Robert Salisbury, a registered professional engineer in Texas, and president of C-AIR-S Mechanical since 1988, has developed three new Windows-based estimating programs specifically targeted to the small to medium sized mechanical or sheet metal contractor. Salisbury originally developed this software for his own start up company because he couldn't find anything that was in his price range that was both accurate and easy to use. With 25 years in the business he feels that he knows what contractors need.

"Contracting," according to Salisbury, "is a part of the old economy and although many contractors have embraced the high tech world of computers and the internet many companies particular those with annual sales less than $1 million use their PCs strictly for accounting and word processing."

Those with a little more computer background, he said, may use a spreadsheet to help them with their estimating but the vast majority of small companies are still performing all calculations by hand. The duct perimeter is determined and then multiplied by the length and by the weight per sq. ft.(which comes from a chart and varies depending on the duct size and pressure class).

Do this several hundred times, he says, and what a computer can perform in seconds takes hours of manual calculations. Estimating prices for piping materials can be stored in the data base eliminating the requirement to price the material for every job and again the computer calculations take only seconds to provide both a material and a labor estimate. The time to perform the takeoff remains the same as a digitizer has not been incorporated into these programs.

Keeping it simple is a fetish with Salisbury, who feels that many programs are difficult to use and too detailed. "I don't care if a fitting is an offset, transition or reducer; in the bigger scheme of things they all cost the same. Nor do I care about the size on both ends of a fitting, only the larger one matters. Our sheet metal input screen has straight duct, fittings and elbows. With piping I don't care if a weld reducer is 6x4 or 6x3; it just doesn't make that much difference. Because of our 'keep it simple' attitude you won't need a training class with our programs but if a customer has questions, telephone and e-mail support is available."

According to Salisbury, Pro-Est was developed for C-AIR-S Mechanical; they needed a comprehensive, affordable and user friendly program and were unhappy with the simple spreadsheet program that we had and programs with digitizers were financially beyond our means.

"We quickly came to the conclusion," Salisbury said, "that we needed to develop our own program which is what we have been doing; somewhere along the way we decided that we liked the program so much that we wanted to put it on the market. We are a mid size hvac contractor that does it's own piping and sheet metal installation; however, we purchase our sheet metal from a fabricator. We initially wrote the program without the ability to calculate shop labor because we didn't have a shop. To effectively market the program we added a version that included shop calculations and subsequently added a third version. All three versions calculate the pounds of sheet metal using the same formulas but differ in the inclusion of shop calculations and the methods for calculating field labor."

In addition to calculating sheet metal, the program also calculates miscellaneous items needed for a complete estimate such as duct sealer, Duct Mate, reinforcement, liner, wrap, fire damper angle and much more. Items that many contractors guess at such as duct sealer are easily calculated in the program. In addition the pipe and sheet metal estimates can be exported into a customizable excel spreadsheet which includes cells for costs such as equipment and other material, subcontracts, permits, bonds, sales tax, and overhead and profit. The end result is a complete bid price which is accurate, fast and simple.

In developing this program Salisbury said he realized that no two companies estimate in the same manner and that trying to convince someone to estimate by the piece who has always estimated by the pound doesn't work which is why he has multiple versions of his complete program, Pro-Est HVAC. Some options do not include shop labor for those who purchase their material from a fabricator and options for field labor include productivity in lbs/hr or in linear ft. of duct/hr. Future versions are planned with both shop and field labor estimated by the piece.

Pipe-Pro is the pipe estimating program separated from Pro-Est HVAC for those interested only in piping. DuctLite is a program for those who have their own unique procedure for estimating material and labor cost but want a simple program that will calculate only material quantities.

Because no two companies do things in exactly the same manner Salisbury said he has attempted to make the program flexible. Your company's shop standards can be incorporated by pressure class; this includes both sheetmetal gauges and reinforcement schedules. Reinforcements are customizable including the description, $/ft and wt./ft. A typical reinforcement schedule has already been incorporated into the program. Duct Mate connectors are also an option. The material output will be presented not only in terms of material cost in dollars but you will also know such things as lbs and sq. ft. of duct by gauge and linear feet of duct by width (within ranges). The program also allows for multiple options on duct liner, wrap and sealer. In addition it calculates fire damper angle, duct sealer, turning vanes, reinforcement and allows for direct input of items that it cannot calculate. Through the use of special factors you also have great flexibility in modifying standard pricing and productivity on a per job basis.

The most recent enhancement to the program is welded duct which works for gauges from 20 to 1/4 inch plate and will handle round as well as square duct and uses three material types, black iron, and 304 and 316 stainless.

For additional information call 713-462-5232 or 888-477-7462 and ask for Bob Salisbury or Stan Carter, fax 713-934-0269 or e-mail rlsalisbury@c-air-s.com.