How (and Why) to Start Using Takeoff & Estimating Software

May 12, 2020

There was a time when people thought the automobile was too loud, too expensive, and too dangerous. People rejected the new technology in favor of the horse-drawn transportation they were accustomed to, despite the obvious advantages of motorized vehicles. 

Some in the construction industry feel a similar resistance to new technology. The widespread availability of more efficient tools—like graphical takeoff and estimating software—give time-strapped mechanical contractors the opportunity to work more efficiently and cost-effectively, while maintaining healthier margins and being more competitive.

Yet despite these advantages, technology adoption across the industry is slow and investment in better tools is lagging. In fact, construction is among the lowest users of technology, lagging behind all other industries, except one or two. 

But this trend can’t continue indefinitely. Just as technology changes are unavoidable in everyday life, the construction industry will inevitably reach the point where new hardware and software tools will play an integral role in every project. Given this inescapable reality, the contractors who are willing to make the transition to better technology tools first will be positioned to gain a competitive advantage over those who don’t. 

3 Common Objections to Adopting New Technology

If any industry is ripe for a technology revolution, it’s construction. Research suggests that construction productivity levels are roughly the same as they were 80 years ago. This is in sharp contrast with other sectors like agriculture and manufacturing whose productivity has increased 15x in the same span. 

So why aren’t smaller MEP contractors adopting technology? While the objections may be personal and varied, they generally fall into three main categories.

Change is too hard

Changing human behavior is difficult. It’s even more challenging when you’re asking someone to change the way they’ve worked for years. Even if the benefits of doing so are undisputable, doing things differently can take some convincing. For seasoned construction pros, making the switch to even the most user-friendly technology in place of tedious pen-and-paper estimates or generic spreadsheets may feel like a big change, causing them to reflexively push back. 

Technology can also be threatening to some who fear it will take away their jobs or diminish the importance of their hard-earned experiences. But technology doesn’t replace people or their experiences; it creates a need for new types of jobs and an opportunity to learn new skills.  

Technology sounds expensive

While the right technology can hold the key to reducing costs and increasing margins, you may worry that it’s too expensive. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories about companies that “bought into” the latest technology but failed to see a return on their investment.

When you’re operating a lean business and dealing with realities like slow cash flow and RFIs, spending money on new technology may feel like the last thing you want to do. If you’re only familiar with traditional software, you may worry about both the upfront cost and the ongoing need for maintenance. You may also not be aware that there are very affordable subscription-based options available that take care of everything for you. 

The learning curve isn’t worth it

Some software is particularly challenging to use. If you made the transition from doing estimates by hand to using a spreadsheet, you no doubt experienced this firsthand. But not all software is difficult to learn. In fact, some of it is surprisingly intuitive. 

Yet if you aren’t one of those people who spends all day on a computer, you may worry that you lack the skills to quickly pick up new technology. This may lead you to reason that it will take too much time to learn, so you’re better off doing things the way you always have, even if it is less efficient and comes with additional risk.

Overcoming Obstacles is Easier with the Right Tool

It’s natural to have some hesitation when we’re faced with making a change. But there are also things you can do to make the transition much easier, maybe even fun and exciting. 

When evaluating a new technology tool, you want to feel confident that it will make your life easier and deliver the benefits you expect. Here are three ways to make sure a new technology tool does both.

Look for technology that works the way you do—just better

Minimize the discomfort by choosing a technology tool that feels familiar and natural to use. If you prioritize finding a tool that allows you to work the way you’re used to, it will take less of your time, not more. 

Imagine having a technology that’s so foolproof and user-friendly you can utilize the help of your office manager for tasks like uploading drawings and even helping to complete parts of an estimate. That’s exactly the kind of tool you’re looking for, and tools like this exist.

Explore cost-effective and low-maintenance options

You can avoid the upfront and ongoing costs of traditional software by looking for simple web-based technology tools that offer only the features you need most. These tools are typically purchased on an annual subscription basis, making them extremely affordable. 

Because they’re web-based, all updates, security protocols, and data backups are also taken care of by the provider, so you don’t need to deal with tech hassles or hire an IT contractor to keep things up and running.

Take a test drive first 

You wouldn’t buy a new truck without taking it for a spin first. The same is true of technology. You want to be sure you know what you’re committing to—and confident that learning a new way of doing things will provide more long-lasting rewards than temporary pain. 

Just like you can test drive that new truck, you can try many technology tools for free before you commit. Seek out providers that offer you this option. Some will even provide a guided step-by-step process to make getting up to speed and comfortable with the technology a snap.

An Easy-to-use Estimating Tool Made Specifically for Contractors Like You

Doing things the way they’ve always been done is not a recipe for success in today’s day and age. Mechanical contractors both large and small face a number of challenges—from rising material and labor costs to shrinking profit margins—that demand different ways of working than in decades past. 

Using traditional manual methods for essential business activities like takeoff and estimating are time-consuming and prone to error. If you’re doing complicated calculations for labor and materials in your head or on paper, you’re even more likely to make mathematical mistakes that skew cost projections and eat into your margins. And as a small contractor, you can’t afford to take big hits to your business.

Furthermore, every change or inadvertent error can mean needing to redo your takeoff and completely rework an estimate when you’re doing things manually. You could spend hours having to recalculate labor and material changes to ensure their accuracy. 

If you’re still doing estimates yourself and the way you always have, you may be spending way more time on them than you need to. Without a more professional and repeatable way to produce estimates, you can only do your job and bid on so many projects before you run out of daylight. And should you get sick or injured, your business could grind to a halt as your team tries to make sense of the work in progress and the jobs still waiting to begin.

You need an easy-to-use estimating tool made specifically for a business like yours.

Produce Faster, More Accurate Plumbing & Piping Estimates

Today’s projects are more complicated, your competition keeps growing, and your customers are more demanding. To thrive, small mechanical contractors are learning to embrace technology and in doing so are producing faster, more accurate estimates that protect their profit margins, put forth a professional image, and position them competitively to win more business. 

To learn how you can produce faster, more accurate estimates for small plumbing and piping projects, get the quick guide

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