HVAC contractors are busier than ever and while there’s a shortage of skilled tradesmen in most US regions. Many contractors are leveraging technology to streamline processes and improve performance in the office and on the job site. Construction has been one of the last of the major industries to adopt digitization, but that is all changing now and HVAC contractors are arming their employees with dual screen monitors, tablets, smartphones and the latest estimating, project management and even digital time tracking for managing time sheets and labor budgets. See Procore, T Sheets or Rhumbix if you’re still manually entering paper time sheets and manually calculating labor overruns on your projects.
In this blog we’ll talk about the benefits of using a modern cloud-based on screen takeoff and HVAC estimating software that improves collaboration, speed, and accuracy. All for a price that is less than you would expect and with simple implementations- allowing you to put those pesky spreadsheets and clunky plotters out to pasture where they belong.
As a residential or commercial HVAC contractor, collaboration is important. Whether reviewing linear footage of ductwork with your sheet metal contractors to determine material pricing or reviewing value engineering ideas with a general contractor, the cloud gives you the ability to collaborate with project stakeholders instantly. Because your project data is securely stored in the cloud the data is always available from any internet connected device. Many SaaS providers have built on this strength by allowing users to share digital plans and project data with co-workers, general contractors, or customers. Imagine performing an on screen takeoff and inviting your co-worker to double check your counts while your suppliers are putting together material pricing on the bill of material you just shared with them. This allows you to do more with less and streamline your estimating process.
Powerful, Highly Available Computing Power
Another often overlooked aspect of cloud applications is the sheer power that is provided to users in the form of computing hardware and high availability. Because SaaS providers leverage an almost unlimited number powerful web and database servers that are installed in redundant data centers around the world, you have a large amount of computing resources at your fingertips that traditional server based estimating software cannot compete with. This makes powerful features like symbol recognition, auto-count, on screen takeoffs and calculating labor units and profit margin faster than their server based counterparts. When a heavy query is executed the cloud automatically reallocates hardware resources to the task to make it happen much faster. The best part is that SaaS applications generally maintain a 99.999% uptime of their applications that equates to 5.26 minutes of downtime per year or a mere 26.30 seconds per month which is far less time that you can expect with server based HVAC estimating software.
Access Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device
Today's HVAC Contractors can no longer afford to have limited access to estimating software when they aren’t in the office. General Contractors and customers have information available at their fingertips and they expect the same of the HVAC contractors they work with regularly. The cloud gives user friendly access to plans, estimates, change orders, and pricing services 24 hours a day and 7 days a week from any internet connected device, be it a Mac, PC, or tablet device. Imagine walking a jobsite and taking pictures, notes and plotting them on the digital plan to ensure you have them when estimating the project later that day or your foreman snapping a quick picture of a plan conflict that will require a change order.
You're an HVAC contractor not an IT specialist and besides, if you’re going to install advanced cooling systems to help keep powerful, highly available servers and datacenter equipment online- you want to get paid for it, right? Let’s face it, most HVAC contractors do not have the budget for full time IT staff or bringing their estimating and project managers in for weeks at a time to learn a new estimating system. You also have to consider adoption within the company, employee’s that have been using one system to many years and are busy chasing down projects will have a harder time adopting overly complex estimating solutions that take a long time to learn. Cloud based estimating systems are already deployed and only require that you login and upload some plans to begin estimating a project. In many cases, you can try the product out before you purchase to make sure it's a good fit.
Lower Total Cost of Ownership
With the explosive growth in cloud-computing and SaaS based applications it's getting cheaper and cheaper for application providers to offer low cost service based solutions. This is because those applications are being built to scale on cloud infrastructure not available even a few years ago. This has leveled the playing field for small and medium sized HVAC and mechanical contractors allowing them to compete with larger HVAC contractors because they can now afford the same type of estimating systems. This has made traditional software almost impractical in other industries and it's now starting to show in the construction industry. Just look at the number of MEP contractors walking into meetings armed with iPads that have popular project management software like Procore or PlanGrid installed and being able to quickly review the latest drawings, annotate a change, plot pictures for punch lists and keep their entire team on the same page without the high cost of traditional software solutions.
In conclusion, times are changing in construction and for the better. You can have access to world class takeoff software and HVAC estimating software for a fraction of the cost of traditional server based HVAC software with a lot less headaches. Gone are the days of having to rely on printing paper plans, excel spreadsheets and clunky old windows clients that look like they were built 40 years ago and never updated again. If you would like to test drive Esticom’s world class HVAC estimating software you can sign-up for a 14-day evaluation here.