Contract Estimator is a software tool for collating and calculating the cost of a contract and for progressing contracts through from conception to completion. It is a generalised tool that is not specific to any one industry and in theory could be applied to anything although its roots are in the partitioning and furniture industries.
Some elements apply specifically to contract furniture/office partitioning contracts for example furniture belongs in a room or area and walls are an element of office partitioning. Whilst an office partitioning project may have rooms or areas and walls, a contract furniture job will not have walls (unless there is an interior design element).
All jobs will have items and assemblies and these are the core of the system.
An item is the smallest element and is usually a bought in item. An assembly is any collection of items or other assemblies. If we take as an example a simple box – a cube of timber – there are many ways this can be approached dependent on how the box is derived.
- If you buy the box in ready made it is an item.
- If you buy the box as a self assembly pack, the finished product is an assembly because you have had to add a labour item thus the assembly comprises the pack item and a labour item.
- If your finished box is made from blockboard for example, and you buy the blockboard, glue and screws then the finished box is an assembly and the items are:
- The blockboard
- The screws
- The glue
- The machining
- The assembly labour
The possibilities are endless depending on how complex you want them to be! You could also in the case of the boxes simply say that the box is an item. You make boxes and these are already costed and from a contract point of view they are a single unit.
Again looking at the assembly concept a ‘room’ is actually an assembly, just as a floor is an assembly of ‘rooms’. If you were dealing with a contract for hotel furniture for example, and all your furniture is bought in product then your base unit – your item – could be a ‘single bedded room’, or it could be the individual elements, bed, bedside lockers, chairs etc that go to make up a ‘single bedded room assembly’. If your furniture is custom made then you can make up a single bedded room, or a ‘Room 1234’ which is a single bedded room designated by it’s number and which comprises many different items and assemblies right down if need be to individual screws.
You need to find a balance between simplicity and speed offset against flexibility.
Unless you have gone for the whole room approach the main database will not contain rooms for example. When you create the contract database the rooms can be created from items and assemblies in the main database. When an item or assembly is added to the contract database it inherits all the properties of the original item plus some additional attributes for identity/asset tracking, installation dates etc.
So now you have the concept of items and assemblies we look at the way this works in the software. The ‘contractMain’ database is the primary database. In this is held all the information needed to create a contract. First we need to understand the difference between a quotation and an estimate.
A quotation, sometimes called a fixed estimate, is an agreement when accepted to do a job for a specified price the details of which should have been clearly set out beforehand. A quotation can only be varied by the ‘customer’, or by the ‘contractor’ where they could not reasonably have known that certain work would be needed before the job was commenced. Clearly there has to be agreement by both parties to amend the contract in this event. Some sites will say that a quotation is immutable. This is not always the case.
An estimate is the best anticipated price by ‘contractor’, often called in the trades a ‘quessitmate’ or a ‘ballpark figure‘ since often that is what it is. It is not an offer to do the job for the price given, however anything wildly out from the original price may be subject to scrutiny.
Generally DAS Contract Estimator actually provides quotations rather than estimates. It for this reason that when a contract is initialised a separate area in the database is created to hold the contract details. Once an item or assembly is added to the contract it’s values are fixed to that contract. If the price of the item or assembly changes in the main database it will not change in the contract. In the contract it has to be manually refreshed from the main database or manually altered.
When a contract has been commenced and a quotation accepted the quantities and prices are frozen in the contract database and refreshing is no longer permitted unless by agreement with the customer.
Only a Project Director/Administrator level pair of users can freeze a contract on quotation acceptance, or unfreeze a contract for alterations. Neither a Project Director or Administrator can single-handedly perform these functions.
DAS Contract Estimator will handle all paperwork aspects of the contract and can report of the current state of the contract at any time.
A hierarchy of user levels exists from a ‘user’ with few privileges to an ‘administrator’ with full privileges (bar that combined one above). An estimator can amend prices within a contract for example but cannot amend the prices in the main database. A purchaser can amend prices in the main database but not in a contract. Some user attributes such as those examples above can be combined so that in a smaller organisation a purchaser enabled user can also be an estimator enabled user.