Electrical Business

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Estimating software: what to look for – The Estimator, Winter 2023

February 13, 2023 | By Dan Beresford and John F. Wiesel

February 13, 2023 – The purchase of electrical estimating software is a big decision, but it can pay dividends. First, you need to know how much time and money estimating is costing you; then can you determine whether dedicated software can help you on those fronts.

(And, on a personal level, how much time do you spend away from your family on evenings and weekends because you’re doing estimates?)

We’ve seen one electrical contracting firm go from six estimators and an assistant to just three estimators after purchasing their first software. In addition, they went from estimating $30 million a year to over $40 million during a tough economic period.

Consider the following when evaluating software:


• Does the developer have a good reputation in the construction industry? Do they charge for technical support? Do they offer training?
• What are the licensing fees, and are there add-on costs for additional desired features?
• Can you share estimates across multiple users, and can they work on the same estimate simultaneously?
• Does the system incorporate drawings? Can you do your own drafting, then export the drawings along with your quote?
• Does the software feature pricing and labour units that extend into costs (not just the count of items)?
• If the software has item pricing, how easily is it updated, and is there a cost to do so?
• Can labour units be adjusted to your own preferences, by job difficulty, or by the number of identical installations?
• Are assemblies included, or can you create them and save for future jobs? How smart are the assemblies and can you use formulas with them? Can you set templates for the type of work you do?
• Is there an integrated closeout or do you have to use a spreadsheet? In an integrated closeout, how easy is it to add quoted “A” materials, taxes, labour costs (journeymen, apprentices), job expenses, overhead and profit margins?

Remember: the right software will accelerate your estimating time and accuracy, but only when you take the time to review the drawings and specs, complete layouts and add missing information, takeoff the job and input information correctly into the software.

John F. Wiesel is the president of Suderman Estimating Systems Inc., and has been estimating and teaching estimating since the early 1980s. Dan Beresford served as an electrician in the Canadian Navy, then worked in various roles in the electrical sector before joining Suderman.

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