Estimating is a crucial process. If we don’t do it correctly, we won’t make money as a company. Proper estimating helps us set the right prices for our services, and even a seemingly small error could cost us thousands of dollars.
The basic process we use for estimating starts with reviewing the project to see if it’s even something we’re interested in. Then, we outline the scope of work. Can we handle it in-house? Do we need to request subcontractor bids? What vendor quotes do we need?
Once we’ve answered those questions, we’ll do preliminary earthwork calculations and review geotechnical reports. That will tell us what’s happening under the surface, if we have any special soils considerations to account for, any phasing or earthwork volume and balance constraints to consider, and help us decide if we need to reach out to one of our blasting partners to help us evaluate and handle any rock we may encounter.
We then do a linear footage and area takeoff of different materials and components needed for the project, as well as a final earthwork takeoff with the above considerations included. From there, we start putting the actual bid together, which includes compiling quotes for different parts of the job, entering them into our HCSS HeavyBid software for review, and building out the equipment, crews, and resources that it will take to get this project completed.
It’s amazing how much our takeoff and estimating softwares have streamlined the estimator’s job. When RAWSO first started, we were using spreadsheets for estimating. There are many constraints with that type of system, for example, If we wanted to change a crew structure for a given item, we had to go into another spreadsheet or tab, copy and modify the crew, record the item it related to, and manually alter those figures back in the estimate sheet.
Now, we have a consistent structure for our estimating process, and we have a library of resources to quickly pull numbers from. We have access to all of our estimating and job history in HeavyBid that our guys can search through. It allows us to be much more detailed, with greater accuracy, visibility, and control.
The positive impact is compounded by the fact that we use HCSS HeavyJob in tandem with HeavyBid. We’ve got actual real-world data from the field every day. We can see averages over time, look at any given day’s production levels, see what those crews consisted of, and read their work diaries to see if there were any conflicts or constraints affecting the day’s production. Collecting and integrating all of that data makes our lives much easier as estimators because we know exactly what our production capabilities are at all times.
We’ve also been able to better integrate our estimating team with the actual field teams. Our estimators are frequently communicating with our superintendents, foremen, and/or project managers in regards to upcoming bids and current capabilities. These days, we try to promote guys from the field into estimating roles, rather than bringing in new hires who have estimating experience elsewhere. It is beneficial for our employees to learn our system and experience how we build things.
If we have a field employee who wants to move into estimating, we would want them to prove themselves in a foreman role first. Our foremen are already involved in some of the office meetings, and they have experience reviewing job costs and change orders with their superintendents, which gives them some exposure to the estimating process.
Because of that process, they not only have first-hand knowledge of how to complete tasks in the field, but they’ve also thought about how those tasks are arranged behind the scenes. From that point, you can work up through the estimator roles or shift towards the project management path, as we have great career paths in either direction.More blog