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For over a hundred years Continental Electrical Construction Company has been ‘powering up’ the city of Chicago and its suburbs. Specializing in electrical design and engineering for commercial, industrial, institutional and data center construction, the fourth generation family-owned company has worked on dozens of landmark projects including Sears Tower and Water Tower Place, and has built over 60 million square feet of new construction worth more than $1 billion throughout the Midwest since its start in 1912.

Continental contributes its success to a steadfast commitment to quality, teamwork and a culture dedicated to long-lasting relationships with its customers.  For Eric Kastengren, estimating team leader for the company’s power divisions, the use of technology is integral to this.   

For over ten years Continental has relied on Trimble® Accubid® Classic Estimating Pro to facilitate its electrical estimating workflow for its low-voltage and structured cabling division. The company recently transitioned to Accubid Enterprise -- tapping the flexibility of the server-based, multi-user platform to centralize estimating practices, assemblies and cost data across teams supporting projects involving 120V and over.  The estimating teams at Continental also utilize Trimble LiveCount™, a companion digital takeoff software for Accubid Classic & Enterprise to drive additional efficiencies in the estimating and preconstruction processes.  

Collaboration, speed and project intelligence

Kastengren says the move to Accubid Enterprise has streamlined the preconstruction planning and estimating processes from bid review though construction to handover.  “The flexibility in the way specifications are handled and the ability to build assemblies provides us with an advantage in the way we approach projects with greater speed and accuracy,” he adds.

One of the benefits of moving to Accubid Enterprise has been improved communication and collaboration between Continental’s centralized estimating team and the project managers.

Navigating takeoff in Accubid Enterprise provides an unprecedented level of flexibility. Updates to takeoffs are viewed in real time, allowing Continental’s estimating team to quantify takeoffs and immediately view the results in the bill of material and closeout screens without running a report.

“Project managers often come to the centralized estimating team to ask why something was changed or why something was routed a certain way,” said Kastengren. “With Accubid Enterprise we can go right to the takeoff and show exactly how something was routed, what changed and the impact to the budget.  And since the information is stored on our servers, everything from PDFs, drawings, LiveCount traces and other information is all there and can be easily referenced. Nothing is lost,” he added.  

The ability to tap into customized assemblies based on past projects and repurpose past estimates and bids is powerful. Kastengren says this proved to be invaluable in a recent successful bid.  Continental recently completed an estimate for a 13-floor high-end tenant project encompassing 325,000 square feet that involved complicated power systems.  “With Accubid Enterprise, we were able to bid that in about 10 working days — much faster than with Accubid Classic.”  

Eliminating extra steps and errors

“Every extra step is one more avenue for human error,” explains Kastengren.  With traditional takeoff methods, items are identified, counted and transcribed to the estimating solution manually.  This requires information to be “handled twice” he adds.

Integration between LiveCount and Accubid Classic & Accubid Enterprise eliminates this, providing a dynamic bi-directional link between drawings and the estimate. Takeoffs initiated from LiveCount are automatically updated in Accubid Classic & Enterprise, providing a complete audit trail when quantities are changed.  Eliminating manual redundancy saves time and reduces risk of errors.

Kastengren says estimators are also very happy with the auto count feature that uses symbol recognition to speed the identification of objects in the drawings. “The auto count feature in LiveCount is fantastic. You can take a set of drawings and quickly take off 2x4 fixtures and fire alarm devices in minutes. It’s that good.”

Accubid Classic & Enterprise and LiveCount are also valuable tools for communicating with clients. Kastengren recalls a recent project in which the owner questioned a lighting budget number.  The project was complicated with numerous addendums and job changes. Using LiveCount and Accubid Enterprise, the catalog of changes can be overlaid with multiple drawings for quick identification of design change by layer and color.  This helped Kastengren explain the differences to the owner and justify the costs.  “LiveCount helped me tell the story of how we got from budget to construction” he added.

Estimating with confidence

Building on a century of success in electrical design and construction, Continental looks to the help of Trimble’s estimating solutions to maintain its excellence in the years ahead.

“For us the decision to move to Accubid Enterprise was the correct one.  Our confidence in our estimates is greater than it’s ever been and our team is more productive, allowing us to bid more work” said Kastengren.

And this translates to success.   “The more jobs you bid the more chance you have to be successful, he adds.”