• Keys to Successful Electrical Estimating

    Keys to Successful Electrical Estimating

     A Practical Guide to Estimating


    Someone once pointed out to me that I spend more time on the phone teaching estimating practices and answering questions about estimating than I do selling software. So it seemed like the right thing to do was to just place all of the conversations and questions s in a book so everyone could benefit from it.

    “It is often said that experience is the most expensive teacher.”

    I have been in the electrical industry since 1973 and have seen many changes over the years. Some of the changes were good and some not so good. Over the years there have been many innovative solutions to speed up the installation of electrical work. A good example of this would be PVC raceways or MC cable over rigid raceways, wire nuts over solder dipped connections, etc. Needless to say most of the information that you have read about estimating was most likely outdated or written by authors not estimators. Most estimating practices were established years ago when most shops were union or at least went through a 5 year apprenticeship program. It is no secret that work is installed differently today than it was back in the day. We are not against the union and we are certainly not against quality workmanship but the fact is most shops can install electrical work faster today that they did years back so doesn’t it make since that if our installation practices changed that our estimating practices would change also?

    Most estimators are skilled tradesmen in the field but are now faced with learning a new set of tools.
    This book was written to ease the complication of this transaction while giving you the confidence that you need on bid day that your bid is accurate.

    The goal is not just to be low bid on bid day. Anyone can turn in a low bid on bid day.  The goal is to be low and to still make money.  It is the balance between covering enough while bidding enough projects to survive.  Spending all of your brain power worrying about counting the exact number of screws, and wire nuts will allow you will miss the length of an expensive feeder.

    “When the seat gets numb the brain gets dumb.”

    In this book I will share with you solid techniques of estimating along with tips and tricks that will save you hours.  We will provide you with the tools that you need to succeed in the estimating field.
    By reading and applying the lessons in this book you can take advantage of what I have learned in over 38 years of trial and error. There is no need for you to learn the hard way as I did.

    By reading Keys to Successful Estimating “A Better way To Estimate” ELECTRICAL EDITION it shows that you have the desire to improve your knowledge of estimating. Your desire is all we ask for we will do the rest.

    Another must read that we highly recommend is:
    Steps To A Successful Business “How to start or improve your business.”

    Starting an Estimate

    Bidding is all about covering all the cost with the least amount of money. It is easy to come up with a price that will cover the cost of a project.  The hard part is being low on bid day and still make money.  It all starts in the planning stage and that’s where your company has to excel. You must learn to install work in your area for the current market price.  The bid isn’t just about the cost itself. You can not survive by being low bidder on every project. You submit bids to get in the game and establish how easy it is to work with your company and how good of a job that you do. A lot rest on your company’s reputation in the industry so make sure that your company is one of the leaders in your community and in your field. Having high standards and a good work ethic will go a long way in being the choice of many contractors and owners. The word does get spread easily and quickly.  If the customer is happy they tell 1 person but If they are unhappy they tell 5 people.

    All buildings will need some type of electrical work at some point in time creating a possible quote situation.  The person that prepares this price is called an estimator.   There are different types of electrical estimators, including senior, residential and commercial.  Senior electrical estimators are responsible for training and managing other estimators . They are required to have extensive experience in estimating and project management.  Residential electrical estimators determine the cost of electrical systems or upgrades installed in homes.

    Commercial electrical estimators bid on construction projects as subcontractors. Most use estimating software, such as the Best Bid to help determine the cost associated with large projects. Watch a video of how it works.

    As you become an estimator you need to choose your jobs wisely.  At first, it may be tempting to bid on every project that comes your way, but this isn’t the best approach. Choose projects that not only fit your expertise but your workers expertise. You don’t want to bid on a job that is hours away from your office or requires greater manpower than you currently have.  Once you’ve decided to bid on a job, ask that the contractor send you the drawings and specs.  Review the plans and make sure you have everything you need to complete your bid. While electrical work will be shown on the electrical plans and in Division 16 of the spec book, it is wise to review the other sections of the plans as well, especially the section on mechanical equipment. You will be required to wire major mechanical equipment, which may not be shown on the electrical plans.

    Keys To Successful Electrical Estimating explains the electrical estimating process from every aspect of electrical estimating -including the take-off, creating Assemblies, man-hours, material pricing, to the bid summary.

    Start by reviewing the entire set of building plans before you begin.  Electrical drawings are often crowded with symbols and wiring information.  By viewing the architectural plans first, you will gain a better understanding of the intended function of the space. This will allow you to create a more accurate estimate

    To start a commercial bid, it all starts with the scope of work.  Demand a complete set of plans for the electrical systems along with the specifications.  The following is an outline of an estimate process:

    1. REVIEW:  Review the electrical plans.   Read the General Conditions in the Specifications Book and in the Bidding Instructions, if applicable. These often contain information that can greatly effect your price. Look for information on scale wages, night work, work in occupied spaces, and bond premiums or requirements. Include the cost of these items in your price.  Read the project specifications. This is the manual that accompanies most sets of construction documents. Read the section that describes your trade, then read the preliminary sections that give general project conditions.
    2. Doing the takeoff:   Perform a material take-off for each electrical system such as Site, Lights, Switches, Receptacles, stub ups, branch cir, feeders, gear etc,.  This involves counting the quantity of items shown on the plans This is called the takeoff..   Learn to use an electronic measure tool or a Digital Takeoff software like the Digi Count Takeoff Pro.
    3. Requesting material pricing: Request a quote from your supplier.  Simply put you will get estimates from your suppliers based on the quantities you counted. Use these estimates to determine your total material cost.
    4. Calculating material costs:  Choose the best vendor for the project with the lowest price.
    5. Adding labor cost:  Determine how many hours you’ll need to perform each type of installation by adding a man hour to each piece of material,  Include supervision,  and laborers as needed.  Calculate your labor costs.  Multiply the total man hours by the rate of pay that you need to charge.
    6. Include Other Cost: Add other cost such as storage trailers, permits, rental equipment, plans, etc.
    7. Arrive at a job cost: The total material cost with tax, added to your other cost and your labor charge will become your job cost.
    8. Arrive at selling price:  Job cost plus over head, and profit will be your selling price.
    9. Review:  Review your results and include any bonds or extra fees associated with the project.
    10. Proposal:  Prepare your proposal listing the scope of work that is to be included in your price.
    11. Turn in your bid:  Submit your bid.
    12. Using alternates for cost-savings and value engineering.