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Review of Takeoff Software for Estimating Construction
So often people want to rush out and buy estimating software or takeoff software without first trying to define their internal estimating processes. Once the estimated process is clearly defined, only then, can you actually try to break the process down into segments. So often the segment is really volume takeoff. What takeoff may surprise you? That’s like the million dollar question. This article will talk about the takeoff software process that is commonly associated with estimating software processes. The takeoff software process can often be the takeoff of content for some people, and for many others, the takeoff process of scoped systems to generate estimates or proposals. This review or comparison does not attempt to explain the estimating software process but to find a valid amount of takeoff thinking among estimators to find out which product thinks the way you do. These are the views of the author.
I will review and compare 3 types of scale takeoff products:
It is extremely important to note that these are only measuring takeoff programs, not estimating programs.
1) Plan Swift
2) On-screen takeoff by on-center software
3) Electronic planning takeoff software
All three products have their strengths, however, Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff are stand-alone products and Electronic Plan Takeoff is actually dynamically integrated directly with Microsoft Excel which means it starts and ends and saves in Excel. They all integrate with Excel, however, so you’ll have to evaluate your thought process and decide which of the three products work-flow along the lines of what you think. For example, what is the first thing you do when you receive a set of plans? Basically, you start flipping through the plans to see how the project is involved and what kind of work you see that is attractive to your company. So when you decide you’re going to estimate this job, more often than not, you start like 80% of companies in the construction estimating world by opening your Takeoff Master Template Excel spreadsheet. You rename your spreadsheet to a new task or project and you’re off to perform Takeoff. This is where the differences lie:
In Planswift, you decide what drawing you’re on and then measure the object you want to take off on the plan. Unfortunately, this is not the way an estimator thinks. Planswift gives you the ability to add a type of takeoff object to a flight and display its takeoff. Somewhat very manual and slow process. They also give you the ability to apply a type of assembly at takeoff to the total amount of objects in that assembly. Not quite the way an estimator thinks. This forces you to jump to different screens which slows down the process. In general, the main start of one’s takeoff process, or some might think of it as a checklist approach, is to start with your own spreadsheet of items. Those objects can be physical objects or scoped assembly system objects. However, by starting with a master spreadsheet, say in Excel for example, many estimators think of it as a risk reducer, not to forget the things they usually take off. Since Planeswift is a stand-alone takeoff program, if Excel is your estimation system, it usually saves your takeoff images in Planeswift instead of your estimates in Excel. If you are using Excel, you must manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in Planswift or elsewhere, not in Excel where the takeoff quantities reside. Again, if you want to integrate with Excel, they force you to export or import takeoff objects directly from Excel, dynamically integrated into Excel. However they have the ability to dump the measured quantities from Planswift into any Excel spreadsheet or Word document. The main objective or primary focus of this program is measurement, so it works well in that function. Most other functions require you to jump around different screens, and essentially, you leave your thinking where you are. There are some features that try to address the estimation process, however, there are many features that are missing for Planswift to be a complete estimation system; it is no one Planswift integrates with the leading estimating system Sage Timberline, but the integration is weak. Since Timberline’s power assembly is at takeoff and where most estimators reside in Timberline, Planswift does not provide the ability for the estimator to add various Timberline items or one-time items that need to be added on the fly to an assembly while in Planswift. While on the Timberline interview screen, and on the measurement stage. Planswift allows deleting assembly generated items on different screens as well as adjusting assembly item quantities. Again, to display all of them, you are forced to jump around to different screens. No assembly is complete in any estimating system as project conditions are always uniquely different, therefore, adding items to the assembly is extremely important. Addition of items and related quantities is an absolute requirement that any estimator usually performs during the take-off measuring and estimating phase; Struggling with Planswift related to Timberline Estimating. Planswift allows you to send measurements directly to Timberline Estimating objects and assemblies, just like you would with old digitizer measuring boards. Training, support and maintenance are extra For Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (required) which cost the end user more annually especially if the customer has more than one license.
