March finds the bid market slowing in many areas, but holding its own in a few areas. Job prices continue to plummet as marginal contracting firms fight for survival. However some of our clientele reports that it’s still possible to bid a job with some profit, and actually get awarded the job. Starting that project on time is often problematic however, as Owners and Developers report that bank funding remains inordinately tight. ENR’s forecast for 2009 shows continuing declines in nearly all sectors of industrial, commercial, & residential markets, with modest growth only in public works highway and infrastructure work in 2010. Some rebound in health care, education, and agriculture is forecast for next year, but private development and residential construction is predicted to continue its decline. Therefore the companies with solid presence in public works, and negotiated markets are best-positioned for the current recession.
Just as surely as spring breezes blow in a different direction from those in winter, the new season has brought significant changes at Cassell Consulting. After fifteen years as an Independent Timberline-certified Estimating consultant & trainer, we declined to renew. This is not to suggest that our support for our loyal Timberline clientele will diminish. In fact, we have more freedom to pursue creative solutions with our valuable Timberline customers than we would have under the new restrictions to be imposed upon us. For years, the Sage dealers have been consolidating their power base within the company’s political structure. This year they finally succeeded in pressuring Sage to eliminate all Independent Consultants. (companies like ours) For years there was an agreeable tension, or balance, between sales and consulting. In our opinion, the winner of these two very different roles in the Sage software channel was you, our customers. Because we were independent, and not controlled by the sales sector, we could give honest opinions, and act strictly in your best interests. With all Sage-certified Timberline consultants now required to work directly, (and exclusively) for its Dealers, we think this will inevitably cease to be true.
How will this change affect you, our valuable customers? Simply stated, very little- our aim is to make this change as invisible as possible. There are (were?) nearly 150 independent Sage-certified consultants last year. More than 100 have formed a group that is working together to continue supporting our clients. We’re working on our own, independent consulting accreditation process. On the one hand, while Sales is trying to squeeze us out of business, fair competition is good for the marketplace. We say bring it on! Sage Dealers will be directly competing with us for your consulting and training business. We appreciate your loyalty, and intend to earn the privilege to continue working with you. We pledge to do our utmost to anticipate your business needs, and to serve your company with the valuable expertise you’ve counted on from us.
We have taken this opportunity to expand our business relationships. And we found some very exciting opportunities in the construction software market. For one, we maintain our Primavera SureTrak authorization. I expect to be expanding our Primavera services to include p6. Please let us know if that’s a priority at your company. Additionallly, we’ve seen some exciting products and fresh directions from WinEstimator (Kent, Washington), and US Cost (Atlanta, Georgia). We’ve established relationships with both, and are very excited at the possibilities:
WinEst’s new Model-Logix software enables all your company’s historical estimating data to be stored in a single, highly searchable SQL database! (Yes, you read that correctly). You can quickly search all your old estimates, (even those created in Timberline or Excel), filter for criteria to much the requirements of a project for which you need a quick budget, and see the comparative results (adjusted for inflation and location), in just a few minutes. It’s a very powerful and intuitive tool for conceptual budgeting, and historical estimate tracking.
US Cost has an exciting, web-based estimating application; US Cost Enterprise is not only Internet based estimating software, but also allows you to quickly search all your historical estimates, and copy components from those projects into a new project estimate. Enterprise also includes powerful search and filtering tools, and is also SQL-based. Enterprise is designed to be hosted on your company’s server, so your own IT department has full control over security. Due to its SQL structure, Enterprise security is as granular as needed.
But wait, there’s more- you also get a set of knives, that never go dull! (just kidding) Both US Cost and WinEst have released their own applications that interface with cutting-edge BIM software models. (We’re not talking about “in development”- this software works today. (Now!) Both companies have introduced these fresh, powerful, state of the art products, indicative of what the truly innovative software companies are doing for their clientele. Please don’t hesitate to ask us to introduce you to these exciting new estimating solutions.
Despite all the changes, it’s business as usual at Cassell Consulting. While much of our work can be done remotely from our office in Washington, we’re traveling frequently again. This month’s stops included Hawaii, (Fukunaga Electrical and Hawaii Community College), Seattle, (Absher Construction and WinEst),and California, (PBC Companies). At PBC we just finished merging their separate concrete and masonry databases, (newly indexed to Master Format 2004), and redesigning their cost code system (cutting standard cost codes from 7 pages to 1-1/2), and installing and configuring Explorer for its chief Estimator. We’re updating all of Absher’s structural assemblies, starting with our specialty, concrete, to reflect their own successful estimating methods and historical production rates. We started out the month in Honolulu at HCC, designing upcoming classes, and in Hilo working with upgrading software versions, and new crew assignments in Fukunaga Electrical’s extensive database. And in our spare time, we’re working on building a brand new, ground-up database for Seedorff Masonry’s complex brick and block work. In my more than twenty years building and working with databases for nearly every trade in the industry, I find piping and masonry databases & assemblies to be the most complex, due to the number of sizes, pieces, & material spec options in those disciplines.
Work in April also includes new projects for a couple long-time customers in Montana, Wadsworth Builders and Yellowstone Traditions. We’re traveling out to the Treasure State in early April. At YT in Bozeman, we’re rolling out the new 2004 Master Format version of our General Contractor database, and updating their training for the new software versions. Wadsworth in Great Falls has us building new, and improving its existing assemblies in its sitework, concrete, and framing disciplines. Daren Baldwin at DB Data has us getting started with one of its clients, Tel Tech Networks, a leading communications and data cabling in Phoenix. Our project will be another ground-up database build, and subsequent training for its five estimators.