Years ago, electrical contractors had no choice but to estimate the old-fashioned way, using their intuition, their guts, and a hand-cranked adding machine. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the personal computer stood ready to push the technology envelope. Yet even today, with a variety of software tools available, many contractors still go by the seat of their pants when it comes to bidding jobs.
No task affects as many areas of electrical Purchase Order Managment Software contracting as the task of estimating. There are six primary reasons why estimating software is critical to today’s electrical contractor:
5. Project Management
Speed: The foremost benefit of using computerized estimating is speed. No other software product in your business saves as much time and money as your estimating software. Since a computer is basically just a super-fast number cruncher, it is particularly well suited to the task of estimating.
Accuracy: In today’s industry and changing economy, contractors need to track actual labor and material costs as well as equipment and subcontract expenses. They need to keep tabs on back orders as well as installed and stored materials. This process begins with the estimate. The owner and chief estimator will use the estimate to determine the job’s true cost and to develop a selling price.
A disturbing comment heard too often is,”I can beat any computerized estimating system doing it the old fashioned way…even if we do sometimes find ourselves in a labor crunch at the end of the project.” Think about the irony in that philosophy: Sure, the estimating department can quickly crank out a number that will win the contract, but then the management team has to scramble to figure out how they’re going to meet that estimate’s labor schedule. Where is the advantage in that?
For these contractors, it’s almost as though estimating is nothing more than a necessary evil to get the contract. They might as well pull a number out of a hat. At the other end of the spectrum, you can find contractors who have established convoluted procedures involving everything from maze-like scheduling boards with magic marker hieroglyphics and magnetic pins, to unreadable scraps of paper plastered with sticky notes. In their attempts to be as thorough as possible, they only create chaos, resulting in wasted time and devastating mistakes. If either scenario sounds like business as usual at your company, it might be time to take a closer look at estimating software.
Consistency: Using an estimating system allows the estimator to prepare estimates that use the exact same procedures and values, time after time. In addition, it provides a basis for comparison of the estimate to the actual job cost. Retaining a history of job costs gives the estimator the tools necessary to adjust future estimates and avoid costly overruns, or to point out cost-saving procedures. Without specific, consistent procedures, an estimate is little more than a guess.