Six Questions to Ask Before Buying Earthwork Takeoff Software

Mon May 24, 2021 - National Edition
InSite Software

Earthwork software is a great way to produce more accurate and profitable takeoffs. Accurate takeoffs give you the confidence to create estimates that reflect actual costs and expected revenue on a project. The difference between onscreen takeoffs versus manual methods becomes apparent when comparing accuracy, time and result validation.

Earthwork takeoff software imports either PDF or CAD files to calculate quantities, such as cut and fill, stripping, strata quantities, paving and concrete materials, topsoil re-spread, areas, lengths, trench excavation and backfill. It is far more convenient than using a digitizer and more accurate. The software also saves on the cost and inconvenience of printing or purchasing plans.

Before you invest in an earthwork takeoff program, you must consider the following:

1. Do you have the right hardware requirements?

There is often a straightforward answer to this, although you may need help understanding terminology. Earthwork software companies publish information about minimum requirements and the digital formats supported such as CAD, vector, PDF, etc. Learn what computer system you have and then compare it to the software's requirements spec sheet. If your hardware and/or software does not meet the minimum requirements, you may need to invest in a new computer.

2. How does the software calculate quantities?

When it comes to creating takeoffs, accuracy is the most important quality, and companies use one of several different methods for calculating quantities with varied results.

  • Average method
  • Block Method
  • Section Method
  • Triangulation Method

Triangulation has proven to be the most accurate method for surface generation and gives the most precise site representation and site work quantities. This method also has established itself the favorite for software applications such as Autodesk Civil 3D, Bentley MicroStation. Machine control systems also rely on triangulation, including Cat, Komatsu, Leica, Topcon and Trimble.

It also is the method used by InSite Software, who were the leaders in the adoption of triangulation for volume calculation since 1997.

3. Does the software have the features you need?

Think of the types of projects on which you bid the most often. What sorts of quantities will you be calculating? Cut and fill? Stripping? Soil borings? Grades? Concrete? Demolition debris? Equally important are the types of reports and graphic validation needed to support your numbers.

InSite Software produces graphical construction layouts to validate cost estimates and provides visual imagery to quantify the work necessary to create a project.

Other InSite Software features include:

  • Multi-monitor display support with coordinated cursors
  • Line selection of contours for vector PDFs
  • Cut quantities by strata
  • Topsoil replacement
  • Dynamic Site Balancer
  • Terrain-link trenches
  • Exclusive 3-D live updates

4. Can I grow with the software?

One size does not fit all. The software you choose should meet your business where it is at today and where you want to be in the future.

InSite Software provides two versions of its software. SiteWork is a full feature option and is an excellent fit for most companies who bid on medium to large scale projects and may need to create 3D models. However, some companies do not need a full-featured version. For those companies, InSite Software offers Elevation Lite. Its features are tailored to companies who only need select features; for example, landscapers often need cut and fill, topsoil replacement, and a few other features but not the full capacity of SiteWork.

5. How easy is it to use?

That which is difficult to use does not get used. People are programmed that way. The easier something is to use, the more quickly it will become a tool to be consistently relied on.

When evaluating earthwork software ask yourself these questions: Can the software easily read documents from other sources? Are the reports easy to understand? Can you print crisps graphics to validate your results?

6. How much training and support does the software company provide?

Ease of use brings us to the next point. Training and support. Will the earthwork software company treat you like a partner or a customer?

A lot of companies offer a pre-taped training video and other product information to help get you started. Some companies provide live online or in-person (COVID-permitting) training sessions. Training is critical so you can get the most out of the software.

Too many companies are content to get the bare minimum out of the technology they invested valuable time and money to purchase. It's like buying an excavator and deciding to only ever attach a bucket to it. This type of thinking limits the amount of productivity you can get from the machine.

Once you know which questions you need to ask, you are ready to consult with an earthwork takeoff software provider and set up a live demo.

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