Archive for the ‘Estimating Databases’ Category

Keep Your Project Above Water — Proactively Manage Your Profit

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Project Above WaterProjects can get under water quickly if you are not paying attention. Usually the main reason a project gets off track is because labor costs creep ahead of the current completion level of the project.

There are many causes for this; here are a few of the most common:

  • Estimates which omit something or are optimistic on unit costs
  • Change orders for extra work that is unbillable
  • Inefficient performance level of suppliers or other team members
  • Poor project management in the field

Once you have identified the reason for your profit starting to sink, you can make adjustments. Be sure to track these adjustments so (a) you know if your actions are effective, and (b) for historical value in future estimating.

So how do you determine what changes to make and why?

Well, it all begins with a project budget centered on the bid amount. Base your reporting workflow around analyzing current costs and progress of the project against the original schedule and cost estimates. Comparing original estimates vs. actuals, throughout the project, is critical.  Both Sage Estimating and Hard Dollar Project Cost Management software can help you keep on top of things.

Truly understanding and quantifying costs and work performed allows better analysis and course adjustments as the project proceeds. Establish a commonality of language and standardized data between the field and accounting office, so all team members can be on the same page and there is defined accountability for accuracy.

Here are a few tasks that will help keep your head above water:

  • Generate daily reports on equipment and labor costs
  • Track project completion on a daily basis, and report it
  • Create a system to track committed job costs
  • Generate a job profitability report every month
  • Make a plan for adjustments, such as crew size, equipment, and schedules

You can plan all you want, but in the field, the plan usually changes at the drop of a hat. That is just the nature of construction projects. The key to management and profit control is to be able to make adjustments as changes come about. Assess efficiency, have critical team members tracking and communicating, and identify problems quickly to make adjustments.

Don’t Under Estimate: Building Information Modeling (BIM)

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Building information modeling (BIM) has been around for about 40 years now. Yes! You read that right – 40 years. Though in the 1970s when the concept was developed, BIM (as we know it today) wasn’t really implemented until the late 1980s. So I guess we can say, it has been a little slow taking hold. However, as time has zipped on and technology has improved, BIM implementation has rapidly increased.

Building information modeling started as a production of 3D design models to help catch architectural system variances and clashes. Since then, it has become an effective tool in project management and ever more prominent in job cost estimating.

Traditionally, estimators begin their process by doing manual take-offs or digitizing architectural construction drawings. Or possibly, they may be importing CAD plans into an estimating software package. The thing about these processes is that they all have higher risk of error by way of unknowingly incurring an omission or duplication. This has the potential to logarithmically propagate cost errors throughout the estimating process.

Using a BIM solution can significantly reduce (though not completely deny) human error. As the project experiences changes, as they always do, the model can be updated. If properly configured, the BIM should update the takeoffs, schedule, and costing data for the project as the changes occur.

After the BIM is established, pricing information is the next critical set of data which needs to be considered. Estimators can extract the quantities provided by the building information modeling solution and output the information via linking it to a product such as Sage 300 CRE. From here, an estimator may generate estimates based on historical data.

Some of the most critical tasks in estimating are having accurate and current takeoff information, and applying that to accurate pricing and scheduling data. BIM solutions can help to make the quantification tasks easier and more accurate. The integration of this data into an estimating solution can mean that estimators are more accurate and can spend their time and knowledge doing higher value activities.

Plug it in! One Last Call for Tech Day Registration

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Yes, this is our last plug for the annual Technology Day event this week -  April 4th, and we are very excited to see everyone! Have you registered yet? If not…

Go Register for Tech Day Here

…so you can join us at the beautiful Double Tree Resort in Scottsdale Arizona. Bring your smartphone, tablets and other devices and plug-in to the future of construction technology.

Keynote speaker Joseph Granneman, CIO of Rockford Orthopedic, will kick things off with a presentation focused on information security and compliance.

Representing Sage, our co-hosts, Todd Juhnke, Regional Sales Manager-Construction and Real-Estate Division, and Diane Haines, Sr. Director, Product Management, Construction & Real Estate will be presenting the powerful cloud based construction technology solution – Sage Construction Anywhere.

There will then be afternoon sessions with multiple tracks for learning about specific topics. Head over to the registration page to learn more about all of the Tech Day Tracks.

And make sure you bring your old cell phones too! Ledgerwood Associates will be collecting them for Cell Phones For Soldiers, a non-profit dedicated to helping our troops stay in contact with their families here at home.

