SA’s Desperate Need for Skilled Estimators

skilled estimator

There’s an urgent need for the dying breed of skilled estimators in today’s work-force. Government agencies are trying desperately to train people fast enough to fill the employment gap, but the fact of the matter is that the need is growing faster than the demand can be met.

The continued growth in the construction industry has also made its mark on the number of estimator jobs available, with further demand still to come. According to a recent report, the government’s investment in infrastructure construction projects will propel growth in the country’s construction sector into 2050 under the National Transport Master Plan.

Cost estimators are key in most industries – approximately 62% of estimators are in the construction sector with 15% being in manufacturing; the remainder belongs to sectors like printing, packaging, engineering and more – and provide business owners and managers with the information they need to submit competitive contract bids or price products accurately.

“Estimators play a huge role in keeping businesses commercially viable,” says Heinrich van der Vyver, CEO of QuickEasy Software. “Come in too high in a bidding war, and you lose the contract; too low and you don’t cover costs. Not only do they look into things like cost of material, time and labour when putting together an estimate, but they also take into account wasted material, shipping delays, human delays, and other variables that can increase costs and lower profitability. Without a qualified estimator, business owners are bidding blind.”

The role of software in this key role is tremendous – not only in estimating accurately but also in bringing this role into the next generation of the industry. In the construction sector, cost estimators often use software to simulate the construction process in order to better evaluate the cost effects of design options. They consult databases to compare the costs of similar projects.

“They need a special mix of skills from the estimator to do this well,” continues Heinrich. “They need to be analytical, to assess variable situations for the best cost outcome; detail-oriented, as the smallest changes in details can affect costs and the business; be good at maths to calculate and understand these complex equations; know how to manage deadlines and their own time efficiently; and be excellent report writers as cost estimators put together comprehensive management reports for key decision-makers, recommending ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency. This is a unique skill set indeed.”

An Aging Skill Se

“Estimators are as rare as hen’s teeth,” says Tasneem, a software supplier in Cape Town who takes care of approximately 90 printing companies. “Most of the estimators we know in the printing and packaging industries have retired, or are about to. Young people don’t have the industry experience needed to take on the demanding role of estimators, so there’s this yawning gap with no immediate hope of filling it.”

An experienced estimator in the construction industry can earn close to R70,000 per month – they are valuable and in demand, and there simply is not enough to meet the growing need.

Meet the Next Generation of Skilled Estimators

A possible solution to the estimator crisis comes from the business software sector.

“The old way of using spreadsheets to calculate accurate estimates nowadays,” says Heinrich van der Vyver, “is the same as using a hand drill on a construction site. It’s slow, outdated, and prone to errors. The days of spreadsheets and manual calculations are over.”

Estimating software is not new to the South African construction industry, however, the level of efficiency the next generation of estimating software now brings to the table is making industry leaders sit up and take notice. “Estimating software is not meant to replace the estimator,” says Heinrich, “but rather to make estimating faster, more accurate and more streamlined. Better yet, in sectors such as printing, packaging and manufacturing, a less experienced – and less expensive – resource can now be upskilled in order to produce accurate estimates, without the hefty estimator salary bill at the end of the month.”

What to Look for in Estimating Software

There are a fair number of software solutions available across all sectors that promise painless, speedy estimating. The best way to decide what the best fit for your business is, is to understand what your business needs are:

  1. Available Anywhere: Cloud based technology means your estimating software can be out of the office and with you on site, at home, or on holiday. We like QuickEasy Software for this. You can estimate from anywhere in the world, from any device, as long as it is connected to the internet.
  2. Smart: You’re looking for effective costbook management solution as well as accurate estimates based on existing resources. You want something to manage your contracts and existing orders, as well as give you complete transparency over job tracking and project tasks. 
  3. Integrated: Considering that your estimator needs to produce reports, analyse stock levels, costs and as well as labour, it only makes sense that your estimating software be fully integrated into the entire business operations for robust service delivery. This whittles the field down considerably, leaving locally developed, fully integrated estimating and business software QuickEasy, that offers CRM, sales, estimating, operations, accounts and reports all in one system.
  4. Support: After dealing with the stress and disruption of installing new software and training yourself and your team on how to use it, poor after sales support can be a deal-breaker. Find a software supplier that promises great help desk support, and is open during your office hours. 

At a time where there is high demand for estimators, growth in construction activity and rising material and labour prices, powerful estimating software is the best tool any builder or developer can have in their organisational utility belt.

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