An award-winning ENR top 400 contractor and top 100 Design-Builder, The Korte Company helped pioneer the design-build construction method and was an early adopter of BIM estimating technology. Since 2015, Korte has used DESTINI Profiler’s 5D modeling and estimating capabilities to conceptualize and estimate projects in the early preconstruction phase. In 2017, Korte decided to take the next step toward streamlined, collaborative estimating by implementing DESTINI Estimator as its nationwide estimating platform.
“As a truly integrated design-build firm, we need to take advantage of the 3D modeling that our design department generates. With DESTINI Estimator, I think we will see increased utilization of the information that we have today in our design department, as well as a more efficient takeoff and estimate setup method,” says Korte Chief Operating Officer Jason Mantle. “One of our business requirements was to gain a support system that would listen, change, and grow with us, providing the product that will make us the most efficient we can be as technologies and systems change.”
A Collaborative Approach
One of the primary deciding factors for Korte’s software choice was the innovative, collaborative implementation support from Beck Technology, which helped Korte ensure a seamless rollout and maximize use of Estimator’s extensive capabilities. At the heart of Beck Technology’s fully transparent implementation planning was a detailed scope of work and “smart” schedule, provided at no cost before the software agreement was signed.
“Beck Technology’s approach to implementation was one of our major deciding factors in choosing DESTINI Estimator,” says Korte Senior Estimator Brian Marks. “It’s been a great process and a good partnership so far.”
One key difference with Beck Technology is that the company provides a set scope of hands-on implementation support for a guaranteed maximum price, rather than charging for support on an hourly time-and-materials basis.
“Most software vendors do not create an implementation plan for a company,” says Beck Technology Manager of Professional Services Doug Maiden. “They sell boxes of software and say, ‘Good luck,’ then it’s a la carte for training and support. That’s like buying a car and not thinking about the cost of oil, tires, and gas. Support and training are part of the total cost of implementation. We don’t want clients to get blindsided, so we’re up-front about the total expected cost to get Estimator implemented and operating with their system.”
Beck Technology is able to offer its all-inclusive implementation support thanks to its careful implementation planning, which is built on real-world expectations and factors that are unique to each client’s business and workflow.
“We really like the lump sum approach and the fact that the Beck Technology team came to our office twice and flew me down to Dallas once for hands-on training with the software,” Marks says. “We had a high comfort level with the fact that Beck Technology provides a collaborative approach to building our custom database, as opposed to trying to shoehorn in someone else’s. If we’d had time-and-materials support from another provider, costs could easily have gotten way out of control.”
Step by Step
The first step of the implementation process was to create a single, nationwide cost database within DESTINI Data Manager, the central data management application that supports both DESTINI Profiler and DESTINI Estimator and provides a single database platform for both conceptual and detailed estimating. This shared database enables DESTINI Profiler outputs to be opened in DESTINI Estimator, so that 3D modeling from the design department can seamlessly form the basis of the downstream estimating process.
As the database is being built, Marks and Maiden are transitioning Korte from its prior standard of 16 construction divisions to the newer MasterFormat standard of 48 divisions. These MasterFormat standards are used industrywide to format specifications for construction contract documents.
“We feel like it’s a good time to align with what the industry is doing, from a coding standpoint,” Marks says. “This will make it easier for newly hired estimators and estimators coming out of college to work in a database that coincides with specifications we see from architects and engineers.”
The end goal: To create a single master database with consistent pricing nationwide, to which regional factors can be applied as needed. Although cost data needed to come from five different offices, Marks serves as the single point of contact to bring it all together, with hands-on support from Maiden.
“A lot of the front-end work involves putting line items into new buckets and assessing our accounting codes,” Marks explains. “Doug has provided valuable support, making drop-downs available in our Excel worksheets so that I can quickly assess line items and uploading everything for us into Data Manager.”
At the same time, Maiden works to scrub the data and integrate it into Estimator, submitting it for review and making adjustments along the way.
“It’s a phased approach,” Maiden notes. “The first phase is data mining and unification of data, so it’s prepared and consumable by all end users once we are ready to go live. Korte has a lot of intellectual property that helps them win work, and it’s my job to understand that data, sanitize it, and set it up for Estimator; prune out any legacy data that’s no longer relevant; and give it all back to them so they can test drive it and have a seamless transition.”
Because implementation is running ahead of schedule, Marks and Maiden will have more time to build out rate tables and assemblies in Data Manager, giving Korte’s estimators the ability to more quickly build accurate, consistent estimates based on real-world costs.
“With Estimator, we can create a database that has a lot of line items and assemblies that are exactly the way everyone is used to seeing them, just with a different interface,” Marks notes. “That will help our estimators during implementation, since they will be still be working with the same size database they are used to, and they won’t be bombarded with a massive new database. We are checking that box right out of the gate with this approach, so we should get better buy-in from the estimating group.”
Once the database is complete, Marks will become one of three primary points of contact supporting Korte’s 20 nationwide estimators as they go through training in Fall 2017 and transition to full-time use of the new estimating platform. By November 2017, Marks says, the entire estimating team will be using Estimator to estimate all new projects.
Once Estimator becomes the nationwide standard at Korte, Marks expects to explore use of historical data, periodically update the database based on specific line item trends, and expand the database with additional line items on demand.
“Estimator will allow us to pull out similar projects and run comparison reports, so it will be faster to spot trends and improve early budgeting for projects,” Marks says. “It’s going to be a lot easier than running accounting reports and doing manual calculations.”
During the implementation phase, Maiden and Marks check in on a weekly basis, sharing their screens and working through a shared file site to access each other’s data. Maiden is also on call to answer Marks’ questions as needed, and he documents details about every conversation for online reference.
“It’s been great having a good outline of how we will implement Estimator for our group,” Marks says. “We have a solid plan to get all the estimators through initial training, and a good program to onboard new users going forward. I can’t wait to start using it every day, and the rest of the group will definitely see the benefits because it will make them better at their jobs as well.”
To hear more from Korte on this project, please read their blog, Project Estimating Just Became More Seamless.