Don’t miss out on all of the fun and information this year. We look forward to seeing and talking to you all!

How to Win Bids that Result in Profitable Jobs

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Does this sound like you?Professional Estimator

“We are having a hard time winning bids that result in profitable jobs.  We can win short-term business by low-balling it, but we cannot survive this way.”

Here’s a great discussion of the issue from Sage CRE.

Impact
ERRORS, LOSS OF PROFIT:  The cost data that our estimators use is inconsistent and sometimes out of date.  Too high and we miss the opportunity.  Too low and we leave money on the table and run the risk of being awarded the job with no chance for profitability.

INCONSISTENCY:  Our estimators take great pride in their work and like to do things their own way.  Unfortunately, when everyone is using different tools and methods for estimating, it makes final review and the ability to reuse historical estimates for new projects we’re bidding difficult-not to mention risky.

REPUTATION:  Relationship building is key in the construction industry.  If we continually low ball bids to get work in the door and rely on expensive change orders to make jobs profitable, we run the risk of tarnishing our reputation and jeopardize future opportunities.  We recognize the shortcomings of doing estimating using a generic spreadsheet.  We’re required to double check all our work and run the risk of making errors that would give us a bad reputation. Adopting a construction-specific estimating tool will streamline/automate the entire estimating process and also help build historical information that can be used again and again in future estimates.

Capabilities
Estimating databases come in a variety of flavors depending upon the user’s specific needs and trade.  Select from a shell to build your own or choose from a number of “out-of-the-box,” databases requiring a minimal amount of refinement.

Solution
Integration of Sage Timberline Estimating with Sage Accounting (Specifically Job Cost) Timberline Office, Master Builder or Timberline Enterprise helps eliminate the need for duplicate data entry and helps track job profitability at all stages of the project. By having all of your estimators using the same tool and collectively building a database of costs and information that you can access for future estimates, your estimates will be accurate and ensure the projects you bid on will be profitable.

Hope this was helpful. I’ll have more on estimating next week.

Do you agree that low-balling bids will tarnish a contractor’s reputation and jeopardize future opportunities?

Sage Timberline September Savings

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All this month you can save on Sage Timberline Office and Sage Master Builder when buying additional uses or modules.

Buy one additional module or use and get 10% off!
Buy two additional modules or uses and get 15% off!
Buy three or more additional modules or uses and get 20% off!

Estimators – we didn’t forget about you on this deal! John Fredley’s Advanced Databases are ALSO included.

Don’t forget to use the promo code C-0325 for Sage Timberline Office and C-0326 for Sage Master Builder.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact either me, Myrna, or Daren at anytime!!

September 2nd, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Ledgerwood Associates, Inc./Barry Cassell Estimating Tips…

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When it comes to Estimating, you can never have enough tricks and inside tips. With the current economic situation, Estimators are worth their weight in gold. We thought we would offer a few tips you might want to use with your Timberline Estimating Software.

These are some tips given to us by top-notch Timberline Estimating Consultant Barry Cassell. If you need more than a few tips – feel free to get in touch with Barry. He’s been known to build huge databases in a single day, help estimators do more with less and bring in double the business with the same amount of people. He’s also a really nice guy and pretty easy to talk to. You can find him here. You might even want to ask him about Timberline’s new Estimating Databases!

Barry Cassell/Ledgerwood Associates, Inc. Estimating Tips…
On the estimate spreadsheet: to review & modify pricing, labor & equipment productivity & hours, as well as unit costs, wbs assignments, item notes, crew & rate table assignments. It provides excellent “one-stop shopping” for any changes to an item, (except its Takeoff quantity & Takeoff unit)

Use the Detail Window…

Risk Management…
Labor is the biggest risk in any estimate. Design a Spreadsheet Layout that inccludes :

  • “Labor Productivity”, “Labor Productivity Unit/Unit” , “Labor Quantity”, “Labor Quantity Unit”, in 4 successive columns, side by side.
  • With this Layout, changing Productivity changes Labor Quantity, and vice versa. It’s an extremely intuitive “what-if” exercise to fine-tune Labor in the estimate.

July 29th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Barry Cassell/DB Data Inc Timberline Estimating Tips

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Timberline Consultant

Barry Cassell

When it comes to Estimating, you can never have enough tricks and inside tips. With the current economic situation, Estimators are worth their weight in gold. We thought we would offer a few tips you might want to use with your Timberline Estimating Software.

