Like many people in the construction industry, I am confounded by the uncertainty (and occasional mystery) surrounding bidding and estimating. Why is estimating so difficult? How can we make it easier? Why is estimating not a more exact science?
I have come up with some answers, which although incomplete, do provide some meaning. Estimating is as much an art as a science. I have written a top ten list describing estimating. Here is my imperfect and confounding list, which I hope you find useful if not amusing…
- Good estimators are always in demand. Great estimators are hard to find and even harder to keep. So if your company has a great estimator, be ready to keep that person.
- Estimators are expected to wear many hats. These include but are not limited to Economist, Supply Chain Expert, Financial Analyst, Productivity Expert, Contracts Maven, Math Wizard, Engineer / Architect, Negotiator Extraordinaire, Logistics Chief, etc…you get it.
- Estimators are always on the HOT seat. It is not for the weak or thin-skinned.
- The Estimator usually cannot win. If the firm wins the bid, executives will state that “the Estimator made a mistake or left too much money on the table”. If the firm loses the bid, executives are inclined to state that “the Estimator did not submit a sharp bid or played it safe.”
- Estimators are usually expected to work very long hours, especially around bid-time.
- Estimating is the most critical job function for a construction organization. You can’t get new work if you do not submit a winning bid.
- Estimators MUST keep good notes because selective amnesia (within the executive suite) may set in later. Good notes will help keep the Estimator from being thrown under the bus.
- Organization and hard work are the key to good estimation. Note that the Estimator has to build the job in his head before it gets built in the field.
- There is NO substitute for experience in estimating.
- Murphy’s Law suggests that any shortcut taken by the Estimator will result in a significant problem and a corresponding loss on the project.