Building Service Inc.
Since it was founded in 1947, Building Service Inc. (BSI) has evolved from an acoustical services company to one that designs, builds, and furnishes commercial interiors – transforming workplaces into powerful business tools to increase effectiveness and productivity. Helping corporate, retail, hospitality, and healthcare organizations in Wisconsin and Illinois build, remodel, and expand their facilities, this $36 million company employs 150 people in 16 divisions to provide architectural design, interior design, construction, flooring, furnishings, and other services.
While many of its competitors have struggled to survive in recent years, BSI is thriving. Jim Macejkovic, the company's executive VP, CIO, and safety director, credits much of its success to software; namely, Maxwell Systems™ ProContractorMX™ for takeoff and estimating. "In an economy where you must be the low cost provider to win the job, we knew we had to tighten up our bids and find the right tool to help us do that."
BSI's estimators had been doing takeoffs by hand and developing "fancy" spreadsheets to create their bids. The team at BSI wanted to automate their processes to be more competitive, as well as more accurately manage change orders and more efficiently run reports.
The contractor now uses Maxwell Systems ProContractorMX as its takeoff and estimating software solution. The estimators utilize its digital takeoff technology to perform a takeoff quickly and easily, and its verification tools to ensure utmost accuracy. They then seamlessly create estimates using pre-designed templates and submit tight bids with speed.
Using ProContractorMX has helped BSI to improve the workflow between the office and field. Everything is automated and streamlined from start to finish, the information is updated all the time, and changes are made instantly across the entire system. Overall, 99% of BSI's projects now come in on or under budget, thanks to the solution's standards that everyone is using.
Adapting to Economic Issues
Before the economic downturn, BSI's estimators had been doing takeoffs by hand and developing "fancy" spreadsheets to create their bids. In 2007, the team at BSI realized they needed to automate their processes to be more competitive and they evaluated 12 construction software products. To narrow it down, they talked to some of their friendly competitors to find out what they were using. The final three vendors were each required to develop the same estimate during their product demonstrations. "It was obvious how easy ProContractorMX is to use," commented Macejkovic. "This was a major factor in our decision."
"We had eight estimators before selecting ProContractorMX and had to reduce our headcount to six due to the economy; however, with ProContractorMX, we were able to maintain the same level of sales volume," explained Macejkovic. "Now, we have 10 estimators and our volume has doubled. Automating our takeoff and estimating with ProContractorMX has enabled us to easily crank out estimates 30-40 percent faster than in the past and has saved us the expense of four additional estimators to handle the increased volume."
A major reason for BSI's recent success is that when the market started to spiral downward, BSI didn't sit back and watch it happen. "We're constantly changing our model to ensure it evolves with the market. We brought Maxwell Systems in for additional training to see how we could leverage the product more in order to be more competitive. We challenged our team to be more efficient and submit tighter bids. We are now having our best year ever and it is because we focused on becoming more efficient and competitive during the tough economic times."
"Maxwell Systems not only provided excellent on-site training, but we have found that their Annual Conference is an excellent opportunity to sit down and share our experiences with our counterparts at other companies and the software developers," added Macejkovic. "They have a knowledgeable, skilled team that really listens to their customers and develops their products based on customer feedback."
The first step to becoming the low-cost provider is to accurately takeoff each project. BSI estimators can easily download a plan file from an online plan room and then utilize the digital takeoff technology in ProContractorMX to perform a takeoff quickly and accurately. They no longer need to get expensive and bulky paper blueprints and tape them to the digitizer board. Now, they can perform the takeoff directly on their computer screen – eliminating costly errors and improving accuracy and speed.
Then, leveraging the pre-designed templates in ProContractorMX, it is easy for the estimators to simply fill in the blanks and list everything that needs to be done. With 16 divisions within BSI, standard templates, language, and pricing are necessary to make the estimating process simple and consistent across the company.
