Think about heavy construction estimating, and putting together winning bids is probably the first thing that comes to mind.

For companies that serve frequently as subcontractors, however, the ability to evaluate and present multiple alternative scenarios for general contractors can be equally important. Adapting bids to changes in the job scope is also an everyday requirement. Doing these things faster and more efficiently is one more advantage contractors get when they replace spreadsheet with specialized estimating software.

Subcontractors may win projects through bidding. They may also be selected without a competitive process by a general contractor they are familiar with and work with on a regular basis. In either case, the original job specifications and estimate may only be a starting point.

“As subcontractors, what happens frequently for us in negotiation with the general contractor is a reduction or increase in scope,” explains Sean Firth, senior estimator and business development manager at Bermingham Foundations. The company was founded in 1897 and completes pile foundation, excavation and shoring, marine construction and other specialized foundation work throughout North America and supplies the “Berminghammer” drilling and pile driving equipment used by other contractors around the world.

“What we can do easily now that we couldn’t do with Excel is run different scenarios – run duplicate estimates,” Firth adds.

Michelle Kirk concurs. “B2W Estimate gives us a lot of flexibility as a subcontractor to show a lump sum at the beginning and then break out the various options as we negotiate with the general contractor on how the job could be completed,” says the operations coordinator for Priestly Demolition, a Toronto based contractor specializing, as its name implies, in all things related to demolition. “The software allows us to look at different options very quickly and test our margins with various markup percentages,” she adds.

“With a tight marketplace, every general contractor wants to peel the onion and see as many options as they can,” Firth continues. The speed and flexibility to constantly run live evaluations was one of the key reasons his company moved from Excel spreadsheets to B2W Estimate.

“We can easily run an alternate scenario or five or six alternate scenarios, adding or removing items and seeing our margins and risk live,” he explains. “We now do this in minutes or, for extremely complex bids, just hours, and that is very important to us.”

Patrick Reitz