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Review of Takeoff Software for Estimating Construction
So often people want to rush out and buy estimation software or startup software without first trying to define their own internal estimation processes. Once the evaluation process is clearly defined, then and only then can you actually attempt to segment the process. So often, the segment is really an increase in quantity. Can you wonder? That’s like the million dollar question. This article is about the startup software process commonly associated with software process evaluation. The start-up software process can often be the removal of materials for some people and the start-up process of systems for creating estimates or proposals for many others. This review or comparison does not attempt to explain the process of rating software, but rather brings you the right amount of raters to find which product thinks like you. These are the opinions of the author.
I will review and compare three types of launch measurement products:
It is extremely important to note that these are measurement programs ONLY, NOT estimation programs.
2) Starting the On Center software on the screen
3) electronic plan starter software
All three products have their strengths, but Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff are standalone products, and Electronic Plan Takeoff is actually dynamically integrated with Microsoft Excel, meaning it starts and stops and saves to Excel. They all integrate with Excel, but you need to evaluate your own thought process and decide which of the three product workflows fits your way of thinking. For example, what is the first thing you do when you receive a set of plans? Typically, you’ll start browsing the plans to see how involved the project is and what type of work you find attractive to your company. Then, when you decide you’re going to estimate the job, typically 80% of companies in the construction world start estimating by opening your startup’s basic Excel spreadsheet. You rename your spreadsheet to a new job or project and off you go. Here are the differences:
In Planswift, you decide which drawing you are on and then measure the element you want to start on the plan. Unfortunately, the appraiser doesn’t exactly think so. Planswift gives you the ability to add a type of launch unit on the fly by giving it a name and then perform its takeoff; somewhat a very manual and slow process. They also give you the ability to apply some type of assembly at takeoff to aggregate the quantities of items in that assembly. Not quite as the appraiser thinks. This forces you to jump to different screens, which slows down the process. Usually, the main start of anyone’s takeoff process, or what some might consider a checklist approach, is to start with your own spreadsheet of YOUR items. These elements can be physical objects or elements of the included assembly system. Either way, starting with a basic spreadsheet in Excel, for example, is considered by many appraisers to reduce the risk of not forgetting things they usually start with. Since Planswift is a stand-alone take-off program, it will usually save your take-off images to Planswift, not your estimate in Excel if your estimation system is Excel. If you use Excel, you need to manually save the starting measurement numbers in Excel and the starting images in Planswift or elsewhere, not in Excel where the starting stock is located. Again, if you want to integrate with Excel, they force you to export or import starter items from Excel instead of dynamically integrating in real time. They still have the ability to dump the measured quantity from Planswift into any Excel spreadsheet or Word document. The main purpose or focus of this program is measurement, so it does a good job with this function. For most other functions, you have to jump around different screens and essentially lose track of where you are. Some features attempt to evaluate the evaluation process, but there are many features missing for Planswift to be a full-fledged evaluation system; it is NO one. Planswift does integrate with the leading grading system, Sage Timberline, but the integration is weak. Since Timberline’s capacity is at the start of the assembly and most assessors are in Timberline, Planswift does not allow the assessor to add various Timberline items to the collection or one-offs that need to be added to the assembly while in Planswift. Timberline’s interview while on screen and in measurement phase. Planswift allows you to delete items created by assemblies and adjust the amount of assembly elements on a different screen. Again, you’re forced to jump to different screens to do all of this. No assembly is ever perfect in any grading system because project conditions are always uniquely different, so adding elements to the assembly is extremely important. Adding items and their associated quantities is an absolute requirement that any appraiser usually has to do at the start-up measurement and appraisal stage; something that Planswift struggles with as it relates to Timberline’s assessment. Planswift allows measurements to be sent directly to Timberline grading units and nodes during Timberline forecasting, just as you would with the old digitizer gauges. Training, support and maintenance is extra For Planswift. On Center software on-Screen Takeoff and Planswift require annual maintenance and support fees per license (required) which costs the end user more each year, especially if the customer has more than one license.
