How to Stay Ahead of Construction Estimating Technology and Beat the Market

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Construction estimating technology: Is it just tech for tech’s sake, or can it really help you accelerate and improve your construction estimates?

Well, it depends on what you’re using.

Benefits of construction estimating technology

“Spreadsheets don't cut it anymore. I know we estimators love them, and we put time and effort into building them. But, they're not scalable and worse, the mistakes will come. If not by you, by someone who's adopted your spreadsheet.”

Here’s a question we often encounter from construction professionals: What’s the point of new tech?

Surely if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

There can be a lot of scepticism towards technology in the construction industry – and many are worried about it creating more problems than it solves.

But used properly (admittedly, an important caveat), the right technology can make a huge difference when it comes to construction estimating.

Here are just some of the ways it can help: 

  • Accelerate the creation of bids and estimates
  • Detect and remove mistakes and errors
  • Get better quality estimates
  • Easier to pull accurate labour rates from the system
  • Improve collaboration with stakeholders
  • Achieve compliance without all the faff

So tech can make your estimates better, faster and more compliant.

But where do you start? 

Construction estimating technology: Then and now

Construction estimating technology has transformed the task of costing projects into an almost entirely digital process.

Where pen, paper and typewriter once ruled, now spreadsheets and SaaS tools are the norm. 

So, paper is out and construction estimating software is in.

But beyond this, how many estimators use the most up-to date tools to accelerate and improve their estimating processes?

Not as many as you’d think. 

Often, contractors rely on spreadsheet tools like Excel to complete work that can be much more efficiently done elsewhere.

This often causes more problems than it solves: 

  • Spreadsheets are time-consuming and highly manual to update
  • Formulae and macros are difficult to build and often create errors that are hard to spot
  • There’s next to no automation in Excel, meaning every sum and data point needs to be input manually
  • Spreadsheets are usually out of date, since each new expense spent, hour worked or material purchased needs to be manually added into the system 
  • There are no industry-specific functions or features. This is a particular challenge in construction due to the many moving parts, regulations and requirements 

We get it: Excel is time-consuming, fiddly and error-prone.

The Problems Excel Causes Construction Estimators Infographic

So, what should you use instead?

These days, contractors will generally look towards enterprise resource planning tools like Xero or Quickbooks.

These are sophisticated tools that’ll do about 80% of your estimating and accounting tasks out-of-the-box. 

If you want to extend that functionality to 100%, you’ll need a tool like Archdesk for construction financial processes..

More on that below.

How to stay ahead of industry trends

So, you’re digitally savvy, forward-facing, desperate to get ahead of the curve and take your business into the future.

But beyond leaning on slightly overwrought metaphors, how do you know what technology to try? 

After all, you don’t want to waste your time jumping on the latest fad if it’s not going to provide any value.

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Subscribe to industry publications like Building magazine and Construction News. These often discuss the value and uses of new technology. 
  • Attend industry events, workshops and webinars to stay up-to-date with the latest estimating technology and software. 
  • Keep your eye on the research from specialist construction research groups like CIRIA, BRE and the RICS. These are neutral industry bodies that often conduct specialist research on the uses and benefits of new tech. 

How to stay ahead of of industry trends in construction estimating infographic

This should give you a feel for what new software for construction estimating tools are coming and how useful they are. 

Can ChatGPT superpower your construction estimating? 

You didn’t think you’d get through a whole blog about new tech without hearing about ChatGPT, right? 

Open AI’s new AI-powered chatbot has taken the world by storm over the last few months.

And rightly so: It’s intelligent and easy-to-use, representing one of the biggest steps forward for technology in years. 

But here’s the thing: Like any new tech, ChatGPT has its strengths and weaknesses, and it’s not going to eliminate the need for humans overnight.

To get the most out of it, you need to know where it can help and what you’re better off doing yourself. Here are a few ideas:

  • Creating documents and templates

Any construction estimating process is about one part estimating to four parts faffing about with documents, templates and spreadsheets.

But what if ChatGPT could take the admin out of your hands?

Plot twist: It can.

Try asking the tool to generate templates for risk assessments, cost estimates, bids or regular project reporting.

  • Superpower your spreadsheets

Let’s be real, we didn’t come into the construction business to waste our lives fiddling with macros and formulae.

Luckily, ChatGPT can generate these based on text prompts.

So next time you’re going over your monthly reports, try asking ChatGPT to analyse real costs and compare that against your project estimates.

You can also ask it to check for bugs, typos or other issues in existing formulae.

  • Reviewing and analysing contracts

Contracts, contracts. Whether it’s suppliers, clients or subcontractors, you can’t get far without them.

But who wants to spend their lives fine-tooth combing through 20 pages of legalese just to check there are no dodgy clauses hiding in the dense thickets of jargon?

Not you. ChatGPT can help you generate contracts in line with industry standards and best practices.

It can also search through legal documents for mistakes and non-standard clauses.

  • Communication and collaboration

A lot of the work you do involves collaborating with project managers, architects and other construction professionals.

That involves writing emails, messages and prepping agendas – all of which take up much more time than they have any right to.

ChatGPT can help by drafting these documents for you – so all you have to do is give them a quick edit and send them along. Job’s a good ‘un. 

  • Getting the right materials and contractors

It’s all well and good coming up with a fully-costed construction estimate – but if you can’t find materials and workforce at the right price, there’s a good chance your costs will spiral anyway. 

AI can help you understand the best places to look for suppliers and materials and where to check current rates – so you’re always getting a good deal. 

Infographic with 5 ideas how ChatGPT can superpower your construction estimating

If you want to find out more about using ChatGPT as a construction estimating technology tool, check out some of our recent posts: 

It’s not quite perfect… yet

ChatGPT and other AI tools are powerful – but they’re not perfect.

They work for the kind of tasks that take a lot of time, but not a great deal of brainpower: Editing, producing documents, writing emails etc.

It’s best to think of them as the world’s fastest intern. But when it comes to industry experience and knowledge – there is no substitute for the real thing.

At the same time, AI isn’t 100% reliable.

If you ask it what the most recent compliance regulations are or where to go to find the price of timber – you’ll have to double-check the results to make sure they hit the mark.

Tools like ChatGPT can’t quite always distinguish the truth from incredibly convincing garbage. (In its defence, a fair few humans haven’t quite hacked this one either). 

A good acid test for using ChatGPT is this: If it’s quicker to do it yourself than to double-check the AI… you probably should. 

Construction estimating technology you can rely on

Software for construction estimating like Archdesk can help you create better construction estimates without spending hours toiling with macros and manual calculations.

Here’s what that involves: 

  • Generate sales quotes, including images, notes and T&Cs
  • Keep track of ongoing sales quotes, and quickly view/compare minimal gross margin, specific payment terms or due dates
  • Easily view the value, associated costs, outdated payments and invoices of ongoing and historical projects
  • Integrated time tracking, so every hour worked is instantly recorded and updated

Sounds pretty good right? Give it a try today

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

What is construction estimating software?

Construction estimating software makes it quicker and easier to cost potential projects for bids. It includes tools to measure and track costs on existing and historical projects, as well as making it easier to create bids for new ones. 

Is there any software for estimation?

There are plenty of software for construction estimating tools designed to accelerate and improve your construction estimates. 

What is digital construction estimating software?

Construction estimating software like Archdesk helps make your construction estimates faster and more accurate.  

Karolina Dobrowolska
Content Marketer

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2024-07-20 06:27:45