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  • #16
    Re: Database vs. spreadsheet

    Bob - I caught your note about starting to work in Timberline. I have been fussing with it for a couple of years now and find it to be incredibly powerful and versatile. The downside is that you pretty much have to build everything yourself if you want it to work the way you need it to.(not unlike almost all estimating programs).
    The only thing I find lacking is that their reporting functions are very weak within the program and working with an outside report writer such as Crystal Reports is complicated and time consuming. I understand they are planning to improve the reports in future releases.

    I spent several months a while back building a comprehensive assemblies that cover virtually every facet of our remodeling work. This was a big investment in time, but has paid off many times over in increased efficiency and accuracy.

    If you have any questions about the software or need some help, let me know.

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    • #17
      Re: Database vs. spreadsheet

      Carl-

      Thanks for the offer. The company I'm working with it for actually sent me to a 3-day training class to get the basics (and not so basics) of the program. It touched on Crystal Reports, but didn't get too deep into it. I'm trying to talk them into sending me to Oregon for the Timberline Certified Consultant course, but so far no such luck...lol.

      I've got a massive model for office buildings that takes about 10 minutes to input parameters, and spits out a 19 page estimate that covers everything down to the door hardware and dock bumpers- it's definitely powerful. It's almost too powerful for many applications, as as you said, takes a lot of time to set up- that's why I don't mention it TOO much around here. The $6,000 price tag doesn't help either.....

      Bob

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      • #18
        I looked at that datanamic and my head exploded. I use the K.I.S.S. method but now I'm interested if a true database would buy me anything? Is it just ease and effectiveness with multiple teams? My biggest problem when accurately estimating is that my actual costs vary so much that I'm constantly updated my spreadsheet. Can a database pull from vendors?

        I'm sure these are stupid questions. I'm just very green in this area and this post has got me even more curious. From the latest two posts, you guys are very much commercial big dogs... so probably a waste for a little guy.
        Last edited by FrederickPorches; 09-16-2016, 12:47 PM.
        http://www.FrederickPorches.com

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        • #19
          Originally posted by FrederickPorches View Post
          I looked at that datanamic and my head exploded. I use the K.I.S.S. method but now I'm interested if a true database would buy me anything? Is it just ease and effectiveness with multiple teams? My biggest problem when accurately estimating is that my actual costs vary so much that I'm constantly updated my spreadsheet. Can a database pull from vendors?

          I'm sure these are stupid questions. I'm just very green in this area and this post has got me even more curious. From the latest two posts, you guys are very much commercial big dogs... so probably a waste for a little guy.
          Not stupid questions at all.

          I used to work for a commercial roofing company that was pretty big. I was their IT / tech guy, and my job was to find new tech solutions to help them work faster and more productively. With all that budget and size- they still estimated on spreadsheets.

          I think the owner went to a local community college way back in the day to learn how to use excel, and set it up with some simple formulas to capture every detail. Don't get me wrong- these things were beasts- I was responsible to fix them if they had formula errors (and they did!), but it was free!

          I looked at other solutions, but one of the biggest problems was 1) lots of $$ and 2) they can't always pull prices direct from vendors. If you want, I'm still in touch with the boss there and could see if I could empty out a spreadsheet and share it? not sure if he'd let me but i can ask ;)
          How to make more profit and grow your business. https://www.construct-ed.com/course/...r-contractors/

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          • #20
            Make a careful choice: changing later, it's difficult/impossible to save/move the specific assemblies and cost data created in one mfgr's format (spreadsheet-to most anything).

            My issue with home-made spreadsheet is user error: errors to formulas within a multi-page spreadsheet would result from my sloppy edits on one page that rattled down the chain as hidden mistakes.

            Use/subscribe to single seat of WinEst Pro, runs about $1,300 a year.
            I haven't been able to botch its structural integrity, yet.
            Have lost databases at upgrades.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by FrederickPorches View Post
              I looked at that datanamic and my head exploded. I use the K.I.S.S. method but now I'm interested if a true database would buy me anything? Is it just ease and effectiveness with multiple teams? My biggest problem when accurately estimating is that my actual costs vary so much that I'm constantly updated my spreadsheet. Can a database pull from vendors?

              I'm sure these are stupid questions. I'm just very green in this area and this post has got me even more curious. From the latest two posts, you guys are very much commercial big dogs... so probably a waste for a little guy.
              Feed from vendors is one of the main reasons why I am now using estimating software. Of course, vendors have to create the feed, but once it is done, it is much easier to make an accurate estimation. Best part is, you don´t have to check actual costs every month or so. Here is an article about possibilities how to keep up with material costs: https://www.esticom.com/material-cost-estimating/ As for the multiple teams, you have to find software that supports team collaboration. Don´t know if simple database can help you with multiple teams.

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              • #22
                In terms of vendors, bid4build has a new cloud system which seems to be very good. It already has pre-built assemblies with a hole bunch of other things including multiple users and looks like it costs $149. This is the site http://www.bid4build.com/

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                • #23
                  Hi All,

                  Great reading here, and thanks for the posts. You all have some great input and I thought I’d share my thoughts as well. I currently work as the General Manager of a Toronto-based building renovations company, and have worked in the field of estimating for almost two decades at this point. I’ve tried databases, excel, you name it. In my opinion, the majority of the databases or estimating software programs simply don’t work well in terms of accurately addressing anticipated costs in a renovation project based on the uniqueness of them. In other words, you end up customizing so much that it’s to the point of simply creating your own worksheets. Sure, for new home builders some of the software systems are perfect, and will undoubtedly lead to great efficiencies in their sales and estimating process.

                  For me what I’ve worked on over the years is a comprehensive Excel package that has all of the following linked together :

                  The project estimate
                  Request for proposals
                  Project estimate tracking sheet (tracks labour, materials, and sub-contractors as part of your billing system)

                  It has taken a long time to perfect this set of sheets, but the investment is well worth it. For us, writing the scope of work is the longest part and the numbers come second. Having this document set up with all the different aspects of a particular category (e.g. electrical), proves as a checklist when competing the estimate document. In the olden days when we all did takeoff’s from 24” x 36” plans - and we did these by hand of course - we spent about 20-24 hours/project to do this. With the system I’ve created I can get through a set of plans in about 3-4 hours on first draft.

                  Now, my experience in the business has been from a labourer—>carpenter—>lead carpenter—>site super—>project manager—>general manager, so naturally I am able to think through the project like a carpenter which is incredibly helpful. That said, having a well crafted document that acts as a checklist will allow anyone in your team to be able to create a fairly accurate scope and costing document for your sales process.

                  Please let me know if any of you have any feedback on what challenges you’ve faced using Excel for estimating as I’d be happy to share some helpful tips and tricks!

                  Cheers,

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