When estimator Syd Jones was searching for a new job across the country, he had one firm condition.
His new employer had to be an HCSS HeavyBid user.
“When I was in California and was going to make the jump across the country, I researched anyone that was a current HCSS user,” Jones said. “And if they weren’t, I found out whether there was a possibility I could sell them on it."
Jones, now Estimating Manager for W. Webber Construction’s Utilities Division in The Woodlands, Texas, has been using HeavyBid since it was still programmed in MS-DOS, the operating system HCSS originally used to program our estimating software.
Webber already owned HeavyBid licenses when Jones was hired, but he said they weren’t utilized properly.
HeavyBid was originally designed for heavy civil construction, but it works for all types of industries, including oil and gas, transportation, industrial, and water/waste water construction.
Jones said he has found a great way to use it to estimating the water treatment plants his division of Webber currently builds.
Although they don’t have the historical estimate data built up in the system like his cohorts in transportation work, Jones said HeavyBid still cuts his estimators’ time in half.
“Our work is a process,” Jones said. “The bid on a typical water treatment plant takes a good four-and-a-half week investment to get together. That’s in conjunction with doing a takeoff, setting up the bid, and then getting in the bid process as well.”
Unlike DOT work, where laying pavement is generally repetitive no matter the project, water treatment plants require more in-depth discovery of the project and its intricacies.
“It would be great if it were all set up and we were just spending our time estimating and improving our estimate, but you don’t get that luxury with the type of jobs we’re doing,” Jones said. “But it’s good to go through the motions because it gives you the ability to get familiar with the job. I’ve embraced HeavyBid for water/wastewater because it has given us the flexibility to do that.”
Jones said his goal is to get different master estimates set up for each type of work they do – pump stations, water plants, and wastewater treatment plants.
Those master estimates will each have an activity library the estimators can pull from in lieu of a true bid history.
“I have to really recreate the wheel on the bid form every time we have a bid, but with HeavyBid, it’s not hard to set up a bid form every time,” Jones said. “I actually enjoy it because it helps me get familiar with the bid. Our goal is to have activity codes match cost codes because that’s how we’ll get feedback and historical information, but most of our jobs last two or three years. It’s going to take a couple of years before we have that.”
Jones said he can still use HeavyBid to build estimates using pricing from other divisions of Webber that don’t use the estimating software. One sister company that doesn’t have user licenses still builds their bids on spreadsheets.
Jones integrates their bid and labor, enters a composite of their base rate and burdens it in HeavyBid. He codes their equipment and materials and assess the job as if it were being bid internally.
“I just use the other estimators as a subcontractor,” Jones said. “I have them give me their numbers, enter them into HeavyBid, have a conversation about them and assess the risk that way."
Jones said he is working on getting HeavyBid implemented throughout all of Webber. But European parent company Ferrovial, is still learning how bidding in the U.S. works.
In the meantime, however, he is working with what he has.
“When people come to me with their spreadsheets, I just laugh at them,” Jones said. “I know those cells, over time, can get corrupted. If we were to use Excel instead of HeavyBid, it would double our work. And I’m confident in our accuracy. Once you start cutting and pasting from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, things can happen. I’ve seen guys struggling in spreadsheets, and I show them there’s a better way. When they really look at it and see that we’re still talking labor, equipment, and materials, it’s great.”
Jones said being able to adjust the bid at the last minute is one of the biggest benefits of HeavyBid. With the quote sheet, he is able to make and track adjustments individually, instead of making sweeping cuts, to have a paper trail at the end.
“Even internally, you want to have the documentation to avoid the he-said-she-said and be accountable,” Jones said. “I feel comfortable that the money is right. With HeavyBid, I can look at it and know that it’s good.”