I have been a woodworker for 25 years and would love to modify my career switching to estimating. I've had my own shop design/building custom furniture, millwork, cabinets for residential clients. I have essentially no experience in commercial work. I have been reading used text books and studying on the web for a few months learning all I can, and have experience over the years of working up Excel sheets for my needs. Although all my jobs are more or less one of a kind and typically challenging technically (a few pics attached show this). Can you give suggestions in how I might proceed with this goal?
For large commercial companies, the estimator is nearly the most critical staff member they have. Hopefully you are in a position to accept a starting position with an appropriate wage based on experience. You may have to start in a CAD position to get to the estimator path. My suggestion would be to set a meeting with HR in a big company and discover their requirements for the position you desire. You could also contact the Architectural Woodwork Institute and ask for guidance there.
In my experience (AWI), commercial estimators become Project Managers and are the whipping boys of the business. If they do well, they are whipped to keep it up. If they do poorly on a job, they are whipped as punishment. Could just be my experience, but estimating alone is better than being a project manager. Better shops avoid the whip, though.
A good estimator is like gold. When my 10 man shop was imploding in 2008, I had several offers of partnership with competitors. Quite a compliment. Until I realized they all wanted one thing - my estimating process. Software, excel sheet, dice, whatever it was, they wanted it. My company had stood alone, prevailed against larger competitors, made a profit and grew at least 10% every year. That meant good estimating.
No so sure I'd want to be an estimator. I'll assume that job would also be the person putting together the bid package. No longer an estimate but a fixed price. Seems like you would need to be very familiar with the methods, machines, etc. to get a good $#, or if all those #s have been put into the bid program then you are just counting door knobs.
AWI does estimating seminars, check with them its good basic training for labor and materials based estimating.
Unit based pricing should be developed from labor and materials IMO.
Unit based pricing doesn't always scale well.
Some Key skills for a commercial estimator.
1) identify conflicts in drawings, specs, finishes, scope and get written clarifications (RFI/RFC)
2) Check lead times of specialty items.
3) Identify unusual costs, security, training, hiring requirements for city or project
4) whats it take to get it in the building?
5) costs based on where you have to park/ when you can load.
6) what risks are you taking, how are you accounting for it in the bid? (liquidated damages, accelerated schedule, long warranty, details that may fail that they won't change.)
7) how does the customer want the bid broken out (alternates, format).
8) Whats the change order policy for the project?
Then you need to be able to identify and cost the scope.
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