By: Greg Norris, B2W Software
Picking the right subcontractors and vendors can be critical to profitability of utility jobs. As in other steps in the bidding process, specialized software for estimating gives contractors key advantages over competitors relying on spreadsheets or manual processes.
Subs and vendors often deliver quotes as late as possible. This can be because they are busy and need time to formulate bids. Frequently, there are strategic angles. They may delay to be sure they can include the most up-to-date pricing possible for their own work. Some may feel a late submission will prevent the general contractor from using their bid as leverage to negotiate a better price from someone else, to cherry pick only certain portions of their bid to accept, or to decide which parts of the job to self-perform.
In either case, with a bid deadline rapidly approaching, time becomes an enemy of general contractors. Estimators may not be able to review and compare quotes as thoroughly and strategically as they would like to, and this can prevent them from making the most profitable decisions. When every hour, if not every minute, counts, these are four important ways specialized software can help by streamlining the comparison process.
Estimating software can send requests for proposals automatically and ensure consistency in what is sent to each sub or vendor. Pre-populated lists of cost items for self-performed work are a staple of estimating software. Likewise, contractors can establish RFQ groups in the software to identify the types of work or materials they ask outside companies to perform or provide on a regular basis. They can also pre-populate information on subs and vendors – ranging from capabilities and prices to assessments of past performance – in the software.
With these building blocks in place, the estimating application can match provider capabilities with what is required, eliminating the time and effort of doing it manually. From here, it is fast and easy to select which providers to include, add any other information required, and deliver the RFQs directly from the software.
Importing without data entry
Estimating software should be able to read quotes delivered in either Excel spreadsheets or fillable PDFs. Generating RFQ attachment files as Fillable PDFs allows the subcontractors or vendors to enter pricing directly into the attachment file. This guarantees that the items, tasks and materials they quote will be the ones they have been requested to provide pricing on. Accuracy is also ensured, and significant time is saved when the general contractor does not have to key in the data.
After reading and parsing the import file, the software should display the list of items and tasks for the selected subcontractor or vendor with the quote prices preset for review. Converting the import file automatically and showing it in a spreadsheet format allows an estimator to verify that the correct prices were selected, make edits, add in a new header row or manually select prices.
Creating and comparing quote packages
Whether or not subs and vendors are willing to be awarded part of the work they bid for or only the entire package can add complexity to the review process. The best software applications allow estimators to group quotes for multiple RFQ groups into packages for each bidder. This helps them easily see how quotes and quote packages line up against others when comparing the total pricing across multiple RFQ Groups. They may, for example, see that it’s more cost effective to award crushed stone delivery, paving and landscaping to three different companies rather than a single contractor.
Seeing historical notes
Price is not always the only factor in selecting subs and vendors. General contractors typically keep notes about quality, on-time performance and other factors from previous jobs. This information can and should weigh heavily in decisions for awarding future work. Accessing notes, however, can be a challenge when estimators must rely on personal memory or dig manually through reports or spreadsheets. With estimating software, historical notes related to subs and vendors can be brought automatically into the review process for upcoming jobs and viewed alongside items, tasks materials and pricing provided by each specific sub or vendor.