Greater integration with scheduling and financing tasks as well as increasing mobility through cloud based services are among the key areas where job estimating software within the Australian construction industry is evolving, the head of a Victoria based software provider for builders says.
Constructor Software general manager Jose Carrasco said the way builders and contractors throughout the country are approaching job estimating has evolved in recent times from paper-based drawings and calculations through to electronic spreadsheets, and many now using estimating and accounting programs developed specifically for the construction industry.
He says builders are increasingly looking for more from their software, including the ability not only to do job estimating but also tasks relating to accounting and job scheduling.
“What we have found the last few years is that more and more builders are looking for software - something that’s already out there, has been tried and tested that they can easily use and incorporate,” he said, referring to estimating software developed specifically for the building industry. “The other thing they are looking for in software is for it to be integrated so that not only can they do the job estimates, they want to be able to produce orders, run invoices and do financial reporting and job cost and things like that.”
“The next phase of what builders are asking for is the scheduling. How do I know where my jobs are at particular times? How do I make sure I’ve got the carpenters on-site on a particular day? How do I know once the roofers have finished the framing that the guys doing the cladding will arrive on the job on the next day?”
Asked about any areas where maximum use of estimating software was being held back, Carrasco said that while builders are generally highly proficient at what they do, a significant number have not had a great deal of training when it comes to computers and using software to run their business. He acknowledged, however, that there is increasing awareness about the role of technology in terms of automating processes and being able to use an iPad to check orders or where a particular job is at and whether or not it is running on time.
Carrasco said cloud computing is enabling forms of job estimating software – as with other types of software in general – to be delivered directly on site to builders via tablets and other mobile devices. He said increasingly, estimating software is being custom-designed specifically to fit on smaller screens for this reason.
“Certainly in the next five to 10 years we will start to see a lot of the software being taken out of the office and used on site,” he said. “You can’t just limit yourself to a desktop PC that’s running a 19-inch monitor or 21-inch monitor. Software needs to be developed so that the information can be accessible and can be read easily enough on a tablet or a phone.
“If you think of the internet, most sites have gone to what they call a mobile version, so if you look at your web site on the phone, it looks just as good as if you were looking at it on your desktop. The same is true of software.”
Carrasco sees estimating software becoming increasingly integrated as a part of builders’ daily lives on the job and increasingly being seen as yet another tool they use to manage their business and get the job done.
“I have been involved with estimating software for coming up to ten years now” he said. “When I started in the industry, it was rare that you have anyone talking about software. Now, it’s becoming more of another tool in the toolbox.
“The nail gun, [for example,] when that came out, it went from being hooked up to a compressor to now being cordless and gas. Very rarely do you see a builder using a hammer anymore. And I think software just needs to be that again - just another tool that they have to operate their business.”