Navigating Preconstruction with a Better Workflow

November 7, 2018 Conley Smith

OK, you’ve just been asked to create a quantity takeoff on a hot project. With incomplete plans, you’ve got to hunt down project details, send dozens of emails, check material prices, and circle with your suppliers.

Whether your business is roofing or concrete, this process is often chaotic with dozens of moving parts. While your construction firm may be using a digital takeoff tool to eliminate paper blueprints, your workflow may still include a mixed bag of supplier and vendor spreadsheets that leave you scrambling every time you submit a bid.

Knowing that a slip of the keystroke could destroy your profit or kill any chance of winning a potentially great project should send you running for integrated estimating software. Even so, many construction firms still rely on workflows that include their own processes along with specialized software for bidding and managing projects.

Tech Resistance is Real

Let’s think of what typically needs to get done when bidding on any given project. You’ve got to complete a quantity takeoff, gather material and labor costs, check vendor qualifications, and clarify design issues. With so much fluctuation in costs, do you really trust cobbling together all of these project details using a disjointed workflow?

When contractors use integrated estimating tools they can create repeatable processes that are more reliable than the sharpest memory of any senior estimator. Keeping everyone on the same page and making sure change orders and addendums are handled consistently is a great way to reduce the turmoil in preconstruction.

However, investing in construction technology has long been a bitter pill for the construction industry to swallow. Even though contractors routinely blow their schedule by 20 percent and their budget by 80 percent, contractors typically only invest 1.5% of value-added technology compared to 3.3% for manufacturing, according to the 2017 McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) study. What is particularly difficult to fathom is how contractors underspend on technology by 70 percent. By comparison, new digital tech holds the promise of boosting productivity by as much as 60 percent.

Making a Case for Integrated Tools

The good news is those contractors who use digital tools appear to be leaning more on integrated tools. The JBKnowledge Construction Technology (ConTech) Report showed that only 16.6 percent of those surveyed in 2017 were using six or more software tools while 22.5 percent—the largest group—reported using only two software applications. Five years ago, more than 20 percent were using six or more solutions.

However, the ConTech Report also concluded that many of the respondents surveyed were hesitant to add new tech tools because they were concerned about how quickly they would see ROI or just unaware of the workflow solutions available. Management reluctance to try new technology was another factor cited that has consistently made their list since 2014. In addition, contractors cited lack of IT staff and employee reluctance as difficulties in adopting new tech.

Take a Hard Look at Your Workflow

Spending less time finding documents and more time communicating effectively is key to improving bid quality and winning the right projects for your business. One of the best ways for your firm to understand these needs is to document current, internal business processes for estimating. This includes everything from who gathers plans and blueprints to how you prepare and distribute files.

While it may take some time to complete a workflow, it is critical to know who is involved in every step so you can visualize and map your processes. More than anything, a workflow can help your construction business discover where gaps and your greatest estimating needs reside.

Not sure where to get started? Download our eBook, Estimators Guide to Assessing and Picking the Right Software, for a closer look at workflows and how to select new estimating software.

If you’re ready to streamline your takeoff and estimating process, request a free Quick Bid demo. It’s a great way to get an up-close look at an integrated estimating solution.

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