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The How, Why and the future of Estimating

September 29, 2020

“The days of picking up paper plans will have ended, and drawings will be sent over the Internet or on a CD. This transition will happen almost overnight, similar to how the fax took over the industry. Users of a CAD estimating program will have the advantage of being on the leading edge of the industry.”

Some contractors have been successful in obtaining digital drawings and others haven't, Engineers have made the shift from paper to digital quickly, but electrical contractors need to keep pace.

“Our industry is probably the most technical industry other than HVAC in construction. And I think a lot of our contractors are behind the plumbers,” he said. “It's a shame, because we gave away some industries. I remember back when we used to do all the HVAC controls. We barely do any of that work anymore, unless we specialize in controls.

Educating contractors on the benefits of CAD is essential. Traveling the country as a estimating consultant, we find many contractors want to know about CAD.

“Some contractors are afraid of it. They believe they wouldn't be able to use (CAD) after they get it,” he said “Quite frankly, in probably a day or a day and a half, almost any contractor can learn enough about Auto CAD to be able to do the 2-D drawings needed. It used to be difficult. It no longer is.”

Contractors are so busy with their day-to-day tasks, they don't have time to get into it. They think they'll have to hire someone with CAD skills, but teaching themselves the program isn't hard.

The last five years he was in business, While in contracting we used CAD for most jobs the company did. If field personnel can get the complete drawings, they are not using a lot of time on the job doing drawings with a pencil so people can install the work, it is a lot easier to have the 'as-builts' already drawn.

CAD/estimating packages will be “the future,” 

“If you have to do the as-builts anyway, my concept is, even if you can't get the drawings to estimate with, draw the job the way the field people need to install it, take it off with the CAD estimating system, and furnish a material list, so the workers in the field have the right material at the right time,” he said.

To help contractors who use traditional blueprints, it might be wise for NECA national to furnish the tools necessary to create architect/engineer committees.

“We had a plan-deposit card system. To obtain plans, one needed only to present the card to the architect. It eliminated the up-front money for plan deposits,”

The most important part of the paper was that contractors know exactly what they are getting into with every job they bid. That holds true no matter how technically sophisticated the operation. We have discovered many bid jobs simply because the plans are there.

“If you think about what it costs for an estimate, that estimator, he's probably making foreman's wages or better, and if he's bidding a job that has more than three bidders on it, the guy that's going to get that job is somebody who really shouldn't have it,” Manrod said. “Estimating's expensive and I gave them a whole bunch of reasons not to estimate. Look at it and say, 'Is this some job I really want to do?' Something I want to spend the time on or is there something else out there better for me?'”

Successful contractors, he's found, have discovered a niche and exploit it.

“And when you do that, the profit's there. Hopefully, otherwise you shouldn't be doing it. Then you have this bid market where you're bidding against 10 or 12,” he said. “If you've got a job with 10 or 12 bidders and you get the job, you'd better go back and look at what you did.”