Estimating 10 x faster: How Graybar boosts productivity using automation

Estimating 10 x faster: How Graybar boosts productivity using automation

Professionals in the M&E industry are increasingly dealing with bigger workloads, from whole project estimations to dealing with distribution and stock. So how can estimators cut busy work and make the most of their time?

Chad Baumgartner is the Lighting and Business Development Manager at Graybar in one of the four branches in North Dakota, and has over 15 years experience in the distribution side of the business. We caught up with him from across the pond to find out about his experience with Countfire, and how using automation increases productivity in his multifaceted role. 

About Graybar 

With over 8,000 employees located across the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, Graybar specialises in supply chain management services and is a leading North American distributor of high quality components, equipment and materials. 

One of their most notable achievements is their involvement in the construction of the new home of the NFL Minnesota Vikings - the US Bank Stadium. The company acted as the sole distributor for all the stadium's fixtures, outlets and switchgear, playing a crucial role in the completion of this impressive project which spanned over two and a half years. 

From old-school to modern methods

Chad experienced the advantages of automated estimating when he first started using Countfire at his previous company Wesco, and since then has been a firm believer in working smarter when it comes to estimating. 

At Graybar, the estimators worked in the “old-school” way of printing out plans, and counting with a highlighter, labelling and colour coding spreadsheets. When Chad moved to the company he knew he wanted to retain the benefits of automation, so he set out to show his team what Countfire could do. 

Chad recalls “the management team saw straight away that it was a great product which would save me time and enable me to focus on the other parts of my job. They were really impressed.”  

Although he trialled other estimating software, Chad says Countfire’s ease of use is what makes it stand out as an electrical estimating platform. He says “a lot of the broad construction programs felt very clunky and there were lots of unnecessary or over-complicated features. With Countfire, you simply import your drawings, and then you’re ready to go. It’s super user-friendly.”

Faster estimating

Chad says that much of his job involves doing takeoff projects, with the other part being spent on design-build, lighting layouts and dealing with stock numbers. He says that since using Countfire, he can complete estimating projects around 10 times faster than what his fellow employees are doing now, “so that frees up time and increases productivity to do the other portion of the job as a product manager.”

Chad also gave us an insight into what features help him the most when completing his takeoffs. “The zone tool is also a great feature because you can just create sections on your project and multiply the amounts, and they’ll all be right there in your final outputs - it’s perfect for dealing with large multi-living apartment projects.”

He notes that, although some engineers will send him revised drawings with addendums or highlighted changes, more often than not he would have to meticulously go through each drawing himself to detect changes. Now, using Countfire’s overlay feature, Chad says “you can see these differences right away - it’s an awesome feature and saves me a lot of time.” 

Last but not least, Chad praises the support team as being a major plus for the software:

“Customer support is 10 out of 10 across the board, even though there's a time difference between us here in the US and the UK - you can't even tell. The Countfire team responds to your queries right away. From the knowledge of the team, to the little reminders of new stuff that’s just been released - everything is done really well.” 

Closing thoughts from Chad

Chad recommends Countfire to anyone looking to streamline their estimating process. Although some estimators may be initially hesitant to change their processes and turn away from traditional methods, his advice is to take a look at the costs and time spent per takeoff:

“You could save about half or more of an employee's time by switching to Countfire as it eliminates a lot of laborious and unnecessary tasks. In my opinion, it’s a little bit of an investment for a much bigger return.”

Overall, Chad says Countfire “makes doing complex projects easy. In just one short training session with the team, you’re up and running and you’ll be able to do a full takeoff within a half hour. It really is a great piece of software.”

Are you still doing tedious manual takeoffs? It’s time to switch to automated estimating. Start your free trial today and see how Countfire can help you cut busy work and streamline your process.