5 Tips for Using Electrical Estimating Software

Contractors experience over $40 billion in excess costs annually. Using electrical estimating software with an electrical project management platform can help cut excess costs down.

But once you have the software, how are you supposed to use it? Use the following five tips to get started.

Read the Manual

Believe it or not, one of the best investments you can make in your new electrical estimating software is to read the user’s manual. Use a highlighter to make parts stand out that you want to reference later. You should also index any key pages.

This may sound like a daunting task, but it really shouldn’t be. The better software developers out there have learned to organize their manuals into modules, with a layout that makes sense and is easy to read.

Some key things you should learn right away about your software is how to break down an estimate by location, area, phase, system, or drawing. Knowing this will help you do scheduling, as well as get a better grasp on project management.

Find or Start a Support Group

Users of any new program can benefit greatly from meeting up with existing users. Person-to-person sharing dramatically enhances efficiency and speeds up learning. Gleaning information from other people will open you up to multiple ways of performing the same task, which will deepen your own understanding of the software.

As a side note, you should also be subscribed to the electrical estimating software developer’s newsletter. This will keep you up-to-date with the latest developments and soon-to-be-released updates. You should also be referencing the developer’s website for tips and tricks you can use to get the most out of the software. Besides browsing the FAQ or help articles, you could check around the site for downloadable add-ons, patches, scripts, and other useful items the developer may give away for free.

Finally, you shouldn’t be afraid to contact a company representative with your questions. This may be the single most helpful thing you can do for yourself as you learn to use the new program.

Create Templates Specific to Your Business

To help your business standardize estimates, you should consider using the software to create original templates and units that fit the exact type of work you perform.

Whatever kind of work your business performs, you should allow for customizing specific assemblies. You can always expand into more profitable work later as the need arises. The ease and flexibility of creating new assembly units will often encourage growth into areas where competition is minimal and profits are potentially high.

Use Graphic Features

People are often drawn to visuals, so it’s a good idea to learn how to create charts, graphs, and other graphics with your electrical design software. Practice including these charts and graphs inside of project proposals to use during negotiations.

For example, a “must graph” is a bid breakdown, which can be helpful for illustrating to a potential customer what your pricing will be.

There should be many types of graphs that you can create using your electrical estimating software. Try asking your customers what kinds of graphs or visual information they would like to see and practice making them with the software.

Many electrical contractors ignore this feature, so making good use of it could put you a step above your competition in your customers’ eyes.

Track Labor Independently

When you’re using electrical project management software to track labor, you should break labor down by function. You probably have foremen, supervisors, apprentices, and journeymen all working at different rates. If it proves impractical to track them independently, try establishing an hourly average for the entire crew.

This way you can make estimates on a crew-cost basis, and then compare actual hours to estimated hours. Any variance between these could indicate a problem, so be sure you stay on top of tracking your laborers and tasks.

There are some types of labor that you don’t need to track as carefully, such as travel, setup, testing, commissioning, and scheduled meetings. However, you should still be aware of these when you’re setting up a project proposal, and make sure you charge enough in your estimate to make it worth everyone’s while.

Project management software for electrical contractors can be one of the best investments in your business yet. And with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to dominating your field.

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