How to create accurate estimates in half the time

It’s a given that most estimating departments are super busy these days. The work is back but the competition for those jobs is still as strong as ever. How do you keep up with a greater volume of job opportunities while maintaining—even improving—your bid-hit ratio? In June, I wrote about the top five essentials of a winning bid strategy. A major essential, especially for contractors gearing up for more work, is to improve the accuracy and speed of the estimating process.

Here are what contractors say are three top ways they have improved their bid accuracy and cut their estimating time by 50% or more:

Electronic takeoff

Most of today’s plans are delivered electronically, either uploaded to FTP sites or downloaded from online plan rooms or privately hosted plan services. Estimators who do electronic takeoff, rather than manual or digitizer takeoff, find they save a considerable amount of time. Not only is electronic takeoff much faster than traditional methods, it’s more accurate (getting down to measurements within thousandths of an inch).By using electronic takeoff tools to highlight what they’ve already taken off, estimators also avoid potential mistakes and unforeseen project costs due to omissions.

Estimating database

The “time drain” in building an estimate from scratch—one item at a time—is significant. Even if you maintain a number of spreadsheet templates, keeping them up-to-date with pricing and estimate details can be time intensive. Many contractors find it much more efficient to populate their estimates using a database that stores all items, pricing, productivity factors, formulas, and other estimating details. Databases that also store “assemblies” are an extra boost to productivity by allowing estimators to take off all the items of a wall, concrete slab, or other building component in one step.

Built-in error protection

I recently wrote about how 88% of spreadsheets have errors. Just by deleting an individual item from your estimating spreadsheet, you run the risk of an associated formula being lost or not calculating properly. Manual recalculation can also lead to a major error in an estimate. To increase accuracy, many contractors are using estimating software that offers safeguards against common spreadsheet errors.

Contractors who have found ways to reduce estimating mistakes and time-consuming tasks are now able to focus more on analyzing their estimates. In my next post, I’ll cover how technology supports the important art and science of estimating.