WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A GREAT ESTIMATOR
After 30 years of producing great estimating and project management software, Pronamics is well-positioned to know many experienced and successful estimators. This year, we are taking the opportunity to interview some of them, and get their thoughts and wisdom around this unique and challenging field.
Today’s featured estimator is Phil Bird.
PHIL BIRD – Estimator extraordinaire
Phil Bird witnessed the birth of Expert Estimation and held its hand for its first, tottering DOS steps. At the time he was sitting next to Pronamics’ founder, Glen Townsley, working in the estimating department. He watched estimating go from paper to PC and then take off around Australia.
Originally from a civil engineering background, Phil has been a Chief Estimator and Estimating Manager for various major companies in the past 20 years. He is as expert as they come, and with such an impressive resume, he’s got a thing or two to say.
Is estimating a good job/career?
Yes, it has been for me. I’m always developing the strategies we need to win a bid while still leaving room for delivery teams to make a profit on the job. Civil estimating is unique—it’s not as repetitive as other estimating can be, and I’ve always enjoyed the intellectual challenge.
What makes a good estimator?
A good civil estimator needs to have a practical mind. You live in a world of numbers, but you need to be able to envision the reality of what will be built.
A solid estimate needs to show a real understanding of the capability of all plant required and how all the various elements in the crew will work together. For instance, the estimator needs to appreciate what the likely impact will be on costs as a result of the terrain or location we are working in. What can each piece of plant such as the excavators achieve on a slope, on softer ground, digging through different types of soil—all of this can have a massive impact on the costs of delivering a project.
Any advice for younger estimators?
Hands on experience really is vital for good civil estimating. Get some experience out in the field and learn, firsthand, what factors impact your costs and what plant and people can really do and achieve. At the same time, I think it’s equally important for young site engineers to take a spell at estimating—the exchange goes both ways and benefits both.
I started estimating in late 80s with BMD—I went from design to estimating, then moved to project management which was important in gaining that practical experience. I’ve moved through a few companies and understand that on site you can get caught up doing the doing, delivering the construction itself.
Working for a while as an estimator a site engineer will learn what considerations and thought sit behind project budgets they are given and will develop a good understanding of the contractual conditions that underpin the relationship with your clients. A spell in estimating gives project engineers some great skills that will help them deliver profitable projects.
Phil Bird is now the Estimating Manager at Estimating and Construction Support (ECS) in Brisbane, Queensland. ECS are renowned for their expertise in helping clients large and small bid for tenders, plan projects and manage risk in a variety of different industries.
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