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Buyer's Guide

by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 17, 2017

Heavy construction software is designed to meet the unique needs of contractors in the road, highway, infrastructure and civil construction industries. This includes site work, roads, highways, bridges, dams, tunnels and utilities, as well as materials suppliers, quarries and pits.

Regardless of project type, there are three main software applications heavy construction companies will use:

  • Cost estimating and takeoff
  • Project management
  • Accounting

Below we dig into some of the capabilities that differentiate top-rated heavy construction-specific systems from those systems designed for general construction other industries.

Estimating and Takeoff Requirements

Estimating and takeoff for heavy projects is unique and requires a specialized set of functionality, including the following.

3D takeoff Heavy contractors require special takeoff capabilities that will allow them to visualize the topography of their job. The system should have earth measurement capabilities to determine cuts and fills, as well as provide plan views, profiles views and section views. 3D visualization plays an important role in these tools.
Heavy-specific item database Heavy estimators will require a cost item database that is specific to their work. They need to determine costs of materials, equipment and labor like any contractor, but they will benefit from systems with pre-built templates that match operators to equipment, calculate fuel costs and have a library of common items.
Fuel costing Fuel is a major component of heavy jobs, so heavy contractors will benefit from a system designed to track and estimate their fuel costs in great detail. These systems will keep fuel cost estimates up-to-date and attach them to specific pieces of equipment so that you have have different rates for equipment based on fuel costs.
DOT databases Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements vary by state. A heavy estimating tool should offer pre-built cost databases that contain the various items required by each state’s DOT. Estimators can then use this information to ensure their bids include all DOT-required items and that cost information for these items is up to date.
Crew templates Heavy estimating will be vastly simplified if the estimator can simply drag reusable crew templates into a bid rather than build each crew from scratch for each bid. Crew templates combine employees and equipment into crews that can be reused across bids.

Project Management Requirements

Unitary billing and costing Unit-billing is central to heavy construction, so heavy contractors require a system designed to bill based on units completed. Both the job costing and billing components of the system should offer unit-based capabilities, as well as track progress/percent complete.
Timecard tracking Heavy contractors need to carefully monitor their crews in the field and make sure the right employees are on the right job at the right time. Heavy project management applications should include field time card tracking to manage employees.
Resource scheduling Heavy contractors need to schedule employees and equipment to the right job at the right time. A heavy project management system should enable contractors to schedule crews, in addition to individuals. That means pairing the right equipment with the right operator.
Dispatching White boards don’t cut it when it comes to dispatching crews and equipment. There is too much room for error. The best dispatching system will track (even with GPS) the location of every piece of equipment and employee.
Fuel tracking With fuel becoming such a large component of heavy project costs, a heavy project management system should track fuel costs and related fluids, like lubricants and coolants. It should track these fluids from suppliers to stationary tank to mobile fueling tanks, whether contractor-owned or third-party.
Mobile capabilities Mobile capabilities are especially important for heavy work. While all contractors work in the field, the location of heavy work shifts as the job progresses, so mobile support is critical for keeping field staff online and in touch.

Accounting Requirements

Specialized pricing A top heavy accounting system needs to support the specialized pricing models for heavy work. This will typically require unit-based pricing, progress billing, work-in-progress (WIP) billing, fixed-bid billing and cost-plus billing. It should also handle requirements for DOT and municipal billing requirements.
Equipment management With a wide range of equipment, heavy contractors’ profitability is dependent on keeping theses machines in great operating condition. Equipment management capabilities will track maintenance—preventative or unplanned. They also track the depreciation of the asset. More advanced systems will offer GPS tracking and electronic monitoring of equipment use and health.
Materials management Heavy contractors must ensure that the right materials arrive on time for jobs. Material cost tracking capabilities support this function for heavy contractors and materials producers by tracking the details of materials required for each job, including materials ordered, materials received, materials outstanding and scheduled time of arrival.
Scale integration Heavy contractors operating their own material sales, plants, quarries and pits will need to integrate their accounting system to their scales to reduce errors and improve efficiency. A heavy-specific accounting system should import weight tickets directly into the system.
Regulatory reporting Heavy contractors face a range of regulatory compliance requirements, such as employment fairness requirements (EEO), DOT requirements, certified payroll and prevailing wages and of course OSHA. A heavy accounting system should mange these requirements and produce the appropriate reports to demonstrate compliance.
Multi-company management Since many heavy companies are part of parent organizations with multiple subsidiaries, heavy accounting systems should provide multi-company consolidation capabilities. They should also manage inter-company payments—transactions between the affiliated entities.
Inventory management Heavy contractors need their accounting system to track inventory across multiple locations—job sites, warehouses, plants. Moreover, they need to understand what’s on-order, what is currently on-hand and what is already allocated to a specific job. The system should also manage discounts and mark-ups of inventory.


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