Digital Estimating - The Tip of the Construction Arrow
Updated: Jul 15
The art of estimating is starting to change. Technology is rapidly making significant inroads into what is still often a very manual process in the front end of business.
One of my favorite analogies for construction processes is the "Arrow of Construction". In this simple image it is clear to see that the longest part of a project is in the hands of the project execution team. That being said the whole effect of the arrow is defeated if the front end is not developed properly.
Estimating is absolutely critical to the effectiveness of any companies "project arrow". If the process of estimating is not properly executed a company is at best ineffective in procuring work, and at worst, put into a failure position.
By the nature of the tendering process used in construction, the estimating process is highly compressed and often can be chaotic. Large projects are given very short timelines in which to develop key pricing metrics and mitigate the risks that the long duration Project Management team will have to face.
Enter the modern digital estimating process. A properly developed process can dramatically improve the throughput of a team (up to 25% in one instance I witnessed!) while also limiting exposure to errors in the estimate.
So, how do you begin implementing digital estimating in your business?
Step 1 - select the correct software platform.
The selection of an effective estimating platform is very dependent on the industry. At a minimum the software should allow for graphical take-off that links quantities directly into the estimate.
Step 2 - proper hardware setup.
It is key in a digital workflow to have the correct hardware configuration. Surprisingly, this does not require high performance computers or expensive work stations. The key requirement is screen size. The minimum required screen size for digital drawing take-off and review is 45" and 4k resolution. This allows a typical drawing set or Arch D size to be viewed easily at 100% scale. The requirement for 4k resolution can not be understated as it allows for fine notes and text to be read easily without zooming in and out on drawings sets (dramatically improving throughput).
It is also recommended to get at least one other monitor for ancillary information to be quickly viewed on (ex. specifications, shop drawings, etc.).
Step 3 - burn the ships!
This is more of a personal preference. Get rid of all the paper immediately! Do not get trapped in a half digital process as this will actually lead to a higher chance of errors being introduced into the estimates!
There are several schools of thought on this, but my preferred method is to lock out the printers, lock-up the paper and make one swift and complete move into the digital realm.
There will be some time of very careful monitoring of the new estimating procedures and extra effort will have to be made to validate the results, but the time period for this extra effort will be much shorter with a swift and complete move.
Three relatively simple steps to a digital workflow, ensuring a drawing centered approach to takeoff while eliminating errors caused by manual data entry.
PataBid Quantify offers an affordable, all inclusive estimating platform, designed for people with experience in digital estimating and those new to a paperless world.