab
Electrical prefabrication is a keystone in helping the construction industry reduce its carbon footprint, reduce the number of HGV deliveries and provide quicker installations, as well as the many health and safety benefits.
In 2022 we predict a further uptake of prefab. With supply and labour costs both still increasing, as well as a shortage in labour generally, prefab could help estimators to take back some of the profit being lost.
Prefabricated common components for jobs can be done during downtime, making onsite installation faster. This also reduces the time needed for workers to be onsite, which can help with social distancing measures and compliance with restrictions. It also allows firms to buy common assemblies and components in bulk, therefore preventing the danger of running out if stock becomes low or wait time increases.
5. Sustainability will again take centre stage
The rise in greener practices was hampered in some ways by the pandemic, and helped by others. While many estimators reduced their paper waste, turning to digital tools as discussed above, and redesigning systems in order to save costs and reduce outlay, we saw a return to many non-sustainable practices on-site.
From predominantly plastic PPE materials to non-environmentally friendly cleaning practices, it was difficult for some to reach levels of pre-pandemic sustainability.
However in 2022, it’s predicted that companies will still be concerned with the environmental impact of projects. At this year’s COP26 climate conference further emphasis was placed on the ability of cities to become carbon neutral by 2050 and the ability of low-carbon infrastructure projects to reduce emissions.
Other factors discussed were switching to zero-emissions vehicles, using low carbon materials and embracing more green-heating solutions within construction products to work towards this target.
With 2022 fast approaching there has never been a better time to reassess how your team will move towards a more digital, sustainable and cost-effective model in order to get ahead. To start with an automated method of efficient estimating, get your free trial of Countfire.