As a civil estimator, I always come across various Software Companies offering easy to use/interpret take-off software and estimating platforms and the likes. However, no software comes with the intellect to assess the actual conditions on site, market intel, competitor assessment or highlight any incorrect data that has been input manually and raise the alarm to the end user (noting that the end user could be a diverse group of individuals ranging from the estimator himself to the Project Manager working both on-site and off-site).

Hence, for a start, this topic inspired me to write this short blog as to why an educated and experienced estimator should be first used prior to deploying a software within the process of preparing tender submissions within a business. This is applicable across all tiers of businesses starting from the minor sub-contractors and all the way up to main sub-contractors and project managers.

I would like to highlight that this article is not solely intended on highlighting the cons of an estimating software, as these also have many pros; but it is intended to explain why the human estimator is essential before the software.

I rely on take-off software and automated spreadsheets to prepare tender bids for civil and construction projects. However, we are aware that although the project scope may be the same for two different projects, there are numerous factors that do not replicate through different projects and thus the estimator then plays a vital role in the tweaks to the automated spreadsheet and the interpretation of information populated on a take-off. It Is this essential tweak that will decide whether:

  • The tender bid is going to be the winning bid and ensure profitability of the business over the project.
  • The tender bid is going to be the winning bid but create a raft of losses over the project due to errors in quantities, project constraints being miscalculated and so forth.
  • The tender bid is going to be the losing bid due to over allowances and lack of market intel / knowledge of competitors.
  • The tender bid is going to be the losing bid but, the price point is right and just that someone else made an error and the bid fell under the categorical description under point number 2 above.

To finalise, it is important to understand the most common issues of using an estimating software,

  1. Extremely high cost to acquire the software.
  2. High training effort due to the diverse range of software available which have different methods of data processing, interpretation, and output results. This will then require an additional knowledgeable and experienced estimator to ensure the output results are in-line with the project expectations.
  3. Technology constantly out of date as the construction industry moves at a very fast pace and upgrades or updates do not always keep up.
  4. The industry is currently adopting different software’s across a variety of businesses, which leads to the requirements of data conversions /integrations which can lead to project discrepancies or failures.