The interesting thing about estimating is that it covers such a broad variety of firms and processes. In the AEC world, there’s not a single company out there that doesn’t deal with estimating at some level. Whether you’re a design engineer working to stay within the client’s project budget, a general contractor setting initial construction costs, or a specialty contractor figuring out the cost of material you’re going to need, you’re dealing with estimating. In the modern era, the bulk of that work has been automated with quantity takeoff & estimating software, which can potentially save you a lot of time and effort, but there’s always the question of what software to use, and what type of investment in purchase price and training it will entail.
On the quantity takeoff side of things, you need a package that will let you easily takeoff from commonly used file formats (PDF is a prime example) right on-screen, with a simple user interface. Takeoff software is meant for assembling measurement totals (LF, area, volumes, counts, etc.) almost exclusively. Some of these systems have limited estimating (i.e., costing) capabilities, but those aspects are really designed for small-medium sized projects. Their setup and control won’t work well on large scale jobs. Bluebeam Revu is a perfect example of a powerful quantity takeoff tool. It does a wonderful job of letting you pull quantities and limited estimating with a very easy to use interface that most users can pick up with just a bit of training.
When it comes to detailed estimating, which will include materials, tax, waste, labor, and a hundred other cost components that require detailed control, you’ll need to move into a dedicated estimating system. Modern estimating software, such as PlanSwift, integrate takeoff tools and estimating into a single, cohesive, environment. With a tool like PlanSwift, you’re able to perform measurements right on PDF or Tiff imagery, and use that data to perform very detailed cost estimates in just minutes. One of the things I really like about working with PlanSwift as an estimating tool is that it has a native capacity for “Assembly Estimating” built into it that most other popular estimating systems lack.
So, what is Assembly Estimating? Put simply, it’s a way of performing takeoff and estimates on multiple, complex, systems all at once. Sounds confusing, right? It’s actually very easy (both to understand and use), and I’m happy to explain! In Planswift, I can do a quick area takeoff of any region on my plan in seconds – simple quantity takeoff just like any other system. Now, in other systems, if I want to do a takeoff for the drop ceiling or flooring in this region I need to start figuring out what types - and how much - of every material component I’ll need to do that work. For a ceiling I’d have to determine how many T-braces, tils, strap hangers, etc., I need, then start calculating the number of pieces I need based on unit lengths, and then apply costs to each one. As I’m sure you can imagine (or have seen in your daily work) that is a very time-consuming process to deal with on each of your jobs. PlanSwift, on the other hand, gives you the ability to define an “Assembly” which consists of materials, unit value calculations, editable costs, labor, tax, waste, and anything else you need into a single object. That object can be saved to a central database for re-use on every project in your firm, while still allowing modifications on a per-project basis. Best of all, applying the Assembly to my area takeoff is as simple as just dragging/dropping it onto the area in question.
Think about that carefully for a moment . . . using one area measurement, I could calculate all the costs related to installing the ceiling, flooring, walls, paint, trim, electric and a hundred other items in just minutes instead of days!
That is some powerful stuff! Want to see that process in action? Just click here to watch a short overview of PlanSwift Assembly Estimating in action.
If you’re interested in learning more about PlanSwift, or discussing how it can work for your company, just reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation today.