Marcus Jefford of Build Aviator explains how some of the supply challenges faced by housebuilders and developers as a result of Covid can be relieved with the help of intelligent estimating software.
The coronavirus has had a profound effect on every aspect of our daily lives, and unfortunately, housebuilding hasn’t been spared. The number of starts on site dropped an eye-watering 52 per cent between April and June 2020 versus the previous quarter (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) and likewise, the number of completions fell by a massive 62 per cent.
While confusion on whether construction workers were able to be on site – and latterly, the challenges of social distanced working – have undoubtedly contributed to these figures, supply and demand has also disrupted our industry enormously.
The construction supply chain was particularly hard hit. Some building product manufacturers closed during our initial seven-week lockdown or faced port restrictions leading to a lack of raw materials. When you then add in the challenges of adapting to social distancing, you can see why the Manufacturers’ Organisation predicted it won’t be until 2022 before companies are back to pre- Covid form.
So, where does that leave construction in the meantime? While initially, it was doom and gloom for our industry, as summer 2020 came we started to see green shoots. Quotes and conversions of quotes increased, and there was, broadly, a sense of optimism.
While this rebound was just what our industry needed, the days of always being able to get the materials or subcontractors you need at the drop of a hat are now few and far between.
While some in the construction industry have found ways around product availability with clandestine WhatsApp groups for bricks, blocks and plaster, this approach isn’t sustainable. Instead, estimating software could hold the key to many of the challenges we now face as we recover from the pandemic by, amongst other things, enabling better forward planning.
The better estimating software available can help with product availability by integrating with merchant software, giving a truer picture of lead times, and flagging potential supply issues even before the start of a project.
What’s more, as robust estimating reports also include a schedule of works, you can easily see when you’ll need harder-to-source materials and how much you’ll need, too. This means you can work with your merchant to make sure it’s ordered well in advance and there ready and waiting when you need it.
But of course, there’s always a time when something you’ve specified just isn’t available. In these instances, estimating software can help too.
Some comparison tools created by construction software providers can show the difference between an original estimate and an amended one, as well as highlight changes that may impact on safety, performance and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs).
Removing the need to go through a quote line by line and side by side, these tools can save you lots of hassle, help you develop better quality buildings, and make it easier for you to understand why the price of an estimate has changed.
Beyond materials, estimating tools can also help with labour, with the complementary schedule of works giving you a better idea of when you’ll need to find an electrician, a plumber or a plasterer, rather than only knowing a few days before.
MANAGE YOUR BUSINESS
As well as helping housebuilders and developers to overcome product and people shortages, estimating software can be instrumental in establishing good practice in your business.
By working with an estimating software provider rather than using ‘guesstimates’ for your quotes, you can ensure you save valuable time and achieve a more accurate and detailed figure. Simple omissions like plant hire or miscalculations of material volume can be the difference between profit and loss, a satisfied customer or a complaint, and a night off rather than a night spent number-crunching.
Market leading software providers can help housebuilders and developers by providing real life support to complement digital services. Experienced estimators, for example, work in tandem with developers to go through a job, asking questions and making suggestions to make sure an accurate quote is produced as seamlessly as possible.
Recovery from a global pandemic is never going to be easy, but by using estimating services, you can ensure projects are built better, faster and more profitably. This is certainly a big step in the right direction.
Marcus Jefford is managing director of Build Aviator