Estimating software for the mechanical contractor

When well matched to a company's needs, estimating software may save time, increase accuracy, and increase the level of professionalism a bid conveys. Here are some popular options from a few of the major software developers targeting HVAC and plumbing contractors.   

McCormick Systems,www.mccormicksys.com, offers four levels of estimating programs for plumbing and mechanical, with escalating speed and flexibility. The software solutions each feature databases of more than 22,000 items and 13,000 pre-built assemblies. The databases are based on a national average and can include MCAA, PHCC and HPH. Users also have the ability to update major pricing services, including Harrison and Trade Service or multiple suppliers. The program supports an advanced audit trail and allows estimators to make changes on the fly.

McCormick WIN 1000, suitable for small or new contractors, supports basic and advanced takeoff, with all takeoffs sent instantly to an onscreen audit trail for reviewing. Users can store notes on any job and use the paste option to copy from a template job or an earlier estimate. The program features extensions and each extension can reflect a different level of pricing and labor. Material and labor reports are automatically generated and sent to bid summary.

WIN 3000, for the small to medium sized contractor, offers multiple levels of pricing, labor and hundreds of ways to break out a job. With an advanced audit trail, a user can view takeoff by breakout to create a customized bid.

WIN 4000, for small to large contractors, features four levels of takeoff breakouts (called "labels" in the software) for even more flexibility in how to break out a job. The program also includes built in project management tools and the ability to compare one supplier's pricing to another.

WIN 6000, suitable for plumbing and mechanical contractors working on projects ranging from small residential to high-rise office buildings to heavy industrial jobs, has the ability to update and compare major pricing services or multiple suppliers. The advanced audit trail enables users to have numerous takeoff windows open simultaneously, eliminating the need to drill down through menus to find material.

McCormick offers all aspects of takeoff including: on screen estimating that allows users to bring in takeoff generated in on-screen takeoff from merely spotting and dotting on your screen; CAD estimating that reads the CAD drawing and enters all quantities and lengths into your estimate automatically; and a patented count and length probe that enables you to mark and roll off a drawing and the quantities are entered into the system.

VisionInfoSoft, www.visioninfosoft.com, offers two levels of plumbing estimating software. Plumbing Bid Manager Plus, for small to mid-size residential and commercial plumbing contractors, includes a generous complement of standard estimating features and mechanical-specific estimating templates. It supports the ability to add, delete or change items and assemblies without limitation and break out alternates and handle extras and change order. The database includes thousands of commonly used material items at "realistic" market prices and thousands of pre-built assemblies. Pricing can be changed and discounts applied. The software supports playing "what-if" so an estimator can see how a different markup, profit or cost changes the bid. Job totals can be broken down as per customer request by phase, by section, or by system. The solution also can bring totals of "like items" together for better purchasing power.

Plumbing Bid Manager Pro, for medium to large size contractors, features an expanded database, enables assemblies within assemblies, and adds unlimited factoring of labor. Designed to accommodate multiple users, each user can take advantage of a personal favorite item database. Users can open multiple jobs at the same time.

The material databases in both solutions link to VisionInfoSoft's computerized EPICPricing System for plumbing contractors, a separate program that (for a monthly fee) helps contractors keep up to date on prices for materials for the jobs they are bidding. EPIC has pricing from more than 350 manufacturers and includes more than one million items.

Accubid, www.accubid.com, offers several estimating programs suitable for HVAC and plumbing contractors, each with an item and assemblies database containing labor units, labor factoring and labor and material tracking codes. The materials database can be updated at any time using industry pricing services. All the solutions feature "live extension," enabling estimators to see results of each takeoff as it occurs. Changes to material, quantity and/or labor are reflected immediately in the final price. All solutions accept input from Accubid’s LiveCount

For example, BidWinner, for smaller contractors, includes multi-level takeoff breakdowns, typical takeoffs, and the ability to filter the audit trail and extension. It features twelve extension level breakdowns. The database contains a very large compilation of items and assemblies. Labor can be factored to accommodate specific installation conditions

For larger contractors,Accubid Enterprise Estimating is a multi-industry office solution for the mechanical contractor that covers the entire workflow from project creation to estimating to change management in one solution, bringing consistency to the process by eliminating redundant steps, data, and the need to import/export. This solution contains nearly 400 prebuilt specifications.

Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at productpad@yahoo.com

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