Message Board Thread - "Help with estimating?"

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Help with estimating? Scott Willits 8/23/2004
While of course I'm aware that no two situations are alike and thus there can be no hard and fast rule of thumb for estimating the time it takes to do a competent and thorough IR inspection of any facility, I'm wondering if there exists somewhere out there at least a flow chart or outline guide that allows you to hang your hat on an estimate range before you've actually executed the job.

For instance, I'm going to bid on a creamery that runs 24/5, generally with between 35 and 40 people on the line at any given time. They have peak loads around 2 MW, with baseline a little under half that. They estimate about 5000 hp total motor loads, with a couple of 500 units, two or three 200's, several 100's, a handful of 20 to 50's, and more 5 to 10 hp motors than they can keep track of. Production is variable across several different lines (milk, cheese, ice cream, etc.).

Again, I know it's not like opening up an auto mechanic's guidebook, which tells him he should estimate 3.45 hours for a serpentine timing belt on a particular make and model car -- but does knowing the parameters above, along with perhaps net floor area and a rough layout of MCC locations, allow for at least a ballpark "standard" hour estimate if we make enough assumptions?

I haven't run across anything like it in all my research, but I figure just about every independent thermographer on the street must run into the problem on a daily basis. Do people even share this kind of info in the interest of promoting thermography, or is it all played close to the vest in the interest of competition?

Thanks in advance for any responses.
Re:Help with estimating? IRJay 8/24/2004
I had written complete estimating software guide for Electrical Predictive and preventative maintenance tasking. Unfortunately I do not have the funding to redevelop this into a saleale product. Anyway, most groups do hold these numbers very close as in most cases this is thier only sale advantage. I find that over time you should be able to develope your own labor units for the work most common to your market. When I was estimating and budgeting for my customers some "rule of thumb" numbers became quite important for these discussions. I would generally apply some time to do the actually shoot like 3-5 minutes per item but then add if needed another 2-5 minutes to remove the covers or doors. Also, holding a number to prepare reports per item of 1-3 minutes plus the safety clothing or PPE preparation needed or another 1-3 minutes. Now if other work is being performed the obvious additional time must be factored in. Our group also did other tasks which could raise the total per item to 20-25 minutes.
Now after I would add up each time factor to get an overall total. A reality check from experience is reviewed plus a competitive review must be applied which can adjust the total overall.
DOing the work and keeping records of every job (job costing) will then lend those totals to come up with your own labor units that work for you.

Re:Help with estimating? Gary Orlove 8/24/2004
I did much the same type of thing as Jay mentioned on roofs. I kept careful records of how many hours I spent inspecting and preparing reports vs the square footage, number of levels, and type of roof. Then I drew a graph with the data. I found after a few jobs that I was able to estimate new jobs very closely to within a couple of hours.

This not only helps with your bid process, but is incredibly useful for planning your project times.

Gary Orlove
Infrared Training Center
Well, thanks anyway Scott Willits 8/25/2004
That's pretty much the answer I expected. As in everything with life, experience is the answer. For the time being, I'm backpedaling a lot, asking my client's indulgence when I can't give firm estimates, and trying to frame bids in bite-size chunks. Let's do this little piece first and evaluate the results before moving through your whole facility. Doing it this way helps break down barriers where I don't have a long track record in the community to begin with, but I sure do look forward to earning that track record and gaining enough experience to make the bidding process more fluid.

One other thing I'm trying to alleviate this situation in the long run is working with our local university to establish workshops for local industry leaders to help them figure out how to access and adopt best practices that often elude rural regions like ours. It will be an incredible promotional tool if we can get these off the ground this fall.

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