” I want to reexamine my entire HeavyBid system. Where do I start? How do I know what’s important and what isn’t?”
The Chief Says:
Here is the interesting thing about HeavyBid: It’s incredibly easy to get started cranking out estimates with just a little training. The system is beautiful in its simplicity, but it’s robust enough to handle the most complex estimates. Your company may need to use just the most basic features of HeavyBid to accomplish your goals, or you may need the more intricate and deeper features.
Where Do I Start?
My rule is to keep things as simple as possible, and continue to expand your understanding by learning more. Let’s start by looking at a few basic concepts and answering a couple of questions.
1: You Cannot Get Back Your Time; Automating HeavyBid Will Save you Both Time and Worry.
I have built HeavyBid systems for several companies, and my first priority is always to save time for the estimators. Change often comes with resistance, but the payoff to automation provides quicker, more precise, and more complete estimates. Computers can accurately perform numerous calculations and routines in an instant, but it cannot think outside the logic given to it. You make each estimate unique, and the job of thinking and being creative is what it means to be a HeavyBid estimator. The repetitive tasks of data entry should not be one of your concerns. By automating the most time-consuming tasks of estimating, you will give yourself more time
, while producing a better estimate.
2: Take One Bite at a Time
You have to be committed and diligent. Starting and stopping in the middle of things is where more mistakes occur than anywhere else. So what do you do if you don’t have the luxury of giving your system your undivided attention for as long as you need? You follow the advice in the old question and answer, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
3. List What’s Working and What’s Not Working.
- Do you have a good process in place to create and track a project from start to finish? Look at every step of that process; from finding projects to bid to submitting proposals to handing over the job to operations. (Pro tip: HCSS Project Tracking makes this a lot easier.)
- Do the basic setups in your Master Estimate like Labor, Equipment and Crews have what you need when you’re estimating? Are all the rates up to date? Do you have the correct breakdowns for taxes, fringes, EOE, etc.?
- Is your Master Estimate up to date and complete? ?Are your work calendars, overtime rules, default markups, Addons and bond tables up to date and correct?
- Are you burning valuable estimating time to create crews and other resources from scratch over and over again?
- And speaking of Codebooks, do both your Materials and Activity Codebooks meet what I like to call the 98/98 rule? Meaning, can you find 98% of the resources that you need in your Materials Codebook for 98% of the things you estimate regularly? Does your Activity codebook contain activities with crews, production types and default production rates to cover 98% of the things you estimate 98% of the time? Insufficient codebooks can lead to lost time that could be used elsewhere.
4. Are You Using The Features that Will Make the Most Impact for You?
HCSS has taken a good hard look at the most important features and functions of all our products, and identified what we refer to as the High Impact Features (HIF). Using these High Impact Features well will set you apart from your competition. With these features fully functional and set up properly, HeavyBid becomes the most accurate, fastest and dependable way for you to produce an estimate. The program is designed to capture your costs of a job, and give you a chance to make money on the work you do.
The main High Impact Features for HeavyBid are:
- Master Estimates:
Complete Master Estimates are the first for a good reason. The Master Estimate contains the building blocks that are needed to build a crew based estimate. Labor, Equipment, Crews, work calendars, overtime rules, worker compensation rates and default markups and add-ons can and should be set up and ready to go whenever needed for estimating. The Master Estimate should have those defaults in place so that they are not forgotten in the heat of finishing the bid. Some companies need more than one Master Estimate, particularly if you work on jobs where the same labor classification can have differing pay rates.
I mentioned earlier that codebooks should meet 98/98. Why? Because that’s the time savings that you’re looking for. Not just when you’re estimating, but also when you go to conform the estimate to turn it over to accounting and operations. Using consistent codes between estimates and estimators means the review process is faster and less confusing. And consistent codes allow the set up of Bid Item Codebooks if you do DOT work and a strong Library Estimate for most other jobs.
- Quotes System:
For any company that takes quotes and uses them in their estimate, or would like to, the Quote System is an incredibly powerful tool that once again saves precious time particularly at bid time. There is no faster way to get the right prices on resources and subcontractors and be able to easily see what vendor was chosen. The Quote System allowed me to find a $3,000,000 mistake in a resource price in a $300,000,000 job just a few minutes before the bid had to be uploaded. We won that job by less than $1,000,000. I don’t even like to think about what it would have felt like to find that after we lost the job.
- Estimate Review, Queries and Reports are probably the most underutilized of all the High Impact Features. Which is an incredible shame because those features are what truly set HeavyBid apart. Those tools are there to help you find mistakes before the bid is finalized, look at the costs and how they are distributed throughout the bid to see how this job fits your strategic needs and strengths, and be able to share the necessary information with others in the company that need it without wasteful searching for details. Just a small investment of time in getting to know which of those are right for your company can add just a few minutes to you estimating, but save you hours of frustration and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in mistakes.
- Finally, HeavyBid gives you multiple options to produce a proposal that you can proudly put in front of your clients. Whether you need a relatively simple proposal form, a very complex Word Document with several inclusions and exclusions or even just want to send your pricing out to an Excel spreadsheet you can do any of these with just a bit of effort. And if you do DOT work, nothing works better than HeavyBid to automatically upload your pricing.
So now that you know what the most important things to focus on are, and in what order, what next? Now you have to decide:
- Start with the question, “Do we have the resources internally to make the changes that need to be made within our company? Or do we need to bring in someone that has the expertise to help us accomplish our goals in the timeframe we want?”
- If your Master Estimates need to be revamped and your codebooks need to be built out or even scrapped and started over, does anyone inside your company have the time to devote to it? If you have that luxury that’s great. But if you don’t, HCSS has the resources that know how to get your system built out to your needs quickly and efficiently. And yes, of course there is a charge for this work. But don’t kid yourself, you’re going to spend that money one way or the other. Either by paying a professional HeavyBid Trainer to finish it in a matter of weeks or paying your people to do the same thing over several months.
If you’re still not sure what you need to do or where to even start, reach out to us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s set some time aside to take a brief look at your system, and help you see what areas need to be addressed, and then help you figure out what your next steps to a fully automated estimating system are.
When you need us, we will be here for you. You are not alone with HCSS Support: 800-444-3196.
Estimating Success Manager
For the past 30 years, Ray has held positions as an Estimator, Project Manager, or Chief Estimator for civil construction companies operating in Ohio, Virginia Beach, Virginia, Norwalk and Connecticut. He has a heart of a teacher, and takes pride in listening well to others before offering advice.