How Estimating Software Can Help You

by Richard Jaffarian, President Electrical Resources

The one necessary function of an electrical contractor that doesn’t earn you one cent of profit is estimating. The larger the job you’re going after the longer it takes to estimate. This takes time away from controlling and monitoring your on-going work.


How Can Electrical Estimating Software Help You?

There’s no question that software reduces estimating time. But what are the most important things you should look for in any estimating software?

  1. The Material Item Database: All estimating programs store and manipulate data, but it’s the amount of data that makes the software efficient and valuable to you. How many items are in the database? Is it a “canned” database (which many programs have) or was it built by estimators who know what is needed on any type of job? Can I complete an estimate without having to manually type in materials because the database is not complete and comprehensive? Are there pre-built assemblies?

    What about the material pricing? Is it reasonable and at my level? Is it updated when prices change? If so, who updates it?

    What about the labor units? Are they proven? Have they been field-tested? Are they realistic?

    Electrical Resources estimating database contains over 30,000 individual priced and labored items and approximately 10,000 assemblies. Our supplier accounts allow us to keep material prices current as prices change. Our labor units have been field-tested and proven. Our database is built from more than 32,000 estimates we have prepared in the past 46 years.

  2. Ease of Use: How long is the learning curve? Do I have to attend classes? When can I actually start preparing estimates? Are material items easy to find? Some programs are difficult to use. They were created with the idea that you think the same way they do. Too many contractors have spent thousands of dollars only to have the software sit on the shelf.

    Our Motto at Electrical Resources is Why Make it Difficult? Our first estimating program was introduced in 1976. We made it simple to use and have kept it that way. We added routines to make the take-off faster, but the biggest change is that we’re always adding to the material item database.

  3. Time-Saving Functions or Gimmicks: Look at all the features offered. Do they actually save estimating time or are they gimmicks just to make a sale? Is it really something you need? Will it help you estimate faster without losing accuracy? Remember, you’re preparing an estimate to produce a bid price on a job you don’t have. Why make it tedious? You can brag all you want that you can prepare your estimate in sections, phases and what not but that takes time and increases your overhead costs. Again, you don’t have the job and may not even get it. While you’re breaking it all down your competition is out-bidding you four to one because they know if they don’t win the job, they need to move on with no time wasted.

    AutoBranch: At Electrical Resources we add functions that reduce estimating time without losing accuracy. Our one function that has allowed contractors to double their estimating volume without increasing their overhead is AutoBranch.

    Electrical Resources has made a science of estimating and has done extensive research into branch circuit takeoff. We studied the worksheets from over 26,000 commercial estimates we’ve prepared. We created charts and graphs early on and now have created an app that will prepare a complete branch circuit bill of material in seconds. And one click converts the hard-wired branch circuits to MC cable.

    AutoBranch is the result of years of studying branch circuit take-off worksheets. It’s built into our software and after your counts have been completed, they will automatically appear in AutoBranch. Answer a few questions such as types of fittings, working height, single or three phase system and then enter the square footage of the project. AutoBranch calculates a bill of material for lighting, switch and receptacle circuits including low voltage cable for LED lighting.

    The larger the estimate, the longer it takes to measure branch circuits. A $500,000 job may take 2 -3 days to measure circuits. AutoBranch will do it in seconds.

    Everything needs to be wired. AutoBranch takes it right back to the panels.

    AutoBranch is available as a stand-alone application to enhance your existing software.


Other Software Options

Looking for other electrical software programs? ERI has options for you. From on-line price and labor guides to integrated software, we are confident that we have solutions to speed up your processes. At Electrical Resources, we offer the following software programs: