Takeoff Construction Estimating Software Review
So often people want to rush out and buy evaluation software or take-off software without first trying to define their internal evaluation processes. Once the evaluation process is clearly defined, then and only then can you actually try to segment the process. So often the segment is really a quantitative takeoff. Take off what you might be wondering? That’s like the million dollar question. This article will talk about the software take-off process, which is commonly associated with software process evaluation. The process of downloading software can often be a download of materials for some people, and for many others a process of taking off systems with scope to make predictions or suggestions. This review or comparison will not attempt to explain the evaluation software process, but it will present you with a valid mindset for quantity takeoff among evaluators in a quest to discover which product thinks the way you do. These are the opinions of the author.
I will review and compare 3 types of takeoff measurement products:
It is extremely important to note that these are takeoff measurement programs ONLY, NOT evaluation programs.
2) On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software
3) Electronic take-off software
All three products have their strengths, but Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff are stand-alone products, and Electronic Plan Takeoff is actually dynamically integrated live with Microsoft Excel, meaning it starts, ends and saves in Excel. They all integrate with Excel, but you’ll need to evaluate your own thought process and decide which of the three products works in the flow of thought that matches the way you think. For example, what is the first thing you do when you receive a set of plans? You usually start flipping through the plans to see how involved the project is and what type of work you see appealing to your company. Then, when you decide you’re going to estimate that job, more often than not, you start like 80% of companies in the construction world estimate by opening your Excel spreadsheet to the takeoff template. You rename your spreadsheet to the new job or project and start performing takeoff. Here are the differences:
In Planswift, you decide which drawing you are on and then measure an item you want to take off on the plan. Unfortunately, the appraiser doesn’t think so. Planswift gives you the ability to add an element type to take off on the fly by naming it and then taking off from it; somewhat a very manual and slow process. They also provide you with the ability to apply an assembly type to a takeoff to aggregate item quantities in that assembly. Not exactly what the appraiser thinks. It forces you to jump to different screens, which slows down the process. Usually the basic start to anyone’s take off process, or some might think of it as a checklist approach, is to start with your own spreadsheet of YOUR items. These elements can be material elements or they can be scoped assembly system elements. Either way, starting with a master spreadsheet, say in Excel, for example, many appraisers consider this to reduce risk, not to forget the things they usually extract. Because Planswift is a stand-alone takeoff program, it usually saves your takeoff images to Planswift instead of your Excel score if Excel is your scoring system. If you use Excel, you must manually save your take-off measurements to Excel and your take-off images to Planswift or elsewhere, just not to Excel, where the take-off quantity resides. Again, if you want to integrate with Excel, they force you to export or import takeoff items from Excel instead of being dynamically integrated live into Excel. However, they do have the ability to dump the measured quantity from Planswift into any Excel spreadsheet or Word document. The main purpose or main focus of this program is measurement, hence it does a good job with this function. Most of the other features require you to jump between different screens and you basically lose track of where you are. There are some features that try to handle the evaluation process, but there are many features that are missing for Planswift to be a full-fledged evaluation system; it is NO one. Planswift integrates with the leading grading system Sage Timberline, but the integration is weak. Since Timberline’s strength is in assembly takeoff and where most estimators are in Timberline, Planswift does not give the estimator the ability to add quantities of different Timberline items or one-off items that need to be added on the fly to an assembly while in Planswift on the Timberline interview screen and while in the measurement phase. Planswift allows deleting items generated from an assembly as well as adjusting the quantities of assembly items in a different screen. Again, to accomplish all of this, you are forced to jump to different screens. No assembly is perfect in any grading system because project conditions are always uniquely different, so adding elements to the assembly is extremely important. This addition of items and associated quantities is an absolute requirement that any appraiser should normally do during the take-off measurement and evaluation phase; something that Planswift struggles with in relation to Timberline Estimating. Planswift allows measurements to be sent directly to Timberline Estimating elements and nodes while in Timberline Estimating, just as you would with the old digitizer measurement boards. Training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software and Planswift charge their annual support and maintenance fees of license (required) which costs the end user more annually, especially if the customer has more than one license.
