The technological landscape is changing rapidly. Companies of all industries and sizes need to respond timely to new market changes and invest in technology to grow and stay competitive. In the construction industry, most specifically Mechanical and Electrical (M&E), software offerings need to be flexible and accessible to the user. But what does it mean for MEP contractors who are bidding on construction projects daily? How can they ensure a flawless workflow and remain within budget?
In this article, we will look into the advantages of SaaS and the future of cloud estimating software and digital takeoff.
4 Challenges Construction Cost Estimators Face Everyday
According to the Labour Bureau, 1 in 4 estimators works more than 40 hours per week. But more hours don’t ultimately signify increased productivity.
It is not easy to keep productivity levels up, especially when you are using multiple software that complicates your workflow. The onboarding, training and maintenance costs associated with each separate application usually bring the overhead costs up significantly. Moreover, when working with various applications, the issues of incompatibility between platforms and lack of connectivity can and will likely arise. This leads to errors and duplicate work.
Having all tools fully integrated into one place helps diminish these errors, avoids duplicate work, and cuts the extra cost of having several solutions with different providers.
Making informed, quick decisions
Having all information at hand at any time and any place is crucial nowadays. The recent pandemic showed us how important it is to be responsive and connected by all means of communication. Being able to access your tools from everywhere and maintain a high level of collaboration despite your team not being in the same location becomes increasingly important for a businesses survival.
Cloud-based applications provide a single source of truth for your data, which results in increased accuracy and reduced likelihood of mistakes. No need to export your electrical or mechanical estimates to a third-party app like Excel, which is an error-prone step. Instead, use your SaaS online estimating application to produce clean and accurate estimates that you can present to your clients and exhibit your professionalism.
Web-based applications offer subscribers the ability to easily access the software from any location. All you need is an internet connection.
Value engineering and optimisation
Before SaaS, customers would buy traditional software applications, learn to operate and master them, and even occasionally tailor them to fit their specific needs. SaaS has changed this paradigm entirely. Instead of having to operate and maintain the perpetual licensed application in-house, customers can now simply enjoy the benefits of handing off this responsibility to the software developer.
This means that software providers are more concerned with providing sustained value to their users and are dedicated to supporting their business goals. In simple terms, instead of delivering out of the box applications, MEP contractors need to be able to deliver better bids and win more jobs.
Getting pricing from multiple suppliers at once
An estimator needs to have access to reliable MEP pricing data. Construction material prices are often fluctuating and unpredictable. Due to the current economic environment and a shortage of raw materials, average MEP materials prices are currently running at 11.49%.
That’s why an accurately updated and integrated catalogue of HVAC, electrical and plumbing material items is a must for any SaaS estimating solution. Pre-configured with manufacturer list prices, this allows you to price items instantaneously when doing quantity takeoff and to generate procurement lists that are up-to-date manufacturing bills of materials (BOM) including item information and price lists sourced directly from the manufacturer.
What is SaaS?
SaaS is an acronym for Software as a Service, and refers to a “method of software delivery that allows data to be accessed from any device with an internet connection and web browser”. In the context of M&E construction technology, SaaS can take the shape of various tools across the plan, build and design lifecycle, such as computer-aided design (CAD) and estimating and takeoff software. SaaS applications are generally offered as subscription models and are distinguished from perpetual licenses by their flexibility and low up-front costs.
The success of subscription-based SaaS solutions in the construction industry is due to several factors. In architectural firms and engineering offices, computer software is no longer a nice-to-have but has become indispensable.
What are the (financial) advantages of SaaS?
Companies in the construction market experience fluctuations in the volume of projects and require flexibility from their project management, CAD and estimating tools. SaaS and subscription models offer MEP contractors the flexibility to procure exactly the right number of licenses that meets their workload.
SaaS tools also allow small and medium-sized construction companies to fully participate in BIM workflows by adhering to the project requirements. Cloud platforms enable them to easily share data with other project stakeholders, view the latest changes in real-time and confidently work from a single source of truth.
As a response to companies’ constant need to evolve and modernise their workflows, cloud services provide users with increased financial freedom. Customers ask to be freed from upfront substantial investments in software applications, and SaaS delivers just that. Thanks to flexible subscription models and improved licensing agreements, the barriers to entry are much lower, leaving room for smaller firms to join in the digital revolution.
Furthermore, there are additional time and cost-saving aspects to be considered. Not only do maintenance and upgrades costs shift into the realm of responsibilities of the software developer, but there are also no more additional costs for keeping unused licenses.
SaaS and Estimating
What do SaaS and subscription-based software mean for mechanical and electrical estimating in particular? With the challenges of maintaining efficiency and timely project delivery, estimators need to be reactive to the market’s needs and constant changes. One current example is the ongoing volatility of materials pricing, which affects construction material prices worldwide. That has a tremendous impact on the bidding process and, ultimately, the project delivery that needs to be kept within budget.
A SaaS platform offers ready-to-use applications that are immediately usable with little setup required.
Estimators working on a tight deadline can make use of accurate up-to-date costing libraries, rapidly produce detailed commercial estimates and all in all, enjoy an easy estimating process compared to traditional methods or outdated desktop software. The productivity of construction estimates and the quality of files produced are greatly improved.
The flexibility the team gets from cloud software is unmatched. Estimators and MEP contractors are no longer tied to a specific device or location, and that gives them a huge advantage over competitors using old-fashioned desktop construction software.
Trimble’s mechanical and electrical estimating software solutions allow contractors to quickly and accurately generate bid pricing proposals so they can secure more work.