Bill Ruffner, president of Advanced Electrical Technologies, Plainfield, Ill., has discovered firsthand that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. As an electrical contractor with 17 years of experience, Ruffner knows using a computer to help estimate residential electrical jobs is undoubtedly the most accurate method. The problem? He couldn't find a software program that met the unique requirements of the residential contractor. “That's when I decided enough was enough,” says Ruffner. “It was time for residential estimating to step out of the shadows and into the light.” Enter TurboBid, a residential electrical estimating program.

In development for four years, the software was officially introduced to the marketplace last February. According to Ruffner, the product's designer and developer, TurboBid automatically generates a customer's bid package, including a detailed formal proposal, quantity takeoff, quantity takeoff per room, and a value-engineered quantity takeoff by room.

“As a contractor, you can't know or realize the percentage of profit if you don't know your cost to complete the job,” says Scott Williams, TurboBid end-user and CEO of Great Plains Electric, Inc., an electrical contracting firm based in Denver. “Work load, electrician skill levels, weather conditions, job-site conditions, the difficulty of any given section of the project — all of these factors and more need to be included in an estimate to achieve a true picture of expected job cost. TurboBid incorporates these features into the program.”

Employing a unique wizard format, the estimating software allows users to identify and account for all possible labor and material costs. Material prices can be updated with the click of a button using Trade Service and NetPricer material pricing services, and assemblies are automatically assigned the correct labor unit based on the construction factors of the dwelling.

In addition, the program allows users to submit both a per-plan price as well as a value-engineered price. “Value engineering a print means the electrical layout provides the most cost-effective yet Code-specific layout possible,” explains Ruffner. “Devices are added to meet the requirements of the National Electrical Code (NEC) and all applicable amendments. Devices are eliminated and/or relocated in order to lower the cost while still maintaining the industry standard for electrical design.”

The software also incorporates an electrical code section that allows users to know explicitly what the local electrical inspector requires. Other product features include material pricing storage for up to five vendors, a material database containing thousands of items, an assemblies database, a labor and burden database, automatic database backup, and the ability to generate a “lost project” report, listing who the job was lost to and by how much. Security-enabled, user names and passwords can be set for each estimate. Moreover, each project can restrict a user to data entry-only screens, protecting sensitive pricing areas.

For Great Plains Electric, the proof is in the pudding. “TurboBid is a very powerful residential estimating program,” Williams says. “We do electrical work for multifamily condominiums, lofts, apartments, town homes, mid-range commercial, and the occasional custom home. Where TurboBid comes in on our multifamily takeoff is per-unit pricing, labor hours, cost, and materials association for just that specific unit or type of unit. It takes less than 15 minutes to take off a unit because of the ease and assemblies that are in TurboBid. Help, if needed, is just a phone call away and is free. You don't have to sign up for a subscription. In addition, online demos are performed for purchasers who would like to see the product in action.”

According to Ruffner, a revised edition of the software was released last month that integrates the principles taught by NEC expert and EC&M Code consultant Mike Holt. Furthermore, the software will soon be compatible with the EPIC pricing service, which means contractors already subscribing to EPIC for commercial estimating software will be able to use the same subscription for updating material in TurboBid.

Priced at $699, a free 14-day trial download of TurboBid is available at the company's Web site. Also included in the purchase price is a copy of Mike Holt's “Illustrated Guide to Electrical Estimating” as well as the company's “Residential Electrical Options” catalog.

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