Estimating a job – Where does the time go? Part I

Everyone wants to save time when they’re working on an estimate.  Think about all the different aspects of creating a bid that require time:

Reviewing the Prints

How long do you spend on the prints determining the needs and requirements for the bid. This activity doesn’t disappear when your bidding manually but can be significantly reduced by reviewing prints electronically on your computer monitor vs printing them either locally or sending them out for review.

Preparing your material list

What material is required and how much is needed. Usually this is prepared by system: gear, lighting, power, site, branch, feeder, fire alarm, voice data, etc. Each area may be covered on multiple pages and not only will your list contain required material for each section, typically, you’ll compact the list into a grand total and send that in to the supply house.  How long does this take you? How complete is the list? How detailed is it? Do you go to great lengths to prepare the list or is it something that you prepare in an abbreviated fashion? How many hours do you spend preparing this list?

Once you have the list prepared you send it to the supply house for pricing. What is their turnaround? Is it hours or several days? Waiting on this list to be returned to you can impact how you complete your estimate. Do you have ample time to incorporate these numbers into your bid, or are you rushed at the last minute to get these costs into you estimate, so you can finalize the bid?

Quote packages

Many bid projects require material to be sent for quote, these are usually the large ticket items or materials that the supply house will typically negotiate pricing from manufacturers for you. Typically your gear and lighting packages will be quoted, but it’s not unusual for fire alarm, emergency generators, lightning protection, security/CCTV, etc. to also be part of a quote package. How long does it take for you to prepare this list of materials to submit to the supply house for quotation?

Once you have your commodity prices, how long does it take for you to transfer the costs to your estimate? How long does it take for you to tally these costs into your final estimate to complete the material pricing component of your estimate?

Labor hours

How long do you spend on the estimate, determining the time to install and compete the project?  Have you had experience with these types of projects? Does your team have experience on this job? How have you done with similar jobs in the past? Have you assessed correct hours on previous job? Do you need to adjust the time, up or down, to meet the requirements? Once the hours are determined, you need to extend the hours into the associated dollars for the job. How long does that take?

Completing your estimate

How long does it take for you to complete your estimate once you have your material prices, quote packages, hours and related expenses gathered to prepare your final numbers. If prepared manually, how long do you spend working these numbers to the calculator, crunching the numbers every way from Sunday to be certain you have ‘accurate’ numbers in your bid to extend to that final cost where you’ll apply your overhead and profit to get to the final price.

Less time estimating = more time on the job site

If you spend 8 hours on a bid today doing it manually, and estimating software saves you half of that time, you then have 4 hours to bid another job or look at new jobs or to be out on a job site working to bring in on time on budget.

And, along the way, this next component to bid accuracy, especially if done manually rears its ugly head:  ERRORS of OMISSION, ERRORS due to INATTENTION, ERRORS due to TIME CONSTRAINTS:

Look for Part II of Mike’s post next week!