Macejkovic explained that in today's market there can't be 5-10 percent waste on a job like in the past. With the ProContractorMX digital takeoff capability, they no longer have to round up numbers and their takeoffs are now exact. And, if errors or oversights are made, the software prompts the user with a question, so it is difficult to make mistakes. He added that "with everyone using the same pricing database, we are much more consistent with our estimates, which is huge."
Estimating with Speed and Accuracy
ProContractorMX also offers verification tools that not only help ensure accuracy, but make estimating a much easier task. The 3-D Visual Assemblies provide graphical checklists of individual cost items and provide lifelike takeoff images to visually show if items are missing or incorrect. "The Visual Assemblies are easy to understand and very helpful in getting new estimators with little experience up to speed quickly," explained Macejkovic. The standard templates and verification features are very easy to use, so BSI utilizes more estimators (which are less expensive to BSI than project managers), saving significantly in overhead costs. Likewise, their project managers are better able to focus on keeping jobs running efficiently and on budget.
Macejkovic also emphasized the importance of turnaround time and explained how the software's Bid Day feature enables the team to tweak their estimates after the initial estimate is built based on "what-if" scenarios, special pricing, etc. BSI is able to make up-to-the-minute adjustments before submitting their bids and react quickly during the negotiation process.
Improving Productivity and Profitability
Beyond the takeoff and estimate, BSI can take advantage of ProContractorMX to automate its processes after it wins a job, helping to further streamline processes, improve efficiency, and ultimately, increase profitability. With one seamless system for takeoff, estimating, buyouts, purchase orders, change orders, and more, BSI is able to significantly enhance communications across the company and ensure increased accuracy and speed.
Macejkovic explained that the buyout feature in ProContractorMX is a major asset for the company. "Once we get a job, ProContractorMX enables us to breakdown the costs, automatically generate reports detailing the total materials to order, and filter the information based on materials and/or labor. We have reduced our time spent on the buyout process by 60 percent."
The detailed information that is gathered in the buyout process can be broken down into various phases, areas, cost codes, etc., which helps the project manager execute on the job. The team in the field easily knows how many hours each phase of a project should take. In the past, for example, they knew a project should take 1,200 hours to complete. Now, they know that 300 hours are allocated to one specific phase, helping them better manage their labor.
Managing Change Orders
It is a well known fact that change orders can drastically impact the profitability of a construction project, so contractors need the right tools to manage change orders effectively. ProContractorMX enables BSI's project managers to easily identify change requests and track and manage pending, internal, and contract change orders. "We simply import pending requests and changes into the estimate, and ensure the new changes are billed correctly. The integration is essential to managing change orders," said Macejkovic. With ProContractorMX, BSI can obtain approvals more quickly, capitalize on opportunities on every job, and save money on costly mistakes by effectively managing their change orders.
Reporting was another essential factor in BSI's selection of its takeoff and estimating solution. "We have so many valuable reports at our fingertips in ProContractorMX," said Macejkovic. "We can create reports on sales by estimator, sales by sales person, win/loss percentages, work load percentages, and so much more. The material reports are great and we are easily able to create custom reports for our business as well."
Better From Start to Finish
Using Maxwell Systems ProContractorMX has improved the workflow between the office and field. Everything is automated and streamlined from start to finish, the information is updated all the time, and changes are made instantly across the entire system. BSI is now able to put the right information in the hands of the right people at the right time.
"With 10-15 contractors bidding on every job, we used to come in around eighth or ninth," said Macejkovic. "ProContractorMX has really helped us become the low-cost provider and we are consistently number one or two now."
"ProContractorMX is a very powerful tool," stated Macejkovic. "In a very tight market where work is slow and there are multiple bidders on every job, our actual profit margin is going up. We are marking our jobs up a bit more but they are not going over budget. I would say that 99% of our projects come in on or under budget, because we've got this database with standards in it that everyone is using. Standard processes are so important. We are definitely seeing an improvement in our margin – it's amazing."