“I’ve been doing more takeoffs than LaGuardia!” joked CBUSA’s Director of Estimating Greg Miller when asked to describe how the organization’s Takeoff Service has grown over the past 14 months when we last checked in with him on the program’s progress. Since August 2016, Miller – who brings more than 25 years of industry experience with both builders and suppliers, as well as a Masters degree in construction management – has worked diligently to establish the service as one of the organization’s most valuable member options.
"It's amazing how much Greg has grown and accomplished with the Takeoff Service, which has been a great asset to the builders who have worked with him over the past three years," commented CBUSA COO Brian Pavlick. “It's more proof that CBUSA can offer additional services to our Member Builders that help them save time and money."
As the program has expanded to more markets, Miller is turning his focus and attention to honing the tools and templates based on experience with the roll-out. "There will always be incremental improvements and learning's that can be included in the process, so we want to make sure we have the ability to capture and incorporate those."
“My goal all along has been to develop the service so it works for every CBUSA Member Builder who needs it,” Miller explained. “At this point, my goal is to learn from the takeoffs I’ve done so far and look for ways to make it stronger and market it to more of our regions. I’ve been using measurement and metric building to figure out the best way to accomplish that. So far, what’s been working best is an organic approach of establishing models and then looking at how I can tweak them so they’ll work as we expand the service into other markets. I want to develop something that is both scalable on a larger level but also allows me to work better, smarter and faster.”
One aspect of Miller’s approach has been to conduct “beta testing” with Member Builders in markets who have chosen to use the service for the first time. Working in close collaboration with those builders has helped him learn the nuances of the market and build a custom template to serve all the builders in the region.
“Each market has its own set of idiosyncrasies,” Miller said. “So rather than having the first builder in a new region who requests a takeoff simply complete an intake request, I use it as an opportunity to work with them directly to help the process get smoother and faster moving forward. I set up a review process where I send them a preliminary estimate and then have them redline it and send it back to me. Then I build a template to use for other builders in the region moving forward. It’s more of a team approach than a simple outsource where I send back a product that everyone expects will work the way they need it. It takes a bit more time, but that way I can make sure I get it just right.
Garner Homes, located 30 miles northwest of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country, is just one of the CBUSA Member Builders who have benefitted from Miller’s collaborative process.
“Greg was happy to work with us to create accurate templates that reflect our needs as we have changed our specifications on materials,” said Garner Homes’ office manager Natalie Johnson. “The ability to order our lumber packages directly from the CBUSA web platform as part of the Takeoff Service has been a huge time saver for our staff.”
Adding new export products and reports to the service – including a cutlist report with an “intended usage” feature and export formats including PlanSwift and Excel – has helped Miller provide builders with reports that work for their specific needs.
“These export products allow for better detective work in cases where product specs may have been misaligned,” Miller said. “They also allow builders to develop the takeoff further to cover other aspects of the job.”
He’s also been improving the report format to make it as customizable – and valuable – as possible.
“As time goes on, I’m working to modify the program approach to create added value,” Miller stressed. “Builders all have slightly different needs. For example, we had a member who had recently lost a couple of key team members who asked me to organize the takeoff in cost codes, which would help him on the admin side. I was able to customize the process to help keep his costs down. Another member was having his schedule pushed by engineering lag times, so we modified the takeoff process to cover the non-engineered aspects as Phase One and the engineered aspects as Phase Two.
Since the engineer has to do his magic to the framing takeoff, as estimators, we typically say we need everything up front,” Miller continued. “But in this case, rather than wait, I had the builder send me the basic architectural plans so I could do the takeoff for all the materials that weren’t engineering-dependent – the siding, roofing and drywall. Given how the labor market is getting crushed right now, this is a modification that will help a lot of our members.”
Miller has also added a building information module redundancy tool that checks the “big five” product quantities against past averages in order to highlight items and quantities for further review prior to sending an estimate.
“It takes the information related to the house – the quantifiable things – and checks the quantities of products like siding, roofing and drywall. Then the builder reviews it against the specific plans for the house and we do modifications from there.”
And he’s not finished yet. Miller cited several “works in progress” that will make the Takeoff Service even more valuable for members in the near future.
“We’re considering adding engineered wood products to our estimates to help reduce the number of folks involved,” Miller mentioned. “I’m also in the process of outlining a couple of case studies involving waste analysis to make additional improvements to the takeoff templates, process and products that will help prevent material overages. I’m finalizing a ‘job jacket’ with additional project information that will go out with each report to help builders check and make sure everything is covered before they send out an order. And I’m also evaluating additional software systems to help facilitate all of these improvements.”
Ultimately, all of the improvements Miller has made to CBUSA’s Takeoff Service – along with those he has planned – will help to further the goal of making it one of the organization’s strongest member offerings.
“We know there are builders out there who have struggled independent of a builder group and really need this service,” Miller emphasized. “For those who are struggling on that front, we want to be that value add that gets them over the finish line to join CBUSA.”
Interested in learning more about the benefits of CBUSA membership, including our valuable Takeoff Service? Contact us today! And to keep up with all our day-to-day happenings, be sure to join our group on LinkedIn.