Each year, JBKnowledge uses its ConTech Report to dive into how construction businesses are using tech tools to complete day-to-day workflows. The report’s goal is to look at how all tech is used to minimize risk and maximize efficiency—including spreadsheets. 

 As usual, the 2019 ConTech Report took a deep dive into workflows to determine whether new technology is gaining—or losing—traction in the construction industry. What they found is that the same occupations—estimators, accountants, project and bid management participants—are still using spreadsheets and manual entry. 

Interestingly, the overall number of contractors relying on spreadsheets for various workflows dropped by 1% in 2019. However, the report found the number of those using spreadsheets as part of their estimating workflow increased to 64.9% in 2019 from 63.2% in 2018. They also noted that spreadsheet usage for accounting increased to 53.6% from 51%; project management fell to 44% from 45.6%; and bid management fell to 38.7% from 39.7%. 


Manual Errors Can Add Up 

Let’s face it, keeping pace with change orders and addendums using manual processes is difficult. If you’re keying data into Excel and cutting and pasting across spreadsheets, you’re also more likely to miscalculate labor and materials, which could prove costly. 

 Not to mention, experts say nearly 94% of spreadsheets contain errors—plus there is the issue of version control. With digital drawings uploaded into applications, an estimator can see that every door and window has been counted and the materials quantified. 

 Even though the benefits of digital takeoff and estimating are well known, many cost estimators must build a business case for switching to digital tools. They will need to show why their companies should move away from doing takeoffs and estimates with tech tools that don’t integrate or even worse—relying on paper and pen. 

 Using digital tools like PlanSwift can make a night-and-day difference when trying to keep bids and drawings organized. Being able to make last-minute changes on the fly and complete a new estimate in a matter of minutes can be a game-changer for many in the construction business. 


Spreadsheets Lack Version Control 

 With most jobs running 80% over budget and 20% over schedule, it is unclear why spreadsheets are such a ubiquitous part of the construction culture. Whatever the reason, most would agree that duplicate work is a risky proposition in terms of accuracy and efficiency.  

Having to triple-check your work to make sure all spreadsheet formulas are correct can be inefficient and not very sustainable.  

 As to productivity and profitability, a business could end up winning the low bid and losing money if labor and materials are miscalculated. Don’t forget that spreadsheets offer no version control, which can result in substantial re-work. While spreadsheets may have the lowest bar for ease-of-use, they also make it more difficult to consolidate data input. 


Make the Leap to Digital Tools 

 Even while many in the field embrace everything from drones to wearable tech, cost estimators back in the office are often saddled with a mix of manual and digital workflows. Spreadsheets may be a step up from paper and colored pencils, but they do not reflect the latest and greatest tech tools available. 

 As a result, manual estimates based on old data, unclear notes, and keystroke errors are not adding up to profitable projects. To avoid bidding too low or too high, many contractors use tools like PlanSwift. If you’re ready to reduce your dependency on error-prone spreadsheets, sign up now for a 14-day, risk-free trial. 


Go ahead and request a free PlanSwift trial now. 


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