The magic of assemblies

Posted 7/3/2022

No matter what kind of construction or contracting business you have, giving your customer quotes on work they want done is a critical part of the construction business process.

Maybe you use spreadsheets. Maybe you use a pencil and a calculator. Or maybe you’ve invested in construction estimating software.

However, you do your estimates, if you’re not already using assemblies, you should be. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is an Assembly?

If you’re used to pricing each job from first principles, you might not have encountered the idea of assemblies yet. You probably also find that estimating is one of the most time-consuming parts of your construction business!

Assemblies are collections of material and labour costs that always go together.

Let’s assume you have to install a wooden fence. The fence would be comprised of fence posts, panels, and gates. Every time you install a fence post, you would use the same basic materials and it would take roughly the same amount of time. Every time you install a fence panel, you would use the same materials and it would take the same amount of labor.

Because you know how wide the fence panels will be, you can calculate how many panels and posts you would need, and then if you have calculated the price for a post and panel assembly, all you would need to do is multiply those numbers to get to a basic price.

Of course, you would still have to add gates and make allowances for slopes or custom panels, but by calculating those two things ahead of time, you could save a lot of time in the estimating process.

Adjusting Assembly Prices

Let’s stick with the idea of building a fence for a moment, and assume that after you have calculated a quote, your client asks you for an alternative price for a cedar fence.

Under normal circumstances, you might need to go right back to the start of the estimating process. However, since you already know what the material and labour cost are for a single fence post and panel, all you really need to do now is calculate the difference in material cost for each of those items.

Then, since you know how many panels and posts you have, it’s easy to calculate what you would need to add to change the fence to cedar.

Faster, Easier and More Accurate

Most people have some kind of estimating system, and many people do still calculate every job from scratch, tallying up the total materials required and then adding the labour they think they need in hours or days.

However, there are a few problems with that kind of estimating, especially when you’re doing it in a hurry and under pressure:

  1. There’s always a chance you will forget something important – if you’re doing everything from scratch every time, there’s a long list of things you need to remember for each quote

  2. It takes a long time to work like this – you have to redo the same steps in the estimating process every time you work out a quote

  3. You’re reinventing the wheel every time you calculate your prices

  4. It’s very hard to teach anyone else to do your estimating – which you may need to do as your company grows   

  5. It’s very hard to calculate any alternatives when your customer wants them – and often, you have to use the same time consuming, from scratch method

  6. It’s hard to adjust your prices if the job gets bigger or smaller

In the construction business, time is money, and calculating each quote from scratch as though it were the first time you were doing it costs you both. So, if there is no other reason you consider an assembly based estimating system, do it because it will save you money.

How to Create Assemblies?

If you’re looking for better ways to handle the estimating side of your construction business, you might be reading this and thinking that assemblies sound like the solution to your problems – and they might well be.

However, you should know that there is some work involved in creating assemblies for all the things you commonly do in your business.

You will need to take some time to sit down and think about all the steps you take when completing a project, and which ones go together.

You’ll need to account for all the materials, hardware, concrete, chemicals, and other materials involved in each of the assemblies you identify, and then you will have to consider how long it takes to complete one from start to finish to calculate the labor you need to include.

Often, when you do different sizes of the same thing, you will need to create assemblies for each size, which means you might have several versions of the same thing.

It can take a fair amount of time to complete this step but improving your estimating this way will pay dividends for your construction business down the line!

Professional Assembly Setup

If you think that assembly-based estimating can help your business, but you don’t have the time to create them yourself, there are professional options you might be able to use. This includes hiring a professional estimator or quantity surveyor to do it for you.

They will need detailed information about your construction business in order to help you with your assembly based estimating setup, and you will still need to provide input along the way, but this can take some of the pressure out of the process.

Estimators and quantity surveyors do usually charge by the hour though, so it can get quite costly to hire this kind of help. So, make sure you factor that in when you’re considering this option.

Done for You Assembly Based Construction Estimating Software

If you’ve got this far, you’re probably already imagining how assembly-based estimating can transform the way you quote your customers. This is one of the best things you can do for your construction business, but it is a lot of work to get it all set up.

Which is one of the reasons we created CostCertified, and the “done for you” assembly-based construction estimating software platform we offer.

CostCertified is an assembly based estimating engine that allows contractors and construction businesses to create quotes that might once have taken hours in less than ten minutes.

The system is preprogrammed with the assemblies you use in your business and uses a clever web crawler system to gather material prices from your suppliers’ most recent online pricing. It’s always up to date, and easy to adjust, edit and modify at will.

Which might sound a lot like some of the other construction estimating software out there. Until you get to the things that really set CostCertified apart.

That’s because we’ve involved customers in the quoting process.

Instead of sending a quote, waiting for a response requesting an alternative and then reworking your whole quote, we’ve built real time, customer driven quote customization right into the system. You choose which options you want to offer your customer, and they can mix and match until they get the exact package they want.

It’s all done with customized assemblies that you’ve created in the system too, so it’s accurate and based on your actual costs.

CostCertified.com has taken the undeniable magic of assembly-based estimating to a completely different level. Even better, with support and onboarding assistance, you can get your cloud based estimating system set up and ready to roll out in record time.

So, if you’re ready to put away the pencil and retire your spreadsheets, contact our team, and let’s bring your construction estimating system into the new millennium.