Automate Your Business to Stay Ahead

How estimating software can help curb the skilled labor shortage
Mark Suehiro
August 22, 2019
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION


C.R. Laurence Co.
developed the Storefronts Online estimating software to enable users to design, quote and order storefronts and entrances. The software is mobile accessible, allowing users to access project information from anywhere.

Technological advances are helping glazing contractors weather the shortage of skilled labor by improving business efficiencies. According to the 2019 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Survey from the Associated General Contractors of America, more than 40 percent of contracting companies said they will increase investments in technology this year.

Several software technologies are expected to see a rise in adoption. They include project management software, scheduling software and building information modeling, or BIM. Another is manufacturer-supplied estimating software. Such software offers several advantages in the face of an insufficient workforce.

01 | Automates the quoting process.

Estimating software automates the design and quoting process so glazing contractors can bid more jobs in less time. Depending on the manufacturer, estimating software is available for a wide variety of glazing systems including curtain walls, storefronts, entrances, glass railings and shower enclosures. 

These software programs typically feature an intuitive interface that does most of the work for the contractor. The software can be accessed in the field from mobile devices. This can lead to significant time savings and real-time quotes, so a customer doesn’t have to wait for the contractor to go back to the office to write up an estimate. 

02 | Turns existing staff into capable estimators. 

Because estimating software is intuitive and follows a defined step-by-step design and quote process, it’s possible for glazing companies to convert relatively inexperienced staff into capable estimators in a short amount of time. This approach circumvents having to invest time and money in hiring a senior-level estimator. There’s no need to add costs to payroll or to perform in-depth workforce training. This can ultimately improve the long-term value of a glazing company. 

03 | Optimizes material fabrication for higher yields.

After a glazing system is designed, whether it be a curtain wall or entrance, estimating software determines a parts list with all the metal and glass required so material costs and markup can be easily defined.

Estimating software can optimize material fabrication across multiple openings for higher yields, lower costs and less material waste. Lastly, it typically provides fabrication details, installation instructions, and glass sizes with installation charts so there’s less guesswork and planning for the glazier to do. Materials can be ordered directly from the manufacturer through the program for a convenient and time-saving turnkey solution.

04 | Minimizes errors.

The automated nature of estimating software can significantly reduce costly errors. A well-developed program follows a step-by-step process that ensures no detail is overlooked. The program will issue warnings if the glazing system design is out of specification or doesn’t meet applicable load requirements. 

As a glazier designs a curtain wall, storefront, glass railing or entrance system in real time, only compatible hardware options and configurations will be displayed. This prevents costly rewrites.

05 | Creates a complete bid package. 

Once the glazing system design is complete, estimating software can generate a professional bid package. The bid package may include 3D renderings, elevations and a parts list. In many cases, it can be personalized with the glazing contractor’s logo and contact information, ready to present to their client. Each manufacturer’s estimating software differs in what it includes in a bid package, so be sure to check with them for specific features and benefits. 

The shortage of skilled labor can pose a significant challenge to glazing contractors who wish to expand their operations. Not having enough estimators in the office or installers in the field impacts their ability to take full advantage of available project opportunities. The good news is there are new technologies available that can improve business efficiencies through automation. 

Manufacturer-supplied estimating software is one such technology. It helps expedite the bidding process, minimizes errors on estimates, and generates complete quote packages. Its intuitive, step-by-step interface means that almost any team member can become a capable estimator in a relatively short amount of time. Ultimately, a glazing contractor can bid more jobs in less time to remain competitive. 

Mark Suehiro is director of architectural hardware and entrances for C.R. Laurence Co.  He can be reached at mark_suehiro@crlaurence.com.