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Understanding Electrical Contracting as an Estimator

The electrical estimator must understand electrical contracting. Electrical contracting consists of five main components:

  1. Estimating
  2. Bidding
  3. Material purchasing
  4. Labor management
  5. Contract management

Most every task performed in an electrical contractor’s office can be placed under one of these five headings. The electrical estimator must understand all five components. Failing to understand these components disqualifies the employee from the status of estimator. If he only understands counting and measuring takeoffs, he is nothing more than a symbol counter. Contractors need estimators.

For an employee to function as an estimator, he must understand these components and be certain that he has addressed everything in his estimate and his bid summary.

Therefore, the estimator must understand the relationship of all five components with his estimate. Failing to do so, will expose his company to risks and the potential of losing monies on a project.

Estimating – the estimator must quantify the material and labor necessary for the installation of the work. He must use appropriate factoring of the labor on materials to be installed.

Bidding – is what the estimator and chief estimator do together on bid day. They make labor and material adjustments and include all direct and indirect costs to arrive at the final price for the project. It may not always be the lowest price, but it should be a price that money can be made. You should be in business to make money, not to win bids.

Material purchasing – all materials must be properly priced for purchasing in the estimate. For large quantities of an item, the estimator should get accurate pricing. He must take note of lead times and delivery dates.

Labor management – the estimator must apply the appropriate labor column, apply appropriate factoring of labor, and labor factors such as overtime, weather conditions, quality of drawings, etc. The estimator must determine non-working supervision and lost time due to project conditions.

Contract management – the estimator must identify any clauses in the contract and / or agreement that might expose risk to the contractor. He must point out to his Chief Estimator the schedule, payment terms, and other important terms and conditions that could impact the company’s decision on the final price.

This must be done before beginning the estimate. If the risks are too great, a decision might be made not to bid the project.

For an employee to hold the title of “Estimator,” he must understand these five components of electrical contracting. The better he understands these, the more quality estimates he will produce.

Remember, estimating is expensive, poor estimating is costly, and quality estimating is profitable.