The COVID-19 pandemic has made waves around the world, essentially changing our way of life – at least for the moment.
For electrical companies, many projects continue, but how that work is done has changed. Electrical estimators find themselves working from home with none of the tools they’re used to.
Lucid Electric, based out of Toronto, Canada is one such company that has continued to work throughout the pandemic. We caught up with one of their estimators recently, to ask how being able to work with Countfire has helped:
About Lucid Electric
Lucid Electric is a ten-year-old company based in Toronto, Canada. The company has around 50 electricians and three estimators, with three locations across the city. Ronan Carroll has been there for four years, beginning as an electrician, and now in an estimating role.
Toronto has a lot of high-rise buildings including large commercial buildings, banks, hospitals and universities. Ronan describes electrical work such as upgrades and renovations on those types of buildings as Lucid’s “bread and butter.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Ronan was already working from home, although others in the company were not. His estimating numbers and overall workload have remained steady over this time.
Traditional electrical estimating methods
When Ronan made the progression from site foreman to electrical estimator, he needed to find the electrical estimation method that would work best for him. Initially, Ronan was trained by his two bosses, who opted to print off drawings, get out scale rulers and count off on the drawings. At first, Ronan tried the same method, but there were extreme drawbacks when working from home. For example, he did not have an industrial style printer that could handle printing off the large scale drawings, let alone enough space in his own home to layout and store them. The time Ronan’s kitchen became overflowing with drawings was the time he decided to look for another solution, and in came Countfire.
Ronan did some research on the best programs that could automate the process for him, but it was actually down to a friend’s recommendation that led him to begin his journey with Countfire. “It was fantastic – I was guided brilliantly by Will and Ryan,” Ronan says. “What stood out to me immediately was their customer service and attention to detail,” he says. “I did wonder if that would continue after I officially signed up (it certainly did!).”
With Countfire in place, Ronan says he has no paper around except for a scribble pad. It’s definitely a different way of getting estimates done than the “traditional” methods. As Ronan says: “It’s interesting, now there are a lot more people who have been “forced” into working as I do, from home. They will face the same issues, such as access to a printer, but still need to somehow compete and get their jobs done.”
“In my view, something like Countfire becomes essential in that situation,” he says. “I mean, we weren’t even able to go out and get drawings printed. Everywhere was closed so there just weren’t the facilities available. I definitely think a lot more estimators will be using programs like Countfire after this.”
Workflow with Countfire
Ronan follows a very efficient estimating workflow. He gets an invite to tender which will contain the drawings for the project. He can then load the file of drawings directly into Countfire, which will split them up for him so he can view each individually. As he says, this avoids him having to use some other programs for splitting up PDF files (which can get complicated!).
Additionally, Ronan can break drawings up into the disciplines he needs, such as fire alarms, power and lights. This helps him to keep his estimate very organised. With a logical arrangement of drawings, he then uses Countfire to automatically count takeoffs.
“Countfire is so much more efficient than another program I tried,” Ronan says. “They had you clicking on each individual element to count, but Countfire does all that for you.” This is an important distinction to make with automated takeoff programs - some aren’t truly automated.
“I can make just a few clicks of a mouse and I’ve got thousands of lights counted, or thousands of sockets counted. Once I’ve finished, I simply click “process project” and it generates an Excel spreadsheet with all of my elements counted, including a key system laid out.”
From there, Ronan edits the spreadsheet to add monetary values to the counts.
Ronan also mentions Countfire’s checking system, which he will use prior to processing the project. It lays everything out clearly so that he can check whether any elements have been missed. “This is what might have otherwise put my bosses off a program like this,” he says; “the idea that computers might miss something and you might not see it.”
In terms of how Countfire has impacted his work overall, Ronan says: “It has probably allowed me to be more efficient by ten-fold. I went from 70-80 hour weeks, working on weekends to try and get a head-start on Mondays, to regular work hours,” he says. “I can relax more because I have this efficient setup. I don’t think I could work the way I’m working now without Countfire.”
If anyone was sitting on the fence about trying Countfire, what would Ronan say? “I’d tell them they won’t regret it,” he says.
“In fact, if the company I work for were to suddenly pull the plug on it, I’d pay for it myself – that’s how valuable it is to me.”
The coronavirus pandemic may have forced a lot of people into working from home, but it also may be a catalyst for people to seek more efficient ways of working. Countfire is there for electrical estimators who want to work from anywhere without piles of paper in sight.