Monthly Archives: April 2012

A Primer for Electrical Estimating Software, Part 3

Second Function, Entering Your Takeoff – When you takeoff (count and measure) the drawings, you have to list (record) the information somewhere. Here are five different methods.

  • Slowest – Write your takeoff on paper, or on a pre-printed form
  • Slow – Enter your takeoff in a computer spreadsheet
  • Faster – Use digital takeoff software
  • Fastest – Enter you takeoff directly to into the estimating system
  • Even Faster – Digital takeoff software with a direct link to an estimating system

Slowest – Paper is the slowest because revisions and corrections must be done with an eraser. Keeping your takeoff organized is also more difficult. When you are done with your takeoff, you will then need to enter the totals in your estimating system.

Slow – Computer spreadsheets are better than paper because corrections and organization are easy. You still need to enter the totals into your estimating software.

Faster – Digital takeoff software speeds things up by counting, recording and highlighting all in one click. You will still need to manually input your takeoff.

Fastest – Direct input to your estimating system is the fastest because you are skipping the listing step. After you have finished counting, you immediately input your count into the estimating system.

Even Faster – Some digital takeoff programs are capable of sending their quantities directly to an estimating system, completely eliminating manual input. The following are a few I am aware off:

  • Live Count / Accubid
  • On Screen Takeoff / McCormick
  • On Screen Takeoff / Vision EBM
  • Planswift / MC2
  • Planswift / Timberline
  • Planswift / Turbo Bid
  • Surecount / ConEst Intellibid

Let’s continue assuming you are performing a manual input. Before starting, questions have to be answered regarding the specifications and what types of materials are allowed on the project. Some of the estimating programs allow you to “set” the specifications, which saves you many keystrokes. For instance, you could set EMT fittings to be steel set-screw, and never have to answer that question again.

Some systems use a “Lead you by the hand” method to accomplish input. For instance, to input an outlet, you will be prompted to select from several lists, a box, ring, device and plate. This method makes it hard to miss a component, but requires many more keystrokes than an assembly would.

Most of the estimating systems I am familiar with use lists to navigate to the material or assembly you want to input. The lists are organized logically, such as EMT being grouped with all the fittings, supports and wire you might need. Some of the systems save you additional keystrokes by automatically calculating some of the quantities for you, such as a coupling for every 10′ of EMT, or calculating the wire for you after the conduit length, wire size, number of wires and makeup are known.

The other type of input is using assemblies, which are simply a collection of components that can be counted with one entry. For instance, a duplex receptacle assembly might contain a box, ring, receptacle, plate, wire nuts and supports, which can all be counted at the same time with one entry. Here is another place setting specifications can save keystrokes. An example would be telling the system all plates will be plastic, so you do not have to answer that question again.

Each electrical estimating system will have different input tools, and each vendor will tell you they have the best. It is up to you to review the programs thoroughly and decide which works for you.

That’s it for this post. As usual, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to click the “comment” button and let me know what your thinking.