In an industry where timeliness and efficiency are a priority, new technology and software innovations can make a world of difference for contractors looking to enhance their operations. One aspect of construction, in particular, where software can help speed up processes is through field tracking and estimating during the bidding process.
For Denver-based Fiore & Sons Inc., a need for more integrated tracking solutions led them to B2W Software, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based developer of specialized estimation and bid management software for heavy construction contractors.
The family-owned company, which provides a wide range of civil contracting, heavy equipment and management services for general contractors, property owners and developers in the Rocky Mountain region and surrounding areas, had previously used software from another supplier for estimating and field tracking until 2019. However, Fiore & Sons employees familiar with B2W at companies where they worked previously initiated discussions about a switch.
The switch to new software was primarily prompted by B2W’s ease-of-use advantages, according to the contracting company. By adopting B2W’s One Platform, Fiore & Sons has access to advanced, unified applications to manage estimating, scheduling and dispatching, field tracking, equipment maintenance, and forms, as well as business insight.
“Building the estimating database and pulling in data for a bid is easier with B2W,” says Rob Slauson, senior estimator and project manager for Fiore & Sons. “We’re faster and much more efficient, so we have more time for strategy versus building the bid.”
At Fiore & Sons, six estimators are supported by two people working on takeoff (the process where contractors determine how much of each material they will need to complete a project). Their win rate is roughly 25 percent. Deadlines for building bids can vary, but the company says a two-week window is typical.
“You can’t afford to sit idle waiting for an answer in this business, so the outstanding tech support from B2W is important,” Slauson says. “As good as the software is, it’s unavoidable that you will run into questions or have something that doesn’t seem right or work right once in a while. We send an email, and they get back to us right away to resolve it.”
A better way to handle change orders
Scope changes once a project is underway are common for Fiore & Sons. Previously, the company managed them with Excel spreadsheets. With B2W Estimate, a construction estimating software, the team can process time and materials (T&M) work and change orders faster and more efficiently, while also getting accurate documentation back to owners.
“Pricing a change order with B2W Estimate as its own module within the original estimate is a great feature that has really streamlined the process,” Slauson says. “The quicker you get the information processed, the better chance you have of recouping costs.
“When you wait 30 days, it’s easy to forget or for owners to dispute what was done. The B2W feature also allows us to spread our indirect and general condition costs just to the items that are specific to that change order,” he adds.
Project managers (PMs) at Fiore & Sons use bid data from B2W Estimate to set up field logs for new projects, adjusting for how they will complete the jobs. Most are involved in the estimating and operations sides of the jobs and see the benefit of easy data transfer between the two applications.
Foremen will then use the electronic logs to track labor hours, productivity and equipment utilization. Logs are submitted by the following morning.
“The lag in getting this information back from the field is much better now,” Slauson notes.
Photos can be easily taken with an iPad to be included in daily logs. Accuracy has also improved, as the B2W logs are set up to allow foremen to choose only cost codes active on that particular job.
Designed for the field
“We look at summary reporting from B2W Track daily to see where we stand versus where we should be and we drill down as needed for details on specific tracking accounts,” explains Brandon McMorran, project manager for Fiore & Sons.
Crews in the field are now tuned into this process, and McMorran says having PMs and foremen look at the same data is a conversation starter that shapes how they adjust operations.
“The field reporting lets us see trends and resolve issues before a week or a week and a half go by,” Slauson says. “I can get a cost code report today and see how that cost code performed yesterday.”
Seeing labor in relation to production is particularly important, Slauson adds. “We could be exceeding production goals but, if we’re also over on labor, we want to analyze how to do it with a smaller crew,” he says.
Bid data at Fiore & Sons moves electronically from B2W Estimate to Viewpoint and to the B2W Track field tracking application. The workflow ensures accuracy and eliminates redundant data entry. Daily performance reporting from B2W Track field logs is reconciled monthly with the accounting system.
“Organizing our cost codes in B2W Estimate and Track so they would map to Viewpoint took a little bit of time and trial and error but, once we got it nailed down, the process became seamless,” Slauson says.
Incorporating data from construction takeoff software into bids built with B2W Estimate takes about 20 minutes, he adds. “We simply export from Bluebeam and OnCenter to Excel, map the data to B2W Estimate and then import with the B2W import wizard.”