Countfire for mechanical estimating, with SES

Countfire for mechanical estimating, with SES

Countfire is primarily used by electrical estimators, who want to replace manual pen and paper takeoffs with faster, automated technology. But that’s not all it can be used for, as Kevin Goodchild at SES found out.

As a Senior Mechanical Estimator who has been in the industry for over three decades, Kevin previously relied on traditional means of counting and drawing his mechanical estimates. Until he found Countfire and realised the benefit of using automated takeoff software to ensure digital records of all projects, and an Excel output of his counts that could be used to explain pricing to clients.

Here, we speak to Kevin to learn more about how he uses Countfire in mechanical estimates.

Adopting Countfire for mechanical estimating

Prior to using Countfire, Kevin relied on traditional printed drawings and takeoff processes. He had tried to adopt takeoff software previously, but found the incumbent solution too difficult to use.

“When I joined SES in February 2020 we were still mostly using printed drawings. I was trying to use a competitor product and I was struggling” Kevin says.

Then after being introduced to Countfire through a colleague, he realised it had a far easier learning curve.

“I was watching one of my colleagues who was using Countfire for electrical estimating and thought why couldn’t I use that mechanically? So I tried it out. Countfire is more intuitive and it was easier to pick up, I find it a lot easier to use.”

As well as being easier to use, Countfire also lets Kevin adapt drawings for the mechanical engineering element, where not everything he needs to estimate is always added onto the drawings he receives.

“The biggest plus with Countfire is that you get a uniformity across all of the estimates you work on” explains Kevin. “If there are any missing services you can draw them on in Countfire so there’s a record of what you’ve allowed for and based your price on” explains Kevin. “If the client needs a breakdown you can just print out your drawings from Countfire and give it to them. I can also set zones up around certain areas, so if a client wants me to exclude an area but show it below the line I can just put a zone around it and pull that out separately in the takeoff.”

Counting and estimating from home

Joining a new company just prior to the events of March 2020 placed Kevin in a fairly unique position. Not only was he new to the role, but the entire company was suddenly working remotely, something they have continued to do today.

“I takeoff every single job in Countfire, the manual side has completely gone away and I haven’t looked back. It also meant when we moved to a complete remote model in early 2020 I could work digitally. If I’d still been using paper drawings I would have had to have made room for them, and there would have been a lot more wastage. I don’t think that’s the way it should be, we should be looking to save all of the resources we can.”

Countfire for efficient record-keeping

When we asked Kevin which benefits he had found using Countfire he explained that the ability to keep a record of all projects digitally has been a huge bonus.

“Using Countfire means there’s always a digital record” says Kevin. This particularly helps him with projects which may be postponed or delayed. “A lot of our jobs, especially in today’s current market, get put on the back burner or they get shelved, or they get delayed for some reason. Then maybe a year, 18 months later, a client comes back and goes, right so could we have a go at doing that now? In the days of manual counting we wouldn’t have had the space to keep the drawings and records, we would have had to have thrown them away. So in that instance, you wouldn’t have anything to look back at. Now you can just open up an electronic copy and be ready to start.”

When asked what he would say to other estimators who may be considering making the move to digital, Kevin suggests that Countfire makes the adoption of a new workflow easier.

“It was easier for me to make the change with Countfire because I like things that are simple and I don’t like complicated tools. With Countfire I only have to set things up once, and then I can copy everything from discipline to discipline. I use the copy items tool all the time.”

Furthermore, Countfire has changed the way Kevin collates and orders his takeoffs.

“Before, I’d have a big bundle of paper sheets at the end of the takeoff filled with dots strewn across the drawings and I’d have to get a calculator to add all of them up,” explains Kevin. “Now I end up with an Excel document that collates it all for me so I don’t have to think about it. Countfire puts in all of the numbers it’s counted, for each specific item, and a total of the number of items in there.”

Finding specification changes

Countfire also helps Kevin to pick up on tender changes that may otherwise have been buried in drawings.  Kevin says, “One tool I use a lot is the specification comparison. Some of our specs are 300 to 700 pages long and sometimes changes can be hidden amongst them. Countfire picks up things and you think oh, I wouldn’t have spotted that.”

Final thoughts

Would Kevin look back after a year of working with Countfire? Here’s what he had to say:

When I first came across Countfire at my previous company, which must have been five years ago now, it was an electrical counting tool. You can see a lot of work has gone into the product since then and now I can use it mechanically. I know given the efforts the Countfire team puts in, that in the future it will become even more useful to mechanical estimators.”

If you would like to experience Countfire for yourself, request a free trial here.