On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff is the Grand Daddy of software startups because it’s been around the longest. On Center acknowledges that on-screen startup is primarily a measurement program. That’s why they have a separate evaluation program called QuickBid for those who want an evaluation program. On Center isn’t trying to trick you into thinking it’s a rating system. On the screen in start mode you also decide which drawing you are on and then perform the plan measurement. BUT before you start, you can load up a basic set of things that you usually take out of your library or measure. This process appears to be less complicated than Planswift’s. On-screen launch gives you the ability to add a type of launch item on the fly by naming it and then launching it; somewhat manual and slow process as well. The program has many features, mainly focusing on simple measurement to more advanced measurement problems, paying attention to details for easy navigation of the take-off process. On Center does a very good job with this. However, the mind seems disconnected from the Excel spreadsheet items that you might use to make estimates and/or suggestions. Integration with Microsoft Excel is not a dynamic direct link, more of an afterthought in my opinion. Yes, you can create Excel cell or range named style links that are somewhat rigid. But the question you need to ask yourself, which happens more often than not, is this: What if you need to add stuff to an Excel spreadsheet during takeoff? Again, there are manual relationships you have to create with Excel, which is another significant slowdown. You must manually save your start measurement numbers to Excel and start images to the screen or wherever you want, unless the start images are saved to Excel where the start collection resides. This type of situation occurs when the startup program is a standalone program. On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff is best integrated with the most widely used estimating system in the US: Sage Timberline Estimating. It basically mimics the same interview process you would do with the old digitizer gauge plates. Working directly with Timberline, on-screen launch allows the estimator to perform a Timberline variable question take-off and immediately returns to the variable question with the starting quantity of the Timberline assembly. Through this process, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to continue the Timberline interview process in the Sage Timberline estimate, revising/massaging the generated quantities or adding items to the Timberline assembly as the estimator deems necessary. This workflow process gives the appraiser full control, good job On Center. Training, support and maintenance is extra screen to start. On Center software on-Screen Takeoff and Planswift require annual maintenance and support fees about the license (required) which costs the end user more each year, especially if the customer has more than one license.
This next system is ONLY if your rating system or suggestion generator is Microsoft Excel. Electronic plan starter software is a Excel plug-in. You start a spreadsheet, perform a measurement start, you can even add a few more items on the fly while you are in the measurement phase of the electronic launch plan program. When you’re done, they’ll automatically appear in your Excel spreadsheet, even if you added items on the fly. Excel controls everything. Your project is started in Excel, your start is saved in Excel, the calculation or proposal is/can be prepared there in Excel; one program, one place. Many takeoff programs interface with Excel in some way, but only Electronic Plan Takeoff is linked to Excel in real time, meaning that all your Excel spreadsheet descriptions appear in the takeoff program, so you always know where you are in Excel. This is a huge difference compared to Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. You can even change the launch item description in the electronic launch plan and it will automatically change in your Excel spreadsheet. When you’re talking about the evaluation and launch phase, you need to keep the processes clean and simple, and this program does just that. There is no mistake in this program. Like the other programs above, this program focuses on starting measurement and does a EXCELLENT work in it. Navigating the program is very simple and easy. It is not designed to work with other grading systems, but there is a version that allows you to send measurement results directly to any Microsoft Windows program that is waiting for keyboard input, just as you would with digitizer measurement plates. There is also a version that works with digitizer boards. If you use Microsoft Excel for estimates, take-offs or proposals, this Excel electronic plan starter program would be for you the best choice. Integration with Excel is unparalleled electronic plan in the launch plan compared to Planswift or on-screen launch plan. Starting an electronic plan is quite different training, support and maintenance is INCLUDED with purchase, while training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. In addition, annual support and maintenance for the electronic plan launch plan in the second year and thereafter is a small fee per company per year in lieu of a license. On Center software on-Screen Takeoff and Planswift require annual maintenance and support fees about the license (required) which costs the end user more each year, especially if the customer has more than one license.
Microsoft and Excel are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Planswift is a product of Tech Unlimited, Inc. registered trademark. On-Screen Takeoff and QuickBid are trademarks of On Center Software, Inc. registered trademarks. Sage Timberline Office, Sage Timberline Estimating is a product of Sage Software, Inc. registered trademarks.
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