General and site contractors are often searching for the ideal way to calculate cut and fill quantities from grading plans. While there are a variety of approaches, certain methodologies may be better than others, depending on the contractor's needs. This article will identify these approaches.
The first question contractors should ask is, "Should the quantity takeoff be automated?"
The answer for site excavation contractors is generally yes. Automation provides increased speed, an improved audit trail, and greater accuracy. As a result of takeoff automation, costs are reduced, the number of bids is increased, and the contractor enjoys greater confidence and ease of use. As a rule, the return on investment is extremely high with quantity takeoff software.
Some contractors also find they can provide a higher level of service by documenting elevation adjustments required to arrive at a balanced site. For many general contractors, automating the takeoff process provides an increased ability to define the scope of the excavation subcontractor's work, while providing the owner with important value engineering services.
Many general contractors also provide their excavation subs with cut and fill quantities, and then call for unit pricing from their subcontractors. An automated takeoff system for the general contractor makes it easy to define the quantities and volumes, empowering the generals to more effectively compare subcontractors' bids.
The next important consideration is the available options for automating takeoffs, which include the following:
The best takeoff method and software products for contractors are determined by their individual needs. Some contractors simply need quantity takeoff tools to estimate the volumes and cost of the project. Other contractors will require advanced, non-takeoffrelated features, such as global positioning system (GPS) interface, blade control, and site layout and design tools. However, these advanced features increase the complexity and cost of the software substantially.
Given the importance of the takeoff software to a contractor's business, it is wise to compare the various programs offered by the leading developers of site excavation software. It is critical to evaluate software in comparison with the contractor's needs. Internet demonstrations are commonly provided by the vendor. It is highly recommend that contractors receive a "satisfaction guarantee" on any software tools that are licensed. The true effectiveness of the software may not be known until used in a contractor's day-to-day operations.
Some of the key players in this industry include the following:
As vendors' products are evaluated, contractors should think about training requirements, personnel, and total cost of ownership. The vendor's track record and reputation in the industry should also be considered.
On-screen digitizing and direct file import will continue to gain in popularity and market share. As a result, the use of paper plans in performing quantity takeoffs with digitizing tablets will correspondingly decrease.
The motivation to improve site excavation remains constant. The rates
of return are substantial, often doubling output, for contractors engaged
in site excavation takeoff.
Note: This article was originally published in the March 2008 issue of Modern Contractor Solutions and is reprinted her with their permission. The article was written by Jay Allen of Vertigraph, Inc.