These are some tips given to us by top-notch Timberline Estimating Consultant Barry Cassell. If you need more than a few tips – feel free to get in touch with Barry. He’s been known to build huge databases in a single day, help estimators do more with less and bring in double the business with the same amount of people. He’s also a really nice guy and pretty easy to talk to. You can find him here. You might even want to ask him about Timberline’s new Estimating Databases!

Timberline Estimating Tips:

Use File Tools to move, rename, copy, & paste estimating files. Using Windows Explorer will corrupt Timberline data files. However it is perfectly safe to copy, move or rename entire FOLDERS, using Windows Explorer.

Don’t even go into any of the folders named “PVData” There’s nothing useful you can do in a PVData folder, but you can do major damage. Do yourself a favor and steer clear.

Workstation Configuration (in the “Edit/Options” menu):
     o Ensure that the following boxes are checked:
        Display Overline Totals when Expanded
        Display Grand Total Unit Price
        Display Grand Totals amounts
        Display Allocated Addon amounts
     o Display Fonts:
        Change the Font Color to RED for “Display Zero Dollar Items”

Hope this helps and as always please feel free to conctact Daren or me at anytime for help with your Timberline Estimating Software!!

Timberline’s New Advanced Assemblies Databases Speed-Up Software Usability

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Timberline just released new Advanced Assembly Databases that have current manufacturing prices and items.  These databases are comprehensive with 51000 items and 7400 formulas.   John Fredley of Advanced Assemblies Database Inc. spent 10 years creating these databases to fit a variety of estimating styles.

 

95% of the assemblies support both “man-hour,” and “unit-pricing,” estimating.  You can take off self-performed and sub-contract work.  It makes it easy to produce “quantity,” and well as “bill of materials.”  Included are Work Breakdown Codes (WBS) for every construction trade.

 

These databases have an incredible amount of knowledge built in.  If you need a good estimating system up and running fast, you should check it out. 

 

Here is the list of new Advanced Assembly Databases:  Composite includes all of the following individual databases:  Residential, Sitework, Concrete and Masonry and a Starter database.

April 21st, 2009 at 9:43 am

Why Some Say April Will Be Good For Construction

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It’s no secret that the construction unemployment rate is high, 20 % compared to the national rate of 8.5%.  Over the last year, 1.3 million construction workers have lost their jobs.  However, some experts are saying we should soon see a substantial drop in that all-too-high number.  The reason — the unprecedented  economic stimulus package unveiled in February.

On Friday, National Public Radio reported how the current economic conditions are affecting the Construction Industry.  With some of the bidding for stimulus projects set to start this month and Arizona slated to receive hundreds of million of dollars – there certainly will be some serious bidding wars going on.

CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, Steve Sandherr told NPR, “We’re looking at April as kind of being a bellwether month. The weather’s improving in the northern states, the funding for the stimulus projects should be going out in April at a quicker pace and we’re optimistic that we’re going to see an uptick in construction employment this month.”

Another trend – many contractors who would normally stick to the private sector are now bidding on the public jobs being generated by the stimulus.  It turns out, bids are coming in lower than expected which could mean there will be more money available for added projects.

One way to ensure your bids are air tight is to use a power house tool like Timberline Estimating.  Timberline understands construction estimating has never been more important.  With newly updated databases it gives you the edge you need to outbid the next guy.  Every bid is vital so why take a chance?  It’s a minor investment compared to what there is to lose.

Don’t get me wrong.  No one has a Pollyanna view of the construction industry’s immediate future.  Certainly no one is getting carried away.  At best construction will see a moderate year but many believe that without the economic stimulus  it certainly would have been much worse. 

If you’d like to hear the NPR report click here

April 20th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

New Timberline Estimating Databases Just Arrived

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Joe the UPS Driver just dropped by the new Sage Timberline Estimating Databases (Version 9.6).  My database review will follow next week as soon as I check what the Timberline elves did over at headquarters. 

It looks like the package includes the new updated 2009 RS Means Estimating Database for Timberline Estimating, enhanced Commercial and Residential Knowledgebases and a Master Format 1995 to Master Format 2004 map. 

I know this is a very generic piece of information, but I promise a full review in plain terms that are easy to understand.  For now, lets celebrate long-anticipated enhancements to Sage Timberline Estimating Databases!

March 18th, 2009 at 8:18 am