WinEstimator celebrated its 20-year anniversary by joining the Trimble Buildings’ construction cost-planning and estimating-solutions team in 2012. Located in Kent, Washington, the company strives to bring efficiency, productivity and accuracy to the art and science of construction estimating. With thousands of users world-wide, the company’s flagship product, WinEst Estimating, is considered one of the most powerful database-driven solutions on the market. The key to its popularity, however, is that it looks and feels just like Excel with familiar Windows navigation, including drop-down menus and ribbon bars.
Behind the covers of the Excel-like interface is a powerful database, flexibly presented with multiple work-breakdown structures (WBS) and filters. Even the filters can be customized to your firm’s preferences so that estimating data can be sliced and diced and presented in any way, shape or form.
WinEst estimates can be standardized for multiple project types so that your team always delivers polished, professional estimates that reflect your corporate brand. The estimate templates are not just skin deep; the templatization extends to the item and assembly level, as well as to labor and equipment rates, including base rates and benefit rates. With this level of detail, your company’s intellectual property is well-protected. Should a key employee leave, he does not take his estimating expertise with him – it is encapsulated with your templates. This protection is far better than relying on five-year-old spreadsheets riddled with assumptions and broken links. Now you can standardize estimating best practices for all your project types and self-perform work.
Construction Takeoff, Estimating, Audit Trails and Reporting
WinEst is a comprehensive and highly custiomizable construction estimating system for general contractors, offering everything today’s building contractor needs: quantity takeoff from paper or electronic drawings, flexibility with both items and assemblies, intuitive questionnaires to help build-out the estimate, tables for labor and equipment rates, audit trails for changes to the estimating assumptions, and reporting.
Users can set-up a new project estimate from scratch, or with a project-type template. The templates include every probing question an experienced estimator would consider. In the end, the questionnaires ensure that no scope is missed and that corporate standards for general conditions and indirect costs are followed. Quantity takeoff is also foolproof, with systems for paper plans, electronic drawings, and even an interface with On Center’s Onscreen Takeoff. The estimator can also quickly modify labor-productivity factors so that, along with the quantities, s/he can calculate hours for crews and the labor total.
The database structure allows tracking of a complete audit trail for every change to the estimate. Estimators can even apply a cautionary alert to a line item describing an assumption or a follow-up question for clarification. And, of course, users can filter the entire estimate to make a final review of the alerts and even choose whether or not to include the audit trail in a report option.
Using Enterprise Data Manager
Enterprise Data Manager was designed as a file-based system at the request of customers to store a project tree of active estimate versions, as well as the company’s standard estimating templates for various project types. You can also attach any related documents, drawings or comments to the versions. These versions can reflect the evolving estimate as it moves from budgeting to 50% and 80% drawings and then to the final version.
The advantage of templates goes without saying: users are protected with standard general conditions and indirect costs per project type which ensures that no scope is forgotten or skipped over in the final estimate. These templates can also be formatted to meet corporate standards for colors, logos and presentation style.
Caption: a look at the interface between WinEst and On Center's On-Screen Takeoff.
Interface with On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff
Many WinEst customers also use On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff for drawings. With a split-screen interface, the construction estimator can link the On-Screen quantification directly to the WinEst quantities and save the changes to the estimate. The built-in audit trail records the quantity source as On Center, so everyone knows the source. Additionally, when plans change -- and they always do! -- new quantities can be updated quickly with a red and green color scheme in both the On Center screen and WinEst screens.
Export to Primavera or MS Project for Scheduling
Each line item and assembly in WinEst can be assigned to a task/activity ID. This means we can see a preview of the costs for each in our Task Table. By exporting our estimate to either Primavera or MS Project, we can quickly populate a construction schedule with resource names, predecessor names and all the cost- and resource-loaded tasks from our estimate.
Creating What-If Scenarios
Owners appreciate seeing multiple what-if scenarios for their construction projects and how these extras might impact the budget. Creating a what-if scenario in WinEst is simple; all the user needs to do is create an alternate. An alternate is a line item or assembly that can be included in, or excluded from, the estimate with just one click. Examples of alternate options include landscaping, a surveillance system, a sound system or even a flagpole.
Filtering by Code Structure
Filters are a powerful way to organize a view of your estimating data. Construction firms have several methods to code their estimating data, either by CSI Masterformat or Uniformat. And WinEst provides two different filter views, so users can toggle between the two.
Organizing Labor Rate Tables and Equipment Rate Tables
One of the challenges of honing-in on construction estimating accuracy is organizing rates for labor, crew and equipment. Just as we can have templates for various types of construction projects (hospitals, performing arts, museums, mixed use, etc.), we can store corresponding rate tables which combine the base hourly and benefit rates to calculate the composite rate. For example, we might know the hourly rate for a forklift, but don’t want to forget the cost of operating the forklift with oil, gas, and maintenance fees. Utilizing standardized tables for these rates takes the guesswork out of estimating for your team.
Here’s the Wrap
In a nutshell, anyone in the construction cost-estimating arena who hasn’t yet checked out WinEst owes it to themselves and their organization to do so. Whether you’re involved with smaller commercial projects or multi-billion-dollar hydroelectric dam projects, it doesn’t take long to see how WinEst’s proven record of ever-advancing development and listening to the demands of the industry have resulted in an intelligent solution that is powerful, robust, and integrates well with most leading scheduling, accounting and project-management applications. Fortunately, WinEst is unique in yet another way as well, offering a free 14-day trial. Don’t worry, though – it won’t take you nearly that long to see how WinEst can be a critical key to sharpening your competitive edge.
Looking to learn more? Check out these resources for your team: