Years ago, I heard about a general contractor whose drawings for just one project took up the entire bed of a pickup truck. Now that’s a lot of paper—and a lot of quantities to take off manually or even with a digitizer.
Today there’s no need to deal with that much paper—or to spend most of your time on tedious takeoff tasks. Most building plans are available electronically, often in PDF format, and the use of electronic takeoff tools is common. If you’re still taking off quantities from paper plans and want to make your estimating more competitive, moving to electronic takeoff could give you the boost you need.
Talk with other estimators
To understand what electronic takeoff can do for your estimating process, ask a few estimators who’ve already made the switch. Talk to them about these common stated benefits:
- Greater accuracy. If you are using a digitizer or scale you’re working with accuracies limited by the printed paper. With electronic takeoff, however, you can reportedly get measurements down to within thousandths of an inch.
- Increased productivity. Many estimators report greater productivity using electronic takeoff compared to takeoff from paper plans. This added efficiency can help you increase your number of bids without increasing staff, especially important with today’s high demand for skilled estimators.
- Reduced printing costs. How much do you currently spend on the printing of plans? With electronic takeoff, that cost can be taken off your books.
Check out software capabilities
Whichever electronic takeoff system you consider, make sure it will meet your needs. Some of the top capabilities you should expect include:
- Assemblies. You can take off, for example the length of a wall and generate all the wall’s component quantities, eliminating the need to do multiple measurements and calculations.
- Automatic counting. By selecting an item such as a smoke detector, some systems will search the plans and automatically generate a count.
- Drawing changes. Whenever changes to the drawing occurs you should be able to see the differences between the revised and existing drawing to easily perform a new takeoff.
- Takeoff tracking. The system should highlight what you’ve already taken off to avoid potential mistakes and unforeseen project costs due to omissions.
- Integration with estimating. Don’t assume that every takeoff system has tight integration with your estimating software. Look for a system where any takeoff addendums and changes can also automatically update the estimating without destroying existing pricing and other information.
Get your team onboard
As with any successful move to new software, you need to involve key members of your estimating team in the selection and implementation process. This helps ensure their buy-in as well as advocacy with the rest of your estimating team. Your software vendor should also be able to assist with training and other resources to make your move to paperless takeoff as easy as possible.