Construction Estimating: Humans vs. Computers

August 3, 2018

 So, I got an angry email response to an email that I sent out a few weeks back on our Planswift estimating software. It was from a gentleman who was opposed to the use of software in the estimating field at any level, because he felt that you need a person’s experience and intellect to really determine what needs to be done on a construction project. His argument was that a computer can’t possibly know all the ins/outs of construction processes, and therefore can’t possibly provide reliable estimates. Now, my initial response was to shrug off his carping (in the same way my son shrugs off mine!) as the grumbling of a grumpy old man yelling about this: “newfangled techie stuff” ruining the world! Then I thought about it for a minute and had to admit something surprising . . . he was right! 


Ok, so, he’s not really “right” because he doesn’t understand the actual benefits of using a high-end estimating software like Planswift, but his point on the need for a human brain in the driver’s seat of any construction project is correct. The flaw in this gentleman’s argument is his claim that it needs to be one, or the other, when it should be both human and software working together. Now, you may be shaking your head, amazed that someone has such backward ideas about modern technology, and still thinks that doing estimates by hand is the right answer. If you look at it from the other side of the spectrum though, I think you’d be even more surprised at how many folks believe that software alone is the right answer! 


I regularly have the opposite conversation with construction executives who honestly believe that a powerful enough software package will take care of all their problems. There is a pervading myth out there that if you spend enough money, you can fully automate your entire business, and every job will build itself. That couldn’t be further from the truth! We all need to remember that software, no matter how advanced and helpful, is nothing more than a tool. It will always need someone who understands how to use it properly to make it do anything worthwhile. A program like Planswift is amazing – it can do assembly takeoffs, detailed calculations, and costing options in seconds saving you thousands of man-hours each year in productivity and efficiency improvements. The thing is, it does absolutely nothing for you on its own. You still need experienced, knowledgeable, estimating staff who are well trained on how to use the software before you can see any benefit. You have to blend the human and the tech, in order to get the results that you’re looking for! 


To my mind, that’s where the real construction technology struggle is. We tend to either buy new software and throw it at staff to “figure it out” or we just depend on staff to keep working “the way we always have”. In either case, you wind up falling behind your competitors, losing projects and seeing reduced revenue. Any efficiency improvement will require four (4) key components for your construction firm to grow and succeed: 


  1. The right personnel, with the right skills. 

  2. The right software to help them apply their knowledge effectively. 

  3. Formal training on how to use that software to best effect. 

  4. Ongoing support for when they run into issues or odd situations. 


Those four components are the keystones of what we do here at ZenTek. We address those four issues in every single client engagement we have, to make sure they get what they really need. Why not reach out to ZenTek today and see if we can get your construction company started down the path to improved profits? 


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