Are you new to the field of electrical estimating? Or are you currently training for the role?
There are many steps involved in the electrical estimating process. A common misconception is that estimators are like “bean counters”…this is far from the reality of the job. The process involves a much greater depth of knowledge and organisational skills in order to successfully estimate a project.
In this article, we’ve dove into the different stages an electrical estimator goes through from start to finish.
#1: Finding the right tender opportunities
Finding or helping to choose the right tender opportunities is (one of) the first of many duties that an electrical estimator may undertake.
A tendering strategy or list of criteria is a handy asset to have. Estimators who send out bids at every opportunity that comes along end up wasting a lot of time and resources. It is important to pick the right opportunities, not just any tender request that lands on your desk.
This is also not a good look for your company – bidding on projects that you are best suited to shows that you have given them due consideration and that you respect the time of the person on the other end.
Here are some of the main criteria to consider:
- Location of projects
- The size of the project
- What type of work is it, does it fit your business?
- The length of the contract
- Profitability i.e. will it be worth your time?
In any case, it is always a good idea to have a defined tendering strategy.
#2: Build a clear picture of the project
Before starting any project, a good electrical estimator takes the time to build a clear picture of the job as a whole. Building a picture of the finished project and each stage of the job helps to ensure all your plans can be as accurate as possible. This is including estimates such as labour costs, which can be more difficult to calculate.
This process includes thoroughly looking over drawings, contractor schedules, part specifications and could also include mechanical or architectural information too. If plenty of time is not allocated to this step then important details could be missed that affect the project later on.
To be a successful electrical estimator you need to understand exactly what the client is asking for before giving an estimate. Some might say this is impossible in practice, but it’s not about reading the client’s mind! It’s more about filtering out the information you need from what you’re given.
#3: Identify your subcontractors
Dealing with subcontractors is not a guaranteed stage of every electrical estimator’s role, but it is a task assigned to many. There are some larger projects that will require bringing on subcontractors and an electrical estimator will need to account for the associated costs.
The stages involved with this process may include sending out enquiries to each of the potential subcontractors, then managing and tracking the quotes that are sent back. These need to be ready for inclusion into a tender or project, so ensuring they’re all received on time is crucial.
Before you hire a subcontractor, it is important to know you can rely on them to deliver what you’re promising to the client. Having a good relationship with your subcontractors can protect the project from potential friction later down the line.
#4: Producing the estimate
This is where the “bean counting” comes in. The estimator will take-off quantities by analysing drawings to create an estimate for the cost of the required materials. Of course, it’s more than just a shopping list – they also have to take into consideration labour, insurance, and subcontracting costs, among other factors.
Take-offs can be one of the most time-consuming but most crucial parts of the estimating process. A lot of estimators have moved on from the “old-fashioned” method of highlighting measurements on a drawing and manually counting each item.
With the right estimating and take-off software, the whole process can be completed much more quickly and accurately. One of the huge advantages of using Ensign is how easy it is to produce client-friendly reports directly from the estimating system.
Before the estimate is sent, it needs to be checked to ensure that everything has been included and all specs met. Double-checking and triple-checking can be tedious, but it vastly increases the chance you’ll actually win the job, so it’s worth being careful.