Kendra’s on-screen takeoff software is the grand daddy of takeoff products due to the fact that it’s been around the longest. On Center recognizes that on-screen takeoff is primarily a program to scale. That’s why they have a separate estimating program called QuickBid for those who want an estimating program. On Center doesn’t try to trick you into thinking it’s a guessing system. In on-screen takeoff, you also decide which drawing you are on and then you measure the plan. But, before you start, you can load a master set of styles from your library that usually take off or measure things. That process seems less complicated than Planswift’s. On-screen Takeoff gives you the ability to add a type of takeoff object to the flight by naming it and then displaying its takeoff; Also a somewhat manual and slow process. The program comes with many features that mainly focus on simple measurement to advanced measurement issues all with attention to detail regarding easy navigation for the takeoff process. The center does a very good job of this. However, there seems to be a disconnect of thought from the Excel spreadsheet items you might use for estimates and/or proposals. Integration into Microsoft Excel is not a dynamic live link, as an afterthought in my opinion. Yes, you can set links to cells or ranges in named styles, somewhat rigid. But the question you have to ask yourself, which is not often asked: What do you do when you need to add things to an Excel spreadsheet during take off and on a flight? Again there will be manual associations that you will have to establish with Excel which is another big let down. You must manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images on-screen or wherever you decide, takeoff images will not be saved in Excel where takeoff quantities reside. This type of situation arises when the takeoff program is a stand-alone program. Center’s on-screen takeoff has excellent integration with the most widely used estimation system in the United States: Sage Timberline Estimation. This basically replicates the same interfacing process that you would do with old digitizer measurement boards. By working directly with Timberline, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to take off a Timberline variable query and immediately return with the takeoff quantity on the Timberline assembly in the variable query. Based on this process, the on-screen takeoff allows the estimator to continue his timberline interview process in Sage Timberline Estimating. That workflow process gives the estimator full control, a good job at the center. Training, support and maintenance are extra For on-screen takeoff. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (required) which cost the end user more annually especially if the customer has more than one license.
This is another system only If your estimation system or proposal generator Microsoft Excel. Electronic plan takeoff is software Plug-in for Excel. You start your spreadsheet, you perform a measured takeoff, you can add some additional items to the flight while you are in the measurement phase in the electronic plan takeoff program. As you work, even if you add items on the fly, they automatically appear in your Excel spreadsheet. Excel controls everything. Your project is started in Excel, your takeoff is saved in Excel, the estimate or proposal can be produced there in Excel. One event, one place. Many takeoff programs interface with Excel in some way, but only Electronic Plan Takeoff is linked live to Excel, meaning all your Excel spreadsheet details appear in the Measure Takeoff program so you always know where you are in Excel. That’s a big difference compared to Planeswift and on-screen takeoff. You can also change takeoff item details in Electronic Plan Takeoff and it automatically changes live in your Excel spreadsheet. When you talk about the estimation and takeoff phase you want to keep the processes clean and easy and this program does just that. There is nothing to lose in this program. Like the other programs reviewed above, the central focus of this program is to measure takeoff, and it does the great Work on it. Navigation within the program is really simple and easy. It is not designed to work with other estimation systems, but there is a version that allows measurements to be sent directly to any Microsoft Windows program awaiting keyboard entry, just as you would with digitizer measurement boards. There is also a version that works with digitizer boards as well. If you use Microsoft Excel for estimates, or takeoffs, or proposals, this electronic plan takeoff program for Excel will be yours. the best Choice. Excel has integration unmatchable In electronic plan takeoff compared to Planswift or on-screen takeoff. What is quite different about the electronic plan is the takeoff Training, support, and maintenance are included With purchase, while training, support and maintenance are additional for Planswift and on-screen takeoff. Furthermore, the electronic plan takeoff is a lower fee per company per year rather than per license for annual support and maintenance for year two and beyond. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (required) which cost the end user more annually especially if the customer has more than one license.
Microsoft and Excel are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Planswift Tech Unlimited Inc. is a registered trademark. On-Screen Takeoff and QuickBid are registered trademarks of On Center Software, Inc. Sage Timberline Office, Sage Timberline Estimating are registered trademarks of Sage Software, Inc.
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