Sage Estimating (formerly Timberline Estimating) offers integration with Excel, as well as RS Means. The software also supports conceptual estimating, and proposal generation. Construction firms interested in the construction estimating application will also likely want to purchase the construction takeoff application.
Construction firms that need one or more templates in their estimating software should avoid the starter package as it does not come with any templates in the estimating software. The software features a standard version, as well as an extended version that includes estimating templates. Both versions come with pre-built databases ready to use “out of the box.” Databases can be easily customized, too.
We find the capabilities of Sage Estimating fit the needs of construction firms across all segments. Whether you are a firm that specializes in utility contracting or mechanical and HVAC construction, the product can suite your needs. We find that the primary limiting factor here is revenue. Sage Estimating is best suited for companies that run operations of at least $1 million due to the Timberline software cost. Construction firms beyond this benchmark will find this solution to be suitable.
Why choose Timberline estimating over Excel or the Big Chief notepad?
1. Integration, Integration, Integration
a. Dynamic link to Onscreen takeoff tools (I can be in the estimate quantity field and jump to the plans, measure the quantity while color coding it using the mouse, and it inserts the quantity in the estimate).
b. Quotation/Procurement - one of the most important add-ons. Allows the user to create quote sheets from takeoff items, email them to vendors, negotiate prices, then choose to use that quote in the estimate budget or push it through to a purchase order or subcontract. Remarkably powerful integration tool, plus you develop a bid history library.
c. CAD - beyond onscreen takeoff (which is only an image of the drawing where you still measure quantities). CAD integration uses CAD item libraries to electronically feed CAD driven quantities from the drawings (but you still have to "estimate" the work to be performed). CAD primarily provides the material components and quantities.
d. Scheduling Integration - the ability to generate a text file recap of the estimate sorted by a schedule activity, or export the recap to a Microsoft Project Schedule native file format, or to create a Primavera native file format. NOTE - it is not a scheduling program; it is a utility to convert the estimate to specific data file format used by specific scheduling software products.
2. Reduction in errors.
a. Database formulas work every time and warn you when something is missing. Excel can break formula links, fields, worksheet links, and references and become too complex to manage and generate a wrong calculation with no warning.
b. Database estimates can be sorted in almost unlimited ways using "WBS codes" (work breakdown structures). This is a fancy name for tagging an item with a sortable field such as material class, building number, floor number, alternate, and then sorting the estimate by those tags in a multiple level sequence - on the fly. Very important with so many cuts and adds taking place in today's estimating processes. It also quickly generates field-oriented docs (bill of materials; by floor, by area, etc.), Budgets - sort by job cost summary instantly, etc.
c. Cuts and Adds are a given in today's fast paced estimate environment, recalling a scope section and revising it repeatedly is a reality. This is the most common cause of estimating errors when bidding. Having an audit trail of changes and to quickly make a revision to all components by answering simple questions is very powerful (see smart assemblies and Modeling as well).
d. Parametric estimates - increase the production of an estimator without increased rework or errors. Answer a set of parametric scope questions and the assembly generates all detail components for the estimator. Eliminates errors, reduces rework, ends the "takeoff for a bid - then takeoff again to build it" issue.
3. Database standards
a. A standard item library for everyone in the company to use creating ease of assimilating new estimators, improving cross training of roles, having common logic that can be reviewed easily to see how the result was generated. How many times has an excel estimate template morphed into multiple complicated versions within a company? Not with a database central price book and takeoff system.
b. Flexibility - allows the estimating "artist" to be flexible with their style of results. The assemblies will allow scope questions to be used differently by each estimator (one wants unit price, another wants man-hours, another wants total Square Footage). They can get all of that with a single common system setup.
c. Pricing - many cost pricing service products integrate and can be combined with a company's own in-house price components. Run into that goofy system you have no idea what it costs - look it up in the pricing service system (and by regional pricing in the market). Have your own factors - apply them to the pricing.
There are many other reasons to consider a database driven integrated estimating system. The above are just a few that show why excel or paper are outdated for today's fast paced estimating demands. It is not just the takeoff - it is all the other integration of "clerical / admin" grunt work stuff that an integrated solution improves within an organization.
Four stars - there is no PERFECT system... but no others come close to this overall solution.
I have been estimating commercial construction projects for the past 15 years.
If you are on the fence with estimating software, look no further than Timberline. I have tried them all and none of them are as fast and refined as Timberline. Other companies put on a good sales show but the application doesn't measure up. We actually spent about $15k on a company's software licenses, and after using it we found it to be slow and klunky.
How good is Sage Timberline Estimating? Well, we walked away from $15k to use Timberline. Yeah, it's that good.