Creating accurate estimates requires a lot of skill and knowledge. That’s why you need to choose a mechanical estimating software that is built to aid your natural workflow and reduce human error.
A good mechanical estimating tool will include a database of over 100,000 items and assemblies for plumbing, piping, light gauge and heavy gauge sheet metal and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Some products also provide pre-built estimate templates.
Estimating is often seen as a skill that requires a large amount of on-the-job experience. However, it’s also a process that can be improved and streamlined by using software. Estimating tools help contractors save time and money by automating many processes and reducing errors, making it easier for mechanical estimators to submit competitive bids.
Different estimating products provide different features, and the most important consideration when choosing a mechanical estimating software is selecting a product that meets the specific needs of a company. Some products may require a large upfront investment, while others have a lower cost and can be paid for over time with a subscription model.
One key feature to look for is the ability to import takeoff data into estimates, which can be an incredible time-saver. Having this functionality will allow your estimators to skip the manual step of inputting takeoff data into an estimate, which can be prone to mistakes and requires additional employee hours.
Some products also allow users to store assemblies, which can be re-used for subsequent projects, saving time by eliminating the need to take off every appearance of an assembly from prints piece by piece. Additionally, some products offer pre-built templates that are ready to use.
Another consideration is whether a software product will be online or offline. Online products are generally more convenient as they can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. On the other hand, desktop products need to be installed on computers or devices and can only be updated when a new version is released by the software developer.
Creating a quality estimate can be incredibly difficult without the right tools. Estimators often find themselves spending too much time on manual tasks that can be easily done with a piece of software.
Many estimating systems come with pre-setup data for standard fittings and joints such as soldered, brazed, threaded, welded, grooved and pressed connections. Ask your vendor if they have this type of information available. This saves you time when calculating your estimate and may help you win more work.
Another feature you should ask your vendor about is the cost data for mechanical piping and sheet metal work. Most vendors will have a database built in that allows you to estimate using Wendes, MCAA or PHCC labor rates. Most systems also offer a variety of material types for plumbing and piping work such as copper, steel, cast iron and plastics.
Look for an estimating system that allows you to customize the assembly/item details for your company. This can save you a lot of time as it means that your estimate will not need to be calculated on every project. Also, consider the amount of documentation that is available with the estimating tool. Having access to training videos and documentation is helpful when you are new to the program or have questions about how it works.
Creating an Estimate
The ability to roll information from takeoffs and estimates into quotes and proposals is a must-have feature for mechanical contractors. Many systems allow you to customize items, assemblies and labor costs so that they match the specific needs of your business. Some also include pre-built estimate templates that make it easy to create estimates for common project types.
When evaluating price estimation software for mechanical construction, buyers should ask how well the system integrates with BIM tools and how well it handles equipment connections in the field. Also, ask whether the system comes with a library of assembled mechanical assemblies so that estimators can build piping and ductwork assemblies more quickly rather than taking off each appearance of an assembly on a plan by hand.
Finally, look for a mechanical estimating software that offers a large database of plumbing, ductwork and HVAC piping construction standards with up-to-date item costs. The database should contain more than 100,000 different materials and items for ductwork, plumbing, sheet metal and ventilation. The software should also have updated labor tables from MCAA and PHCC that can be applied to estimate manpower requirements.
Some estimating software companies offer a traditional one-time license fee, while others take a subscription approach with standard tiers that can be billed monthly or annually. Buyers should ask each vendor about their pricing models and what type of technical support they offer.
Using mechanical estimating software for bid proposals streamlines your workflow and makes the whole process easier, quicker, and more accurate. It eliminates the risks of manual estimating and allows you to easily organize project files and track progress.
Many products also allow you to create and store invoice item templates that are used on a regular basis. These can include commonly used labor rates (e.g., residential interior wall work uses a predictable amount of nails, wood and drywall), supplier discounts for specific materials, equipment or services and other common items. Easily re-use these items in your estimates without the need for repetitive manual entry or referring to a spreadsheet for calculations.
Choosing the best mechanical estimating software features for your business depends on your individual needs. Some estimating systems offer a la carte pricing on the software, while others have standard subscription tiers and a variety of additional modules to customize your solution. Some companies provide on-site training, while others offer online video tutorials or self-paced webinars to help you get started with your new estimating system. If you already have a takeoff program, look for a mechanical estimating software product that integrates with it and can import data directly into your estimates. This eliminates the need for re-entry of data and prevents human error in copying and pasting from one document to another.