Sunday, June 12, 2011

Estimating the time a job takes

For the last eight years I have spent a lot of my time quoting for broadcast installation builds. From small single edit suites to £1.5m broadcast editing centers I think I have a good feel for how long most jobs take. I recently did a search of my arrogated purchase orders folder and discovered I've bought more than