Customers frequently ask HCSS, “What is the one thing I should focus on to get better at estimating in HeavyBid?” Our answer is always, “Make a great activity codebook.”
A Great Codebook is the Backbone of Your Estimate
Unlike bid items, which differ from owner to owner, activities are the basis of your company’s specific work in the system. A great activity codebook should closely mirror the work you offer to all of your customers.
Organize your codebook so that it is understandable to your estimators – after all, they are the ones who have to win the job. Often, contractors try to copy their accounting department’s chart of accounts (which is organized for accountants) or their DOT codebooks (which are organized for DOT payments) and get frustrated.
Instead, start with a simple list of what you do, and break it down from there. HCSS can help — we offer services to get you started.
More Estimating Efficiency
Activity codebooks have the power to get you started quickly because you can configure them to do a lot. They can be configured with your common crews and production rates, pre-connected to calculation routines and spreadsheets for takeoff, and even connected to common safety meetings, inspections, and JHAs to give you a Site Specific Safety Plan for bid time.
All of that makes starting estimates a breeze, which means that your estimators can spend more time thinking about the bid and coming up with creative construction methods. Or, like Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., you can produce a ton of estimates with your estimating staff.
The State College, Penn., contractor uses a combination of the biditem codebook and the activity codebook. Activities are populated with crews, baseline material productions, resources, calendars, and more.
“We don’t do the stick-building of estimates anymore,” Glenn O. Hawbaker senior project estimator and project manager Monty Claar said. “We can populate a PennDOT estimate 95 percent complete so that we’re just spending our time manipulating and changing specific things. Where someone would normally spend a couple of hours building an estimate, it takes us 30 seconds.”
Claar said his chief estimator pulls all the bids from PennDOT’s bidding portal and imports them into HeavyBid, builds the estimates using the biditem and activity codebooks, and then assigns them all to the estimators so they can tweak the costs to meet the individual jobs, manage direct and indirect spreads, and analyze the bid for anything special or unique.
“On a typical PennDOT day, we can now bid 15 jobs with the same staff that we could bid five jobs with [before HeavyBid],” he said.
More Scale for Your Estimating Department
Activity codebooks are also a great tool to train new estimators or get help from the field when you are overloaded with estimates. Combined with your master estimates, the activity codebooks create standards to compare new estimates against to help your estimating manager see what has been added to a particular estimate that differs from the norm.
Use these tools, combined with other auditing and error checking features in HeavyBid, to help your team double-check the work of inexperienced estimators and coach them to estimate better.
Get Feedback from the Past
The activity codebook institutes a common identifier to your work, allowing you to reference history to compare against every estimate you do. This can be done a couple of ways: via actual field-achieved productions from HeavyJob, as well as from past estimated productions put together using the same work code.
Essentially, the structure of your code becomes the glue that connects your estimating department to all the work they’ve ever done and all the work ever performed in the field. This lets you always be checking: Is the production I’m using for this estimate reasonable? Has it been done before? Can we do better this time?
If you are currently seeking an estimating and bidding software solution for your construction company, click here to learn more about HeavyBid.