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Earthwork & Utility Estimating Software

Discussion in 'Computer Applications and 3D Modeling' started by Heavy&Civil, Mar 4, 2016.

  1. Heavy&Civil

    Heavy&Civil New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2016
    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Looking for some input regarding earthwork and utility estimating software. Currently, I am performing simple area and length take-offs with Bluebeam Revu, mixed with some good old-fashioned paper plans, scale rulers, pencil, and spreadsheets. The biggest issue I am running into, is that it's taking too long to put together take-offs and bids, and I need to get more of these out the door on a weekly basis...you know, throw 5 bids out, hoping for 1 to stick...vs. putting out 1 bid HOPING that 1 sticks...too risky and too stressful.

    A little background: We are a dozen employees strong, 2 crews, we perform road reconstruction, site prep, site development, utilities, commercial site work, wetland construction, etc. For the municipal jobs (i.e. utility systems, road work) I need to be able to take-off trench work, swell and compaction factors, bedding materials, pavements, curb work, storm, sewer, and water, etc. For site work, cut and fill is very important to me, especially when we are building our own developments and this will also help with our feasibility studies of the land. I'd like to think I am computer savvy, so learning the software is something I feel will not be an issue. However, I have no experience with ACAD Civil 3D.

    When I was in college we used On-Screen Takeoff, which really isn't geared towards the earth industry, and I used HCSS for the bid estimating and job costing for the earth industry (beautiful piece of software).

    So far, through my research, I have my eyes on two candidates: Insite Sitework and TBC (Trimble Business Center). We are a CAT company at heart, so naturally, our Sales Rep set us up with one of their affiliates, who deals and sells TBC, Trimble GPS, and Machine Control for CAT equipment. By the way, one of our focal points is to introduce a dozer to our fleet with GPS machine control in the very near future. Therefore, I can see how it would make sense to utilize TBC to perform not only take-offs, but to create the models and import them into the machine, all under one software platform. However, Insite Sitework seemed a little more user friendly and appeared to be more detailed with respect to utility and trench detail, site balancing, topsoil re-spread, etc. Also, I am looking at estimating software for bidding, which leads me to HCSS HeavyBid, which again, is a natural attraction since I've used it throughout my college career. Ironically, HCSS and Insite are partnered with respect to data entry. Everything that is taken-off in Insite can be imported to HCSS to build the project estimate. To my knowledge, TBC does not have the capability nor the detailed layers to perform comprehensive cost estimates like HCSS can, such as building crews for particular activities.

    On the other hand, I could be completely wrong with what I am looking at and should be looking at other options. This is what I've heard about the others: CARLSON - seems to be a very popular choice, AGTEK - seems to be the most expensive, PAYDIRT - some negative reviews regarding capability, although I am not really sure why, ACAD CIVIL 3D - seems to be an option used by engineers since they are typically already using this program as their design platform, and others that I do not have to much knowledge about: VIEWPOINT, TALLY SYSTEMS.

    In a nut shell, we aren't building super highways or major span bridges, but I need to implement software that can 1. Provide detailed take-offs 2. Apply the take-offs to an estimate and cost the job 3. Be able to build a model for a GPS controlled machine (in the future, when acquired, or even a machine that is rented in the interim). Whether it's one suite that does it all, or a combination of specific software platforms that can communicate with one another - it does not matter to me. In terms of budget, I'm not saying money is no object, BUT, when you really think about it, in theory, purchasing the most efficient, user friendly, and comprehensive software SHOULD return with the best dividends, as long as the user (me) is receptive and committed to learning its capabilities. Any software will return with greater efficiency opposed to how I am performing quantity take-offs to date, but I personally feel taking the extra step into the "best" offered software is worth the coin. The only other concern of mine would be the longevity of the software developer...a mom and pop shop may offer an excellent product, however, what if they belly-up and tech support is no longer available? Again, another reason why TBC is a major player in my eyes seeing as they are likely to have staying power in this industry.

    I apologize for such a long post, thank you for reading and being able to provide any input!

    Cheers!

    Dan
     
  2. RBMcCloskey

    RBMcCloskey Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2011
    Messages:
    351
    Occupation:
    Heavy Construction Contractor
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Call Mike Rydin or John Davis at HCSS, they can setup the complete packages you need and make sure they work together without problems.
     
  3. Blackgold

    Blackgold New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2016
    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    NC
    I just wanted to give this thread a bump. We are in a similar predicament at our company right now. While we are primarily a small paving and grading contractor, we are quickly expanding and have out grown the old pen, paper, and excel method. Dan pretty hit on everything that I have found in my research. Although I never spent much time looking into TBC, most of my experience with takeoffs is with planswift and AutoCAD. For area and linear takeoffs I found planswift to be quite effective but it just lacks when it comes to trenching and cut/fills and balancing sites. I have found several contractors around me are using the insite software which you mentioned but have not spent much time playing around with it.

    As far as estimating goes, I currently use an excel spreadsheet which is not as effective as I would like it to be in expediting the estimating process. I have taken a look at HCSS, but it always seemed like overkill for what we do. Maybe I am wrong and need to take a look at it with some fresh eyes.

