Beginning to Advanced Estimating Solutions and Training

Programs for Builders, Remodelers, Landscapers, and Construction Trade Contractors

Beginning to Advanced Estimating Solutions and Training for Builders, Remodelers, and Trade Contractors

If you’re just starting out as a contractor and are looking for basic estimating help or an experienced mid-sized contractor looking to really buckle down and improve your estimating accuracy where it counts we can develop a program to assist you that will put you on the path to improved profitability.

Estimating at it’s core is for the most part a process of counting or Taking Off ‘ bricks & mortar’ and the gauging the labor requirements to place or install those items. That sounds simple enough but what makes it tricky and much more complicated than bean counting is gauging elements that effect those numbers such as Common Cause   and Special Cause Variation  which we think of and deal with in terms of Contingency  and Risk.

Not thinking of and dealing with those elements correctly can lead a contractor to a produce a bid that is over priced or on the other end of the spectrum one that exposes their company to too much financial risk.

We work with our clients to help identify and spot those elements in their estimates and Buffer r for them accordingly.

You Can Hire Us To Analyze Your Company's Estimating Systems and Identify Your Needs and Requirement

We Offer a Complimentary Initial Consultation:
In our initial meeting we learn more about you and your specific goals and desires. We explain our programs and together we determine which ones might be appropriate for you. If we decide to work together, we will provide you with a proposal outlining our fees and services and you’ll provide us with a small retainer to begin working on your project.

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Our Estimating Education and Training Programs

Estimating Basics: Building a Foundation of Good Practices

We’ll take you through an estimating “boot camp” to:

  • Estimating Basics – A basic overview of the different types of estimates and their appropriateness for different types of contractors and/or different types of projects.
  • Estimating Skills. There are certain skills and disciplines that all estimators need to develop. With this part of the program we will discuss each of these skills and provide some guidance on how to develop them.
  • A review of the “Estimating Tools”, from paper based forms and systems to software, digitizers, guide books, references and other estimating tools.
  • Different Types and Levels of the Estimate. You will learn how the amount of information available to you and the time you are allowed to prepare the estimate affects the quality and accuracy of your work.
  • Organizing the Estimate Selecting the correct structural format for the estimate; Uniformat or a Schedule-Based WBS format. How you organize your estimate is almost as important as how carefully you prepare your quantity take off. We will teach you about the common organizing methods.
  • Estimating Materials , we’ll teach you about quantity take-off procedures, waste factors, and pricing methods for materials and the proper use of material allowances.
  • Estimating the Cost and Quantity of Labor. Perhaps the trickiest and most intimidating part of estimating we will teach you about using and developing production rates and how to adjust your estimate for a wide variety of factors that can affect those production rates.
  • Estimating Equipment. We’ll teach you the correct quantity take off procedures, pricing, and estimating techniques that will correctly tie your production rates with equipment rental costs. Learn how to choosing the correct equipment for the job can also possibly reduce your overall production costs.
  • Contingency Estimating. The how, when and why of planning and estimating contingencies. Adjusting the estimate for risk, inflation, and geographic location will be covered.
  • Estimating Errors. Learn about common errors estimators make and how to avoid making them.
  • Determining and Using Unit Prices. How to use unit prices effectively. The crew method, what it is and how to use it. Using unit prices for conceptual estimating and for detailed estimating will be covered.
  • Estimating Overhead and Profit Markups. An introduction to the basics of determining and applying the correct mark-up

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Evaluation & Analysis of Your Existing Estimating Practices (the Estimating Tune-up)

For the company that already has an estimating system that just want to reduce errors or just get a tighter reign on their estimating procedures we can review your methods with you and formulate a plan of action to improve your estimating speed and accuracy. We’ll look over your current estimating processes and techniques to see both where they’re strong and where adopting some new or different techniques can bring about more accurate or more precise estimates.

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Estimating Data Development

CostDataIconWe provide our users with a general framework of estimating cost items but no two builders, remodelers, or trade contractors are the same and they all have their differences in both productivity rates, their bare labor costs and even the costs of the materials they install. Our stock data framework is designed to be modified by the user to fit and reflect their company’s real cost structure and we will work with your company to show you how to convert the flat data in our framework into your own customized fully relational and sustainable data set and specialty contractors and project contractors in other industries may need a completely unique custom set of data items we haven’t included in our stock general framework (contact us to discuss your data requirements).

Just What is Fully Relational Sustainable Estimating Data?

Fully relational estimating data is data that dynamically pulls data elements from different database tables such as crew rates, productivity rates, and material costs and combines them into a single line of estimating data. The advantage to having relational data as opposed to ‘flat’ date is that when the user changes the data from one of those base elements all the unit cost book records that contain a link to that cost for that element can then be dynamically updated to reflect that new cost. i.e. for a framing contractor the cost of a 2 x 4 might be linked to ten or even a hundred different records. When the cost for the piece changes all those records would be updated to reflect the new cost of that material. Likewise you might be paying a workers comp rate of 18% on a particular trade. If that rate changes up or down all the records related to that carpenter position in your costbook would be changed to reflect the change in you comp rate.

As your company costs change over the months and years the relational data in your costbook will change too to reflect those new costs.

Using “Canned” Estimating Data

“Canned” Estimating Data is the phrase I use (and I’m sure many other professionals do to) to describe using estimating data that comes from an estimating data books such as companies like R.S. Means, Craftman’s, BNI, or RemodelMax produce. For 360 Difference users who want to use one of those estimating data providers we can set up and “bolt-on” one of those 3rd party databases.

As helpful as using that data can be to get yourself started there are some real intrinsic problems that come along with using that data as it comes right out of the can so to speak. All the way back in 2001 in a discussion on the Uniformat & Masterformat classification systems in the JLC Online Forums years ago Jim Erwin the developer of the now defunct Synapse Software Buildworks once wrote regarding the use of “canned estimating data” (05-04-2001):

IMHO, doing detailed item estimating for residential using national costbook prices is like using a community toothbrush. If someone is going to the time and effort of detailed item based estimating, they should only be doing it with their own regular items and the current prices that they pay. If they don’t want to make that effort, then they should be doing unit cost estimating with composite line items and historical data. Considering the narrow margins, high cost of delivering a finished product, and the risks of running a business, just “winging it” is a formula for disaster. Estimating is not a total solution. Defined work processes, effective controls, professional customer relations, and a method of measuring and comparing performance all have to be apart of a successful plan for profit.

MaterialsListStill those databases have their place and can potentially jumpstart your estimating process. We recommend you call us to discuss you needs.

Your Company’s Historical Data

Many contractors already have built up libraries of historic estimating cost data over the years for the tasks and projects their company performs stored in Excel spreadsheets, MS Access or even FileMaker databases. We can import that data into 360 Difference and if the data is “flat” we can structure it so it then becomes fully relational.

Can We Help You Build and/or Maintain Your Estimating System?

Yes, we certainly can. Specialty contractors or even real cost conscious GCs may want and need a set of fully relational customized estimating data for their company’s operations. We can either either work with your staff to help you develop the data in-house or do all the R&D for you ourselves.

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Outsourced Estimating Solutions

If you want to outsource your estimating process we can provide or review detailed construction cost estimates for both lump sum and unit price assignments, which reflect material requirements, labor, quantity takeoffs, construction equipment requirements, and indirect cost items. These estimates or estimate reviews can range from an entire project to specific project elements

The benefits to you:

  • You can focus on the important task of winning profitable work and building your business.
  • You can spend more time on sales & marketing to win the bid, and less time working to finish the quote.
  • You can harness the benefits of having leading construction industry software and professionals trained to make the most of it.
  • You can add value to your key bids without a permanent expensive overhead.
  • You get a high impact / low risk outsourced solution that improves both the quality and success rate of your tender bids.

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Estimating Software Recommendations:

We can review and evaluate you company’s requirements and work with you to help you select the right estimating software for you operation or even create custom solutions specifically for you and then train your personnel in its operation for any platform (Windows, Mac, and or Web Based)

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Some of My Book Recommendations on Estimating:

Defensive Estimating: Protecting Your Profit By William Asdal

Defensive Estimating: Protecting Your Profit

By William Asdal

Price: $29.95

Not a book about the bricks, boards and nails of estimating but instead one one the philosophy and strategy of estimating.

Estimating Building Costs By Wayne J. DelPico

Estimating Building Costs

By Wayne J. DelPico

List Price: $29.95
Amazon Price: $19.77

Estimating for Contractors: How to Make Estimates That Win Jobs 

By Paul J. Cook

Price varies from independent sellers.

Hard to find but still an excellent reference.

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