Center’s On-Screen Takeoff is the big daddy of takeoff software due to the fact that it’s been around the longest. On Center recognizes that On-Screen Takeoff 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 doesn’t try to trick you into thinking it’s a rating system. In On-Screen Takeoff you also decide which drawing you are on and then do the plan measurement. BUT, before you start, you can load styles of a basic set of things you normally fly or measure from your own library. This process seems less complicated than Planswift’s. On-Screen Takeoff lets you add a takeoff item type on the fly by naming it and then taking off from it; also a somewhat manual and slow process. The program really comes with a lot of features that are primarily focused on simple measurements to advanced measurements, all with attention to detail in terms of easy navigation for the take-off process. On Center does a very good job in this regard. However, there seems to be a disconnect from the Excel spreadsheet elements that you can use for evaluation and/or suggestions. Microsoft Excel integration is not a dynamic live connection, more of an afterthought in my opinion. Yes, you can establish named style links to cells or ranges in Excel, somewhat rigidly. But the question you’ll have to ask yourself, which will come up more often than not, is: What do you do when you need to add things on the fly on the fly and into an Excel spreadsheet? Again, there will be manual associations that you will have to establish with Excel, which is another major delay. You must manually save your take-off measurements to Excel and your take-off images to On-Screen or wherever you choose, except that the take-off images will not be saved to Excel where the take-off quantity is located . This type of situation occurs when the takeoff program is a stand-alone program. On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff has the best integration with the most widely used estimating system in the US: Sage Timberline Estimating. It basically mimics the same interview process as you would with the old digitizer measuring boards. Working directly with Timberline, On-Screen Takeoff allows the appraiser to take off a question with a Timberline variable and immediately returns directly with the takeoff amount in a Timberline assembly on the variable question. By virtue of this process, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to continue their Timberline interview process in Sage Timberline Estimating by reviewing/massaging generated quantities or adding items to a Timberline assembly as the estimator sees fit. This workflow process gives full control to the appraiser, good work 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 support and maintenance fees of a license (required) which costs the end user more annually, especially if the customer has more than one license.
The next system is ONLY if your rating system or suggestion generator is Microsoft Excel. Electronic take-off software is a Excel plugin. You start your spreadsheet, take a measurement takeoff, you can even add more items on the fly while you are in the measurement phase in the electronic plan takeoff program. When you’re done, even if you’ve added items on the fly, they automatically appear in your Excel spreadsheet. Excel is the control of everything. Your project is started in Excel, your take-off is saved in Excel, the estimate or proposal is/can be produced there in Excel; one program, one place. Many takeoff programs link to Excel in some way, but only Electronic Plan Takeoff is linked live to Excel, meaning all your Excel spreadsheet descriptions appear in the takeoff measurement 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 a takeoff item description in Electronic Plan Takeoff and it automatically changes live in your Excel spreadsheet. When you’re talking about the evaluation and takeoff phase, you need to keep the processes clean and simple, and this program does just that. There is no loss in this program. Just like the other programs reviewed above, the central focus of this program is measuring takeoff, and it does AWESOME work at that. Navigating within the program is really simple and easy. It is not made to work with other scoring systems, but there is a version that allows measurements to be sent directly to any Microsoft Windows program awaiting keyboard input, just as you would with digitizer measurement boards. There is also a version that works with digitizer boards. If you use Microsoft Excel for forecasting, take-off or proposals, then this electronic take-off plan program for Excel will be your the best choice. Excel integration is incomparable in Electronic Plan Takeoff compared to Planswift or On-Screen Takeoff. What is quite different about Electronic Plan Takeoff is that training, support and maintenance are included with purchase, while training, support and maintenance are additional for Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. In addition, annual support and maintenance for Electronic Plan Takeoff year two and beyond is a low fee per company per year instead of per license. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software and Planswift charge their annual support and maintenance fees of a license (required) which costs the end user more annually, especially if the customer has more than one license.
Microsoft and Excel are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Planswift is a registered trademark of Tech Unlimited, Inc. 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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