For many walls and ceilings contractors, the days of estimators working with full-size plans and a single digitizer are a thing of the past. They no longer check for faxes from subcontractors or distribute multiple sets of printed plans to complete their final bid. Now, finalizing a bid can be done in days or even hours—instead of weeks.
Admittedly, for every contractor who has adopted digital tools, there are others who prefer colored pencils and highlighters instead of using digital estimating tools. For them, the unknown of changing their estimating workflow outweighs any potential benefits of a digital transformation.
Hesitant to Invest
While technology can deliver projects faster, cheaper, and more efficiently, budgets for adding these new tools can be limited. Even when backlogs are running nine months, construction businesses are notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to spending on new tech tools. Case in point: the 2018 JBKnowledge ConTech Report found construction businesses once again invested less than 1 percent of their annual sales volume on IT.
Meanwhile, experts predict 2019 could be the year that automation spreads from one job site to the next. Even if you’ve heard it all before, it is interesting that technology is starting to reduce the amount of time workers are needed on jobsites. Many point out that construction companies are using off-site fabrication, drones, robots, or GPS-guided machinery to reduce the amount of work done by on-site crews.
Even as AI-driven robotics and blockchain begin to enter the conversation, contractors don’t have to be quite so dramatic with their digital transformation. When construction businesses stop being overwhelmed by the huge number of tech choices, they can begin to narrow their focus and take small steps toward digital tools.
For example, estimators and project managers who use digital estimating tools develop clear-cut, detailed bids in much less time than those who still do it by hand. A digital approach to takeoff and estimating also enables quick historical recall from prior jobs, as well as efficient change order processing.
Three Reasons to Try Digital Tools
For some contractors, the amount of paper, post-it notes, and emails created and passed back and forth before bid day can be overwhelming. Contractors who try to adapt to changes in materials, height, sizes, and quantities manually can end up making unintended errors on their final estimate.
For those interested in making the switch, here are three simple reasons to consider taking the leap toward digital estimating tools:
Paper is costly. How much does it cost to print plans on paper or travel to and from a print shop? With digital takeoff and estimating, you’ll reduce the cost of printing, shipping, organizing and storing paper plans. You’ll spend far less time doing takeoffs and estimates for each bid. Many contractors report saving thousands of dollars annually by switching to estimating software.
Plus, capturing and analyzing data is much more complicated on paper.
Manual entry errors add up quickly. It’s difficult to keep pace with change orders and addendums using paper plans. If you’re keying data into Excel and cutting and pasting across spreadsheets, you’re also more likely to miscalculate labor and materials, which could prove costly. Not to mention, experts say nearly 94% of spreadsheets contain errors—plus there is the issue of version control. With digital drawings uploaded into applications, an estimator can see that every door and window has been counted and the materials quantified.
Going faster adds up to a stronger bid-to-win ratio. Imagine if you cut your takeoff and estimating time in half? You would have more time to look for the best work for your business and see higher profits and stronger bid-to-win ratios. When your team can collaborate more efficiently, you’ll submit more professional bids, and respond to change requests and offer alternatives quickly and with confidence.
However, when it comes to sharing files and collaborating with others on takeoffs and estimates, some contractors still print sheets because their estimating software lacks a file management and sharing utility. As a result, they end up struggling to email files, which can be a severe preconstruction speed bump if your email server has size and attachment restrictions.
By comparison, life is much easier when an estimator can open a project and see what another estimator is working on or visually show or explain their takeoff with co-workers or even clients. Consider all the data generated on a project. If the data is siloed, each stakeholder only has a limited view of a project.
It is interesting that tech resistance often comes from the very construction pros who love their mobile devices to talk, text, and check emails. They couldn’t imagine life without them. Or from contractors who are eager to try the latest and greatest new material like self-healing concrete, yet they hang onto their old ways of estimating when the bid is on the line.
Whether you’re in the roofing, walls and ceilings, or the MEP trade, the best case for adding digital tech often comes from other contractors or competitors. When you ask them about their experience adopting digital tools, they’ll probably cite benefits like speed, accuracy, and quick ROI to recoup their investment. Even better, they’ll tell you that greater predictability in construction timelines can deliver significant cost savings.
Want to learn more about how contractors are getting started with integrated tools? On Center Software by ConstructConnect can help. Check out our Contractor’s Suite White Paper to learn more. Or you can go ahead and get started with a 14-day, free trial of On-Screen Takeoff. W&C