    Anyways, this was just long winded bump for the OP to get some more information to expand my research because as anyone knows who's gone through this it is quite the investment and I want to make sure I do all my leg work.
     
  4. RBMcCloskey

    RBMcCloskey Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2011
    Messages:
    351
    Occupation:
    Heavy Construction Contractor
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Same advise, Call Mike Rydin or John Davis at HCSS, they can setup the complete packages you need and make sure they work together without problems
    713-270-4000
     
  5. Bliz

    Bliz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2012
    Messages:
    82
    Occupation:
    Excavator/Logger
    Location:
    9 Miles from Quebec
    Heavy&Civil, RBMcCloskey,

    You both sound so much like my company. I am a long time AutoCAD LDD & Civil 3D user and we do a lot of our own site design and development. In my opinion, and that of many of my associates, Civil 3D is more of an engineering software but not a great construction software. I have spent about 2 years researching every earth-work take off software on the market along with CAD and estimating programs. From all of this, I decided to go with the Carlson take-off suite. This will allow you to do your own design work if you want, take-off earth quantities, balance the site, etc., etc. etc. It will also allow you to build models for 3D machine control. I guess what I am saying is if you haven't taken a good look at Carlson, you probably should. It will do everything you need and far more. Carlson also has lifetime FREE software support from guys in Kentucky that speak English. As for the estimating, HCCS is a very good choice but I finally decided on B2W, formally know as Bid to Win. Call the folks at B2W and they will set up an on-line demo for you. From this, you'll get a good idea about how it works and it's capabilities. The quantities generated in Carlson are readily imported into B2W. Good Luck, let us know what you decide.
     
    MCguy likes this.
  6. AdamB84

    AdamB84 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2017
    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Illinois
    Dan-- what did you end up deciding?

    I'm in a similar boat and have been looking into TBC, HCSS, B2W, and a few others. Anyone have any insight into how Trimble business center compares to HCSS/others in terms of price and features? TBC doesn't seem to come up much in my googling of best estimating software and I haven't found many reviews for that one, so I'm wondering why that is.....
     
  7. skyhooks

    skyhooks Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2017
    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Louisiana
    None of them will really do everything you need. HCSS makes some great products. HeavyBid and HeavyJob are the first two i would even consider buying. HeavyBid has become almost an industry standard for DOT contractors. It is basically a database of your equipment, labor categories, material, etc. which you use to build bid activities that make up a bid item and arrive at a unit price. HeavyJob is timesheet collection/job tracking software. I believe both start off around the $7.5k-$10k range. There are a lot of videos on their youtube channel so you can get a feel for the products.

    TBC on the other hand allows you to import CAD or PDF drawings, like a TOPO for instance, and create a 3D model for cut/fill among a lot of other features. You can then export proposed elevations and coordinates for use in GPS automated equipment. The base software is free but you have to purchase modules to get any of the really useful features. i believe each module is in the $3k range. You'd probably want to get at least 2 of the modules for it to be really useful in my opinion.
     
  8. CM1995

    CM1995 Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Messages:
    8,092
    Occupation:
    Running what I brung and taking what I win
    Location:
    Alabama
    At Conex this year I was able to sit down with a contractor from Washington who was also working the Insite booth. He was a little larger contractor than me but did the same type projects.

    After spending 30 mins going through the software using one of his old projects, I quickly saw how easy it is to use. I am setting up a demo in order to make sure it fits my needs.

    The software is very straight forward and easy to to use to perform take offs and build a 3D model from PDF's. 95% of the time I can only get the plans in PDF format as engineers are stingy about giving out CAD drawings on open bid projects.

    Cost runs around $7K plus hardware. I use a Mac so I'll have to get a windows based machine to run the software.

    How much is the HCSS package?
     
  9. donlang

    donlang Charter Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2003
    Messages:
    36
    Occupation:
    Owner- full service excavating firm
    Location:
    North of Pittsburgh, Pa
    I have been in the excavating business since 1971 ( not quite as old as dirt, but working on it). In the early 1980s, I beta tested Insite software, and had some input into it's development. Aside from that, I have absolutely nothing to do with the In-site Software Company.
    Now for the important stuff. As far as earthwork quantity takeoff software, Insite is, in my opinion, the best in the industry. It is user friendly, absolutely accurate and thorough, and over the years, has become a major time saver. Tech support is 24-7, and is second to none. You call, they respond and get you through your problem in short order.

    The gentleman that started the company, recently passed. Not only was he a hell of a guy, but he was concerned for his customers. As a result, his business is still moving forward, and is strong.

    The only way that you will learn and understand what Insite can do for you, is to try it for yourself. You owe it to yourself to do it. Call Steve. Tell him what you want, and give him a hard time(in fun). He can take it, and he lands strong everytime. Enjoy the ride, and let me know what you think.
     
    CM1995 likes this.
  10. CM1995

    CM1995 Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2007
    Messages:
    8,092
    Occupation:
    Running what I brung and taking what I win
    Location:
    Alabama
    It was very nice to meet you at Conex Don and get to trade war stories.