Accurate and Fast Material takeoffs, mostly science part art

Growing a construction business is about winning more bids at a profitable margin. Accuracy in material takeoffs gives the margin and doing them fast helps in bidding more. Pretty simple, right.

What is Accuracy in Material takeoffs?

Accuracy in estimating is not about getting absolute 100% accuracy. It would be almost impossible to do (except for some items that are counted, eg: light fixtures). Why? Because installation comes with waste. Both avoidable and unavoidable.

Unavoidable waste

Lets take the example of installing tiles of size 24” x 24”. If the room is 11’3” wide. Then of course the last tile will need to be cut and the 7”x24” cut tiles that remain won’t probably be used elsewhere.

Avoidable waste

Avoidable waste can be further split into two types - desirable and undesirable. Why would someone want waste? Well see below.

Desirable waste - Labor is expensive. Time is money. Delays are costly. I think you get the point. If things can be done faster by generating a little bit of waste, then so be it.

Another reason could be quality of construction. Using bigger pieces may be better in terms of looks or quality than reducing waste by using a greater number of smaller pieces.

Undesirable waste - This is waste in the complete sense of the word. A lack of proper planning during construction/installation or even an error in estimating/detailing results in waste that could have been avoided.

How to Avoid Undesirable waste

Avoiding undesirable waste is a very profitable activity. I will list a few ways this can be achieved in various situation.

1. Use a Colored Printed Markup - One of the benefits of estimating software is that you can usually print it and give it to the installer or construction worker so that they can use that as a reference during construction and avoid errors.

2. Pre prepare the material - If the installation material can be cut or grouped as required for installation at the warehouse, factory or office, then it can save both time and reduce waste.

3. Deliver only what is required - Only delivering material that is required to be done for the day, can help in both setting productivity goals as well as improve focus and reduce waste.

4. Learning from others - Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look (Spy) at competitors from time to time to see any best practices you can pick up from them.

5. Learning from within the company - Reward people for coming up with ideas to improve processes that improve productivity or reduce waste.

When adding waste to material takeoffs account for both desirable and undesirable waste. You have to be realistic and holistic to preserve your margins while still winning bids.

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