Over the past year at Countfire, we reached a huge milestone in our vision to build the future of estimating software, and we are supported by our customers; electrical and mechanical estimators in the field.
On a daily basis, our product specialists work with customers and hear about the challenges, trends and developments in the industry. As well as adapting to emerging trends through the software we develop, we also wanted to look at wider trends affecting the estimating industry as a whole.
Here, we share five key trends expected to impact electrical estimating in 2023.
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 continue to be utilised more and more by estimators in 2023 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 that 78% of global business leaders will be investing in more technology and automation in the next 12 months in order to boost productivity in staff members. In 2023, we believe even 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 is increasingly popular in estimating teams
When the pandemic began back in 2020, this accelerated the transformation of traditional IT practices in all industries, including electrical estimating. Speaking to customers during this period, 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, such as Countfire, that they could rely on to complete estimates digitally, and while working remotely.
A few years later, we’ve seen that remote-working is a trend that’s firmly here to stay. Forrester’s Workforce Survey shows that two thirds of adults in Europe now expect to be allowed to work from home more often, and employers who try to encourage them back into offices full-time are often met with resistance. Many countries have already brought in new regulations to implement the right to work from home.
Due to this shift in working arrangements, many estimating companies are continuing to invest in “cloud-native” applications that can support this, and we believe there will also be a continued high demand for tools that offer collaboration & “multiplayer” working practices. This will help to replicate the “in office” environment many estimators use to create effective estimates, and win more projects.
3. Further rise in costs affecting profit
We predict that 2023 will be a particularly difficult time for the estimating industry with high inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing costs which will no doubt cause uncertainties this year and beyond for many businesses.
The cost of critical construction materials has soared since early 2021 following a series of geopolitical issues and this has unfortunately led to shortages and delays in shipments.
These supply chain bottlenecks, alongside an increase in wait time and material costs, are both factors we expect to continue throughout 2023, and companies will need to keep an eye on how this may impact them and what the effects of a potential economic slowdown will have on their upcoming projects.
This means that protecting profit will become even more crucial for estimators looking to see growth, and survive, throughout the year ahead.
4. Concerns around labour costs and availability
It may come as no surprise that there is a record-breaking rise in labour costs, not just in estimating, but the construction industry as a whole. As the cost of living crisis takes hold, this is likely to cause significant pressure on the labour market as workers seek alternative options to boost their income and offset increased living costs.
However, the shortage of labour itself is adding to the issue and there are currently more positions available and unfilled than ever before in the industry. This means projects will end up costing more as companies will need to pay more in order to attract and retain skilled employees.
In addition to this, one in five construction workers are aged 55 or over, and there are now less 25 - 54 year olds entering the labour markets, meaning the shortage of skilled workers will likely worsen over the next decade, so companies will need to do what they can to mitigate this downturn.
5. Increased uptake of DfMA to keep down costs
The use of DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) is a keystone in helping the 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 2023 we predict a further uptake of DfMA. With supply and labour costs both still increasing, as well as a shortage in labour generally, DfMA 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 further assist with remote-working and flexible hours. 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 due to supply chain issues.
Looking at the challenges facing the estimating industry, 2023 has never been a better time to reassess how your team will move towards a more digital, and cost-effective model in order to get ahead.
To start with an automated method of efficient estimating, get your free trial of Countfire.