Stop Wasting Time and Money Estimating by Hand

February 5, 2019 Conley Smith

When you work for a construction technology company, it’s easy to make assumptions— especially when you’re attending a leading trade show like World of Concrete. You assume most attendees are already well on their way with their tech adoption, right?

Not necessarily. We came, we saw, and we came away with the realization that some busy contractors are still on the fence about using digital takeoff and estimating tools. Some construction pros prefer the known—doing takeoff by hand with lots of colored pencils, highlighters, and a scratchpad—to the unknown—using digital tools that speed up the estimating process with fewer errors and rework.

Three Reasons to Make the Switch to Digital

For many, the unknown of changing up their estimating workflow outweighs any potential benefits of digital transformation. This resistance often comes from the very construction pros who love the flexibility of using their mobile devices to streamline communications with the field. This flies in the face of digital estimating tools that could reduce rework, which typically eats up 20% of the cost of an average construction project. Some contractors are willing to invest in innovative materials like self-healing concrete, but not digital estimating tools.

If you’re still not sure whether making the switch is worth the trouble, here are three simple reasons to consider:

  1. Paper is costly. How much does it cost to print plans on paper or travel to and from a print shop? With digital takeoff and estimating, you’ll reduce the cost of printing, shipping, organizing and storing paper plans. You’ll spend far less time doing takeoffs and estimates for each bid. Many contractors report saving thousands of dollars annually by switching to estimating software. Plus, capturing and analyzing data is much more complicated on paper.
  2. Manual entry errors add up quickly. It’s difficult to keep pace with change orders and addendums using paper plans. If you’re keying data into Excel and cutting and pasting across spreadsheets, you’re also more likely to miscalculate labor and materials, which could prove costly. Not to mention, experts say nearly 94% of spreadsheets contain errors—plus there is the issue of version control. With digital drawings uploaded into applications, an estimator can see that every door and window has been counted and the materials quantified.
  3. Going faster adds up to a stronger bid-to-win ratio. Imagine if you cut your takeoff and estimating time in half? You would have more time to look for the best work for your business and see higher profits and stronger bid-to-win ratios. When your team can collaborate more efficiently, you’ll submit more professional bids, and respond to change requests and offer alternatives quickly and with confidence.

Contractors Endorse On-Screen Takeoff

Experts say automating how construction projects get designed, planned, and built could result in cost savings as high as 20% annually. No doubt, greater predictability in construction timelines can deliver significant cost savings.

Whether you’re in the roofing, walls and ceilings, or the MEP trade, the best case for adding digital tech, often comes from other contractors or competitors who have made the transition from doing takeoff and estimating by hand to using digital tools.

For example, On Center surveyed more than 100 On-Screen Takeoff customers who had added On-Screen Takeoff to their toolset in 2018. Of those respondents to our TechValidate survey, the majority (40) were estimators and most (73) self-identified as small businesses.

Of those polled, 82% felt that OST had revolutionized how they managed takeoff and bid management, saving them time and money to improve profits. When asked why they chose OST, the results showed:

  • 79% wanted to eliminate manual takeoff for more profitable bids
  • 26% sought to reduce estimator overhead
  • 36% preferred its features and functionality
  • 42% needed takeoff accuracy
  • 37% liked its ease/workflow
  • 50% cited Project Express, a feature that makes sharing files easier, as the leading reason to add OST

ROI is Quickly Achieved

Once these contractors had implemented digital estimating, most said OST had greatly improved their day-to-day lives. In fact, 88% said it had improved the efficiency and speed of the takeoff process and 62% said they could now deliver faster, more accurate bids

What about ROI? Survey respondents confirmed that a digital takeoff and estimating tool could quickly pay for itself with 22% achieving ROI in less than three months. Of those surveyed, 40% had recouped their investment within six months.

When asked how much OST increased the bids or profits of their company, here’s what they had to say:

  • 50% reported by 30% to 40%
  • 20% reported returns of 20%
  • 7% said up to 30%

Starting Small with Your Digital Transformation

Even as AI-driven robotics and blockchain start to enter the conversation, your digital transformation does not have to be quite so dramatic. When you stop being overwhelmed by the huge number of construction tech choices, you can begin to narrow your focus and take small steps toward more efficient takeoff and estimating.

From start to finish, estimators and project managers who use these automated tools develop clear-cut, detailed bids in much less time than doing it by hand. A digital approach to takeoff and estimating also enables quick historical recall from prior jobs, as well as efficient change order processing.

Today’s construction businesses must weigh whether to continue putting themselves at risk by preparing bids by hand. As one chief estimator from a small construction company noted on our survey: “On Center has helped us to get out more bids than we ever could by hand.”

Ready to see how On-Screen Takeoff can transform your estimating workflow. Request a free trial or demo now.


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