We received a call from an old friend and seasoned Sr. Estimator who was having problems importing an estimate to Sage 300 Accounting. Problem: All the estimated costs were interfacing correctly to the JobCost budget except one cost code's Labor. Some of the Labor costs and hours showed up, but not all. Cause: Exporting multiple units from the same Job Cost Code and Category AND those Items flagged in the Database to "Send Units to JobCost" . In this case it turned out that two different Items in the same JobCost Phase and Category were using different units of measure Masonry Powerwash using the unit "hr" (hours) Masonry Block Install using the unit "ch" (crew hours) Solution: Changing the Items to use the same unit, (in this case changing the Powerwash item from "hr" to "ch") BEWARE HOWEVER: WHEN CHANGING UNITS OF MEASURE, BE SURE THE NEW UNIT IS PRICED CORRECTLY ! (most times the new Unit should utilize a different price) This needs to be done manually by the Estimator Happy and Profitable Estimating! Cheers, BC Got a Construction Software problem? Submit it to email@example.com and we'll try to answer and post in an upcoming Digital DryShack
I was intrigued by the request from Houston Neal of SoftwareAdvice.com, to comment on his company's estimating software survey. As it was a topic near and dear to us and right in our wheelhouse, so I agreed. The link to the survey follows at the conclusion, but first a few comments: The survey had a surprising number of participants by contractors earning < $5 mm/year, (almost half of the roughly 100 who participated), and about half as many were firms with > $ 100 mm, so the sample seems reasonably representative of the market as a whole, and sufficiently diverse to produce useful results. One number that didn't surprise was the leading estimating sofware isn't estimating software at all, but good ol' spreadsheets...(still)....and yet... While I did say not surprising, it is in my opinion, more proof that we are in a very conservative industry, even to a fault. For all the forward-looking companies who embrace BIM, Tablets & Time Capture technologies, there are 2 or 3 who still use spreadsheets to estimate, and paper for Daily Reports & Timesheets. As the presdient of a construction technology consulting firm, it never ceases to amaze me how backward-looking some of us are. [...]
Chelsea asked some time ago to write a blog piece on the different construction software lines that we support and sell at Cassell Consulting, construction software reviews. At first I resisted, thinking it was important to separate "church and state", that is, keeping our blog set distinctly apart from any sales topics. That said, I agree that it's in our cleintele's best interests to explain our products, specifically what sets them apart from one another, and what makes one a better fit than another. To start, it seems relevant to reiterate exactly what it is that we offer our customers at Cassell Consulting: First Class Customer Support is first, last, and always our hallmark. Our main mission to achieve the highest possible standards of excellence and customer satisfaction in our training, consulting, sales, and support services. With our focus on customer service and satisfaction established, estimating product consulting and support was what got us into business to begin with. Back in 1998, I found myself getting burned out working as an estimator-project manager for a commercial construction firm in Vancouver, Washington. One day the phone rang, and two weeks later I was on a plane to Sydney, to build a [...]
Another recent call we received on the same trip to Alaska was from a distraught estimator in Hawaii. It seems that he had spent five hours on an estimate the night before, and when his ssession crashed at the end of it, the estimate seemed to have evaporated with it. He looked manually where he was sure he'd saved it, searched in Estimating Explorer, all to no avail. The solution was simple though less obvious to many of us than we might care to admit. The solution, How to Find and Recover a Lost Estimate in Timberline: I found it by using Windows Explorer, (not Estimating Explorer), by searching the drive where estimates are stored for the first 5 characters in the estimate file name. Sure enough we found it in a different folder from that which he expected it to be, fully intact with its total just as he'd remembered before the crash, not a byte of lost data. (And 5 hours saved, not wasted!) Takeaway: Try the simplest thing first. When looking for a missing file, spend about 5 minutes max looking based on where you think the file is. Then cut your losses and go straight to [...]
I received a question from an estimator while working in Anchorage last week, common to all estimating systems. The process is the same, regardless of whether your company uses WinEst, US Cost Success Estimator, Timberline Estimating, or any other software we know of. Example: you've selected an item from the database, such as 3-5/8" steel stud partitions with drywall, and you'd like to change the unit of measure from square feet to lineal feet, and insert the productivity based on LF. You've opened the Detail screen to make the adjustment, but the unit won't change. Why not? The solution: Close the Detail screen, and change the unit in the Takeoff Unit column first. Then adjust the Takeoff Quantity and Labor Production IMMEDIATELY! By definition, those values must be incorrect as you've changed the unit of measure. First, change the Quantity based on the appropriate conversion between the original and new Takeoff unit. Then reopen the Detail view and modify the Labor Productivity for the new unit. In Timberline Estimating and US COST Success you won't have to close the Detail view to change the Takeoff Quantity, but you will in WinEst. In all three, the Labor Productivity can be changed on [...]
In the course of our day to day activities we work with a variety of estimating software, and On Screen Takeoff is one that we see often at client sites. OST is estimating system "agnostic", that is, it works just as well for companies using Excel as it does for companies using Timberline Estimating, WinEst, and US Cost Success. OST is an efficient takeoff utility, but I find some companies taking extra time with each takeoff because they don't know how to use some of OST's built-in time saving tools. Here's a couple tips that will save you time using On Screen Takeoff: Use Layers, and assign nearly all Conditions to Default Layer. Then create and use just a few additional Layers. I recommend creating "Layer 2" and "Layer 3". (I'm personally not a fan of Layers named for Interior Walls, Exterior Walls, and other Condition-based Layers). Then assign some Conditions to these alternate Layers, as needed to clearly differentiate elements when the Takeoff screen gets cluttered. It's an easy matter to switch the Layer assigned to a Condition temporarily to either isolate, or show its relationship to other current conditions. (Simply doubleclick to open the Condition, and choose a [...]
An age-old issue in construction estimating is determining the "right" level of detail in the estimate. In my 30 years of estimating construction projects, it's a question I still deal with, and am not convinced I've found the answer yet. I've spent years on both sides on this chicken-and-egg question. One side subrcribes to the the idea that a well-designed estimating system can and should develop a full materials list right from the initial estimate. Full-featured estimating database systems such as Timberline, WinEst, and US Cost have detail databases with assemblies fully capable of doing so. But is it efficient on bid day to have that low-level material information in the bid day spreadsheet, when all you're doing is pricing subs and vendor quotes, and verifying scope with the bid clock ticking and the pressure on? The other camp wants to know why you would clutter up your estimate with that extraneous detail, when we're only successful on one in ten anyway. Less is more on bid day, and cut length framing lumber and steel studs, sheets of plywood and drywall are only in the way, distracting crucial focus at the critical moment an important sub price comes in with [...]
We recently completed indexing an Island GC's Hawaii and Guam databases to CSI Masterformat '04 using WBS codes. This allows estimates to be viewed and sorted in either the traditional 16-division Masterformat (MF) '95 sequence, or the new MF '04 48-division system. We also designed accompanying Item Sort Sequences, so Takeoff can be done in either format as well. We've done this for several clients over the last few years, and find most US Government projects and even a fair share of private AE firms using the new numbering sequence. The primary decision is whether to re-index the entire phase code scheme, (Timberline Estimating's primary database index), or to simply use WBS codes for MF '04 sorting. Either way you get the best of both worlds in your estimate sort sequences and reports. It typically requires one to three days' effort depending on the method selected and the complexity of the phase coding structure. Please email or call us for more information on getting your company's database MF-04 compliant.
We know the current market is challenging, but 2010 first half construction volume is even worse than we could have foreseen back in January. According to ENR, total construction volume is down 11% from 2009, with private construction down 14%. The commercial Office sector is down nearly 40% from 2009's abysmal first half, and commercial Hospitality down a whopping 60% from 2009. Ouch. Only slightly less dismal are Manufacturing -22%, Schools -20%, and private Health Care -19%. To make matters worse, we're still seeing inflated bid lists, jammed with contractors competing out of their traditional strengths and geographic areas. These fish out of water are offering work at a deep discount to experienced firms bidding at home. We can only wonder how long this can last, and how many firms will go under? The single bright spot for first half 2010 is residential, up 4%. Forgive us if our enthusiasm seems subdued.
I had an urgent support call last week from one of our Montana contractors who use Timberline Estimating. Here's the scenario: It's Bid Day, getting down to the last hour before the bid is due. The system kicked them out of the estimate, and when they try to reopen the file, they get an error the message: "Estimate is open on another computer or marked as Read Only. Yikes! The good news is that this is easy to fix. Here's how: Make sure EVERYONE is out of Timberline, (both Accounting and Estimating). This is important if you want the payroll checks to be correct next Friday! On the file where the estimate file resides, (usually the Server), open Services, and stop both the Pervasive Services. Then restart both. This 5-minute procedure will clear the "Read Only" flag and allow the file to be reopned. With this simple procedure, Steve & his team were back up and running in just a few minutes, to close the bid successfully. The bid market is tough enough out there without computer problems! Let us know if you have a question, and we'll answer it for you and post it here.