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Using Estimating Data to Help Build a Project Schedule

Through my years as an estimating software instructor, I have frequently been asked,  “can I export my takeoff information into a scheduling program?” The answer is absolutely!

With the detail and accuracy of today’s estimating software, contractors have the advantage of exporting takeoff data into scheduling programs such as Microsoft Project and Primavera. Trimble AutoBid Mechanical and Trimble AutoBid SheetMetal allow contractors to export data in many different formats. In this article we will work through an example highlighting the ability of Trimble AutoBid Mechanical to sort man hours by System and by Drawing. While we have called out this specific example, the Trimble AutoBid Code Manager allows many more breakout formats.

NOTE: The Trimble AutoBid SheetMetal Code Manager will be covered in a later article.

During my previous life as a Project Manager developing schedules for larger projects could take hours and sometimes even days.  With the Code Manager feature within Trimble AutoBid Mechanical,  breakouts of estimating data can be exported in seconds, allowing project schedules to be developed in minutes instead of days. To highlight this functionality, let’s work through an example.


In this example, our job has 5 stories that include multiple mechanical and plumbing systems.  After calculating my takeoff, in the Reports Screen, click on the Excel icon.   refresh

  1. Tools
  2. Code Manager
  3. File
  4. Export by System, Code Manager

Figure 1

NOTE: If the “Export by System” code manager template is not found then it has been deleted from the data initially installed on Trimble AutoBid Mechanical. You may be required to call Technical Support for help either reloading this file or creating a new one.


Clicking on the “Codes” tab will bring up the Scopes list, along with other breakout options. The next step is to make sure all the System and Drawing names have been filled in. If the System and Drawing fields are blank in either of these Scopes, they must be filled in. The process for completing this task is automated.

  1. Click on the Refresh Code manager icon      refresh     to upload any new System and Drawing names that have been added to this job.
  2. Select “Current Project only” button

Figure 2

The process to fill in the new names for scheduling the export is automated by selecting “Edit” and “Fill codes from names”, then clicking “OK.” Make sure to select and fill in both Systems and Drawings in the Codes list.

NOTE: There should not be any blank lines in the System/Drawing lists.

Figure 3


The next step is to set the proper format for the formula. Again our example will be by System and then by Drawing.

  1. Click on the General tab. The formulas are shown approximately half way down the General tab screen. Notice default setting for the formula is by “System”.
  2. To change formula to “Drawing”, click on the ellipses button to the far right of “Piping Items.” 
    Figure 4
  3. Click the “Drawing” scope to have it added into formula.
  4. Click the “X” to exit this screen.

Figure 5

As seen below, the screen shows I have added “Drawing” in my formula.

Figure 6

NOTE: The sequence of your selections in this screen is what the breakout will show in the scheduling program. If you would prefer to have the schedule displayed by Drawing and then System, you must first turn off all selections and then select Drawing first followed by System. You could also choose to run one export and then return to change the formula and export again.


We are now ready to export the data to Microsoft Project. For the export to work properly you must be running Microsoft Project 2007 or newer.

  1. Click the X in upper-right to close code manager (if still open). 
    Figure 7
  2. Next, check the Export to Accounting & Scheduling box in lower-left corner
  3. Click the “Run” button
    Figure 8

Once calculated from the new Code Manager settings, the screen below will appear.

  1. Select Microsoft Project
  2. Click Next.

Figure 9

The Step 2 window will now appear

  1. Make sure both selections are unchecked
  2. Click Next.

Figure 10

The step 3 window will now appear

  1. Check the “Only View the Exported file” box
  2. Click the “Export” button

Figure 11

Depending on the version of Microsoft Project you are currently running, you will need to make sure macros are enabled. In Microsoft Project 2010 and later, a pop-up will automatically open with the option to enable Macros. Schedules can then be built as seen below.

Figure 12
Click to Enlarge

Building project schedules doesn’t need to be a time consuming process; with Trimble AutoBid Mechanical’s powerful export features you can use your estimating data to build a project schedule.