Have you got to the point where the sheer volume of estimates you need to manage is impacting your response time? The old-fashioned way of manually counting take-offs has some distinct limitations - you’re only able to manage as much work as you have the manpower for. This means that if your company is planning on growing, you either add more humans, or you look for other solutions. This is the sort of situation that KNI, a Northern Ireland telecommunications contractor, found themselves in. Estimator Mark Tumilson needed to get better response times for tenders and went looking for a digital solution, bringing him to Countfire. We sat down with him recently to chat about his experience with the software.
KNI are specialist suppliers of structured cabling, telephone systems, network switches, wireless and IP integration services. The company has been around for more than 20 years and is currently owned by NG Bailey, a large UK engineering, IT and facilities service business. The KNI team consists of around a dozen office staff and management in various roles, including logistics, sales, operations, and of course, estimation. The have around 30 field staff, who are installers on job sites. KNI works on projects both large and small, covering anywhere that has a cabling requirement. This may be within the public or private sectors. The company brings a wealth of experience to projects, having installed in excess of 500,000 metres of fibre cable and 2,200,000 data outlets.
The perils of “old school” counting
Mark is highly experienced with the old-fashioned way of counting take-offs. In fact, to keep his skills fine-tuned, he still occasionally counts small jobs manually. This involves printing off drawings, counting with the aid of a highlighter and pencil, manually collating the data, then inputting it into the system for producing the bid. This old-school method of counting can be limiting, even if you’re highly experienced and comparatively quick with your count. Mark found that they were getting a large volume of work coming in, and it just wasn’t possible to achieve a better response time to tenders. If you try to rush a manual count, you run the risk of inaccuracies, whereas if you take your time, you might be more accurate but miss out on the project due to being slower than others. Mark found that is was taking 2 - 3 days to turn over an estimate, often with a whole day dedicated to printing drawings on bigger projects. He needed a faster method of counting take-offs as they wanted to be able to win more projects.
Mark and the team at KNI made a decision to look for electronic help with their counting. When searching online, they came across a recommendation for Countfire from their headquarters group, NG Bailey. One of the first things Mark noticed was that by using Countfire, that time to count take-offs and produce an estimate came down to just hours, as opposed to the 2 - 3 days it took previously. There was no longer a need to print drawings for a start, a process that can take a long time when the project is large. Secondly, the count itself and check for accuracy is very quick. Mark’s experience is that the software allows them to be much more accurate. As mentioned, he still manually counts some small jobs, but he now double-checks them by running through Countfire.
A new workflow
Countfire has become an engrained part of KNI’s pre-sales structure now. Mark feels that they would struggle to go back to the pre-Countfire days as they are now able to work much more efficiently. When a pricing request comes in, all documents go into an electronic folder on their server, then they use the document number in Countfire to track them. All documents from the count go back into the estimate folder as backup, to use for quoting and as a tool to help design jobs. An interesting point Mark raised is that, not only do KNI use Countfire for quoting, but as a tool to help them design jobs. He gives the example of tendering for a huge hospital. They wanted two communications rooms, but once they measured up, they worked out three were required. KNI were able to use Countfire zones to measure and come up with recommendations. In the future, Mark hopes to continue with the accuracy and speed they have found through using Countfire. He says that they have found that sometimes, their bids on jobs were different from other contractors who manually counted, but they were able to successfully challenge that.
Countfire helped with use of zones so that the client could see where their totals for cabling came from. This has helped them to win more jobs. Effectively, Mark has used Countfire as a spreadsheet to send off to contractors and explain how they got their totals. This has converted others to using Countfire at the same time. In fact, Mark believes all M & E contractors should use Countfire due to the complexity of their counts.
If anyone is on fence about Countfire, Mark says this; “Take the demo. Get someone from Countfire on the phone to go over it with you.” This is in fact now a key part of our introduction to companies, as it’s important that you understand how to get the best value from the software. As Mark says: “Countfire enables us to go from tendering, to installation.” They have been using Countfire to create colour-coded drawings which they can hand over to contractors and subcontractors. In short, it has made work more efficient for them on many levels. Countfire is an automated take-off software which allows you to quickly and accurately count from uploaded drawings. There are a number of great features, including the zones feature that Mark mentioned - useful for splitting up drawings and preparing quotes for different areas. We’d love to show you how the software can work for you - book a demo with us by clicking here.