December 2019

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How Estimating is Like a Relay Race

Just like there are four runners in a relay race, there are four core functions of a BAS:

Hector Hernandez

Hector Hernandez

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Team sports such as relay races are great analogies for business processes like building automation system estimating. Just like there are four runners in a relay race, there are four core functions of a BAS:

  1. Estimating for determining the materials, equipment, and labor needed for a particular project.
  2. Control engineering using sensors and detectors to measure output performance.
  3. Commissioning, the process of calibrating devices, testing control sequences, among other steps. It may involve new construction commissioning, re-commissioning, retro-commissioning, or monitoring-based commissioning.
  4. Verification that the system does what it’s designed to do.

Your estimator is the first runner who is charged with setting up the system used by subsequent staff so they can complete their tasks accurately and efficiently. Because an accurate estimation is vital to a cost-effective and efficient process throughout the life of a project, the estimator must understand the project’s objectives, determine what is and is not included in each cost number, and ensure the commissioning is adequately reflected in the submittal package.

Passing the Estimating Baton

In relay running, it doesn’t matter how fast or how well your second, third, and fourth runners race if the lead runner isn’t world-class. It is the estimator’s job to look at the bigger picture. And when it’s time to pass the baton, the hand-over requires accuracy and precise communication.

Failure to consider every key element before passing the baton means an estimator may miss critical components and make estimating errors that have a costly domino effect on the entire project. For example, if a part number is similar to another and the wrong one is placed in the estimate, it could substantially increase (or decrease) the estimation. A commitment to accuracy and verification is the sign of a good estimator.

The baton handoff is often a point of failure for teams in a relay race, and poor handovers frequently disqualify teams in world championships. In the same way, good estimators must focus on the details, before handing over the project and be process-driven and have experience assessing risk.

How to Run Estimating Like a Relay Team

In a relay, the team succeeds only if each individual runner succeeds. Likewise, a project isn’t successful if nine out of ten contractors are on-time and on-budget while the final one finishes six months late and $2 million over budget due to estimating miscalculations.

Estimating has traditionally been performed with spreadsheets and patchwork systems that require a high level of skill. The complexity of the process also presents numerous opportunities for errors, particularly with regards to pricing.

BAS estimating software offers a number of advantages over conventional approaches, including increased accuracy and decreased production time. Data is delivered in real-time, so parts are always updated and information is coordinated in a more relational, interactive way. The result? An estimating process with a good start and smooth handovers that ensure a successful final project.


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