Given all the talk today around new and innovative technology solutions that automate all aspects of the construction business, it’s always good to see standard systems stay on the leading edge as well. Core systems such as estimating continue to endure enhancements that take a traditional process in construction much further than ever before.

For example, Sage, www.sagecre.com, Beaverton, Ore., announced a new Microsoft SQL Server-based version of its Sage Timberline Estimating product. According to data from the 2011 Constructech IT Playbook, Sage Timberline Estimating ranks as the most widely-used estimating product in the construction market today.

The company says this new version includes enhanced productivity features designed to speed the estimating process and make it easier to manage the estimates. Jon Witty, general manager of Sage Construction and Real Estate, says the product provides, “a welcome replacement for underpowered estimating solutions and generic spreadsheets.”

Among the greatest advantages of the SQL Server database is the ability to perform enhanced data analysis and management. Through the ability to keep all estimates in one location, data is easier to access, manage, and backup.

Other product enhancements include a ‘Subcontractor Bid Grid.’ Sage describes this as a simple way to store, analyze, and select subcontractor bids and quotes by individual item or groups of items. Users are also able to log each subcontractor’;s name, bid quantity, unit price, total bid amount, and additional notes in the pop-up grid. From there, users click on the bid to use, and it’s added to the estimate.

Variable, customizable pricing, industry specific databases, and custom reporting options are also among the additional features to the new version of Sage Timberline Estimating.
Estimating improvements also come in the form of better integration to Microsoft Excel–the second most widely used estimating tool in the industry, according to IT Playbook numbers. A few weeks back PlanSwift, www.planswift.com, Henderson, Nev., announced updated integration between its digital takeoff software program and Excel.

While the current PlanSwift software already uses live linked Excel data for estimating, the enhancements announced by the company focus on leveraging the takeoff a bit more efficiently. This includes the ability for Excel cells to automatically link to new PlanSwift takeoff items; attach Excel files while creating a new job; and creating a takeoff outside of Excel but having the data instantly populate the correct fields once Excel is opened.

Recent enhancements from companies like Tally Systems, www.tallysystems.com, San Diego, Calif., also focus on improving the integration between the estimating and Microsoft Excel. This demonstrates just how valuable a tool like Excel is for the construction industry.
As technology continues to improve across the board, and new tech tools get introduced to the market, it’s important to ensure core systems like estimating remain strong. In the end, it’s the estimate that remains the key to your business.