Case Study – Construction Specialties, Inc.

CaseStudyConstSpecFounded in 1948, Construction Specialties, Inc. is an enormous organization with sales offices and manufacturing across the globe. Following their mantra of “creating products that make buildings better”, they offer a wide variety of products including doors, wall coverings, flooring, louvers, grilles, sun controls, specialty venting cubicle tracks and curtains and more. The Expansion Joint Cover business unit is one of three business units that use eTakeoff.

For that division, a typical quote is $50,000 to $75,000. But they can range from under $100 to over $1 million. Most projects are commercial or governmental. All work is competitive bid. They look for work using McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge and sales representatives. They receive plans from a variety of planrooms including Dodge, iSqFt, Gradebeam and SmartBidNet. They also get plans from FTP sites and other sources. They receive 99% of their plans electronically.

We recently spoke with Steve Snyder, Estimating Supervisor for their expansion joint cover division. Steve has an Associate Degree in Architecture. He says he’s been involved in construction “ever since I was old enough to work”. At Construction Specialties he worked as Drafter before becoming an estimator.

When a new project comes in, it’s assigned to one of six estimators. They analyze the project and identify the required expansion joint covers. Then the project is turned over to a Drafter who determines how the off-the-shelf products may need to be customized. (That’s needed half of the time.)

Until April of 2012, the business units were using DodgeView for takeoff. When McGraw-Hill switched to eTakeoff, they did too. Steve described it as a “surprisingly smooth transition”. Because the two user interfaces are similar, it was easy to come up to speed on eTakeoff. (DodgeView was developed by eTakeoff staff for McGraw-Hill back in 1998.) There were a few wrinkles to work out when transferring projects. DodgeView kept takeoff in separate files for each drawing while eTakeoff keeps takeoff for all projects in a common database. Projects needed to be exported before they were transferred from one server to another. Steve said that the improvements weren’t so much in productivity as in communication. Drafters and even sales representatives have copies of the free eTakeoff viewer, making it easy to see and use the estimator’s work.

CaseStudyConstSpec2Currently they use eTakeoff Pro but they are evaluating Advanced. Most measurements are counts or lengths. But there’s potential use for extensions that would multiply counts and/or lengths by a wall height. They don’t use two point lines or rectangles and arcs are rare. Use of annotations varies from estimator to estimator. Steve is looking into the use of Issues. You can create an annotation then create an issue for it. Issues allow extended descriptions. But the real advantage of issues is that you can display a list of issues and quickly see those that haven’t been resolved.

Everyone uses the Control Panel. Some estimators use multiple drawing windows. Steve prefers to create Hyperlinks. He really likes the new ability to automatically create a reverse hyperlink when creating the original. They don’t have a lot of takeoff on each drawing so there’s no need to use layers. The Measurement List is used extensively by the drafters. They work from the list, drilling down to see the measurements on the drawing as needed.

The estimators download and analyze many drawings but wind up having takeoff on only a few. They frequently transfer information from eTakeoff to Excel. But they’re not using the Excel Integration at this time. Steve intends to look into that as part of evaluating eTakeoff Advanced.

He said he tried Drawing Comparison once but the drawings had different resolutions so it didn’t work. (The next major release of eTakeoff will support comparing drawings of different scales, rotations and resolutions – Fall 2012.)

Steve has explored eTakeoff pretty thoroughly on his own so we didn’t have many suggestions. We did explain how to use the F2 key to quickly rename a drawing or name a page. Page naming is really useful when working with large multi-page PDF files that lack page names. It’s hard to remember which page was the “Foundation Details”.

When we asked Steve for suggested enhancement, he focused on communication. They would like to be able to bundle up takeoff, drawings, drafters’ documents and product information and send them to factory representatives. We’ll work on that. . It’s ideas from users like Steve that help us make eTakeoff better and better. If you have ideas that you would like to have included in eTakeoff, we invite you to visit the eTakeoff Forum and let us know.