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Help with Estimating

Using construction apps and software for accurate estimates

Raken Aug18 1

An estimator’s job seems relatively straightforward. You get the drawings and put together a bid based on the context of the project. Easy, right? The reality is that putting together a construction estimate is much more involved. The entire process comes with looming questions that need answering.

For example, many estimators are concerned over whether or not their quote was right in the first place. If they won the job, were they too low? If they didn't win the job, were they too high? Are their estimates consistently leaning one way or the other and hurting the business as a result? Did they miss something that could end up costing them money or angering the client?

Essentially, estimators have an informational black hole when it comes to measuring how accurately their estimates pan out in the field

Challenges Facing the Estimator

The lack of information comes from the fact that there's no easy way for estimators to see field data with pen-and-paper reporting. Paper time cards just go to payroll without a project manager (PM) or estimator getting a second look. It makes sense; dealing with all of those paper sheets can be cumbersome. How do you send all those sheets over to the estimator when payroll needs them too?

But let's say that the PM or estimator does get the time sheets delivered to their office. Many paper time sheets track employees against cost codes, which isn't the data an estimator needs. For an estimator to track the accuracy of their bids they need to know overall cost code progression. That way they can get the big picture of how their estimate is doing. If they need to drill down and see individuals, they can.

Of course, all of this is assuming that the workers in the field logged their hours correctly in the first place. With pen and paper or a complicated spreadsheet on a computer, this is a huge assumption to make.

How Construction Apps and Software Help

That's where construction apps and daily reporting software can help. They make it simple for the guys in the field to track hours against cost codes. It's beneficial to use an app that automatically aggregates hours worked on a site, either by an individual or crew. Superintendents can then allocate those hours to a cost code with a single tap on their phone. The data is put into a report for all projects, which estimators can use to review cost codes across numerous job sites. Reports make it easy to see which sites are on-track, budget-wise, and which ones are not.

When it's easy for workers to input data from the field, they are more inclined to do it, which leads to more accurate information from the office without adding to the superintendent's workload.

Getting data to the estimator is easy with the right product. Intuitive construction apps allow users to send those reports to the estimator. They can be scheduled to send automatically each day or week depending on their needs. The report should show overall cost code progression with individual details if they want to drill down.

What do estimators do with the reports? These reports can be used to refine their estimates, ensuring that they know exactly how their bids play out in the field. Did they underestimate labor expenses on one job? Was another project more complicated than expected? The right construction app or software will show estimators their track record, which they can use to refine future estimates so they don't lose potential bids or eat into their profits.

When you know exactly how your business works in the field, you can make more accurate estimates. The only way to know how the field operates is through transparency. Find a construction app that provides that.

Stan Singh is director of project management at Carlsbad, Calif.-based Raken, a construction app maker for daily reporting. To learn more, visit www.rakenapp.com or call (866) 438-0646.