One of the challenges for electrical contractors is finding ways to maximise their time and efficiency, particularly doing so in a way that is cost-effective. Finding help from software can be a good option, and if there’s one thing we’ve found since starting Countfire, there can be a number of flow-on effects for businesses who start using a good software tool to improve their efficiency - besides the actual functions of the tool. We recently caught up with David Slater, an Electrical Estimator from AM Fire and Security Group, an early client of ours who have used Countfire to improve how they operate in their own business. We found out that not only have they improved their tender throughput, but they’ve leveraged time saved to grow their business. Here’s what we learned from David:
About AM Fire and Security Group
AM Fire and Security Group have been in business for more than 30 years, providing fire and security systems (life safety systems) to building projects. They have over 30 employees, with 20 of those being technicians and the rest made up of office and management staff. At the time we spoke, David was their sole estimator with responsibilities across multiple projects. Since inception, AM Fire and Security have grown to include big contracts with end users such as health authorities and universities. They are Gold Accredited installers, fostering trust with the businesses and public sector groups who hire them. As such, projects for them tend to involve large numbers of drawings and myriad specifications which need to be accounted for. They count on accuracy and timeliness as one of their competitive advantages for gaining trust and doing the right thing by their clients.
David first heard about Countfire as an option for counting take-offs automatically when he saw a demonstration given by Will, one of our founders, for another company. He was impressed by the efficiencies he could see were possible by automating much of the tedious counting process. When he took Countfire back to management at AM Fire and Security Group, he found that it wasn’t difficult to show them the potential benefits using the software could bring and they signed up almost immediately.
Prior to Countfire, the company followed a lengthy, manual process to count every single component that would be required of them in a project, so that they could produce an estimate. This meant printing off the life safety system drawings, manually counting with the aid of highlighters, then inputting their numbers into spreadsheets. Depending on the size of the project, this could take a significant number of hours, even days to complete. David estimates that a five floor project used to take him an entire morning to manually count, but with Countfire, that same project is done within an hour. “It’s not just that it’s sped up the counting, but it gives us greater confidence in the accuracy of our estimates too,” David says. “Missing just one item across a five floor project has the potential to cost us £250,000. This means that for us, Countfire more than pays for itself.” Of course, besides financial cost, any inaccuracy in a project has the potential for reputational cost as well.
Companies like AM Fire and Security Group have worked hard to develop a stellar reputation among the end-users whom they serve and a big part of this, besides the quality of their work, is the accuracy and transparency of estimates. The expectation of clients when going through the tender process is that they get a professional service that is timely and accurate.
Professional image for contractors
When you’re dealing with big contracts, such as for government or public sector like AM Fire and Security Group often do, it can seem that the ante has been raised for standards of professionalism. Realistically, any contractors, from small to large companies and in the public or private sector need to be able to cultivate a professional image. It’s one of the things that can help to get your tender pushed up above the rest. When processes are overly manual and deadlines are tight, sometimes it can be difficult trying to get professional-quality documentation out. A good example is where the client decides that they want an estimate based on revised drawings, or they want the drawings broken down into different sections with clear estimates for each for a revised pricing schedule. As David discussed with us, the previous solution to that was to once again get the highlighter out and do a manual count of printed-out drawings. This could be very time consuming and by that point, is usually at a critical time with respect to the deadline. “We were at an event in London where we met a client who wanted a per floor and per item breakdown as soon as possible.
Fortunately, we were able to produce a very quick estimate using the software, knowing that it would be accurate. This was impressive for the client and a professional look for us.” The documentation produced is automatic and clean-looking, a distinction from documents which may have been created manually and in haste. Having that professional look can prove to be the difference which distinguishes one company from the next when it comes to the tender process. It conveys the care and attention to detail that a client hopes is involved when you’re working on their project.
Growing the business
When it comes to growing an electrical business, maximising time and improving your ability to throughput tenders are key contributing factors. You might be moving from pricing smaller jobs which you find relatively simple to put together, to pricing for large contracts, like those which AM Fire and Security typically work on.
You might choose to hire more people - another estimator or an apprentice for example, but as employee cost tends to be one of the biggest for a business, you’ll probably hesitate over doing so too early. While AM Fire and Security already works on large contracts, as David puts it, “we wanted to maximise our time and looked to technology for help before hiring more people.” The advantage of automated software for a growing business is that it is an efficiency which allows work to be done faster and more accurately (in this case, increasing tender throughput for the company), without the addition of extra manpower. What’s been happening with more tender throughput for AM Fire and Security? “We’re more accurate and it isn’t costing us any more money,” David says. “With the extra work we’re getting, a key goal for us is to employ a new apprentice for me this year to help. We’re growing our business through maximising our time.”
To any company which might be on the fence about trying out Countfire, David says; “Take a demo. As soon we saw how quick and accurate it is, we realised that the cost per month to use it pays for itself. This is a tool that picks up more than humans can see - you’ll probably recoup your costs within one project through better accuracy.”
Try out Countfire for yourself and see how it can help your company be in a position to grow. Start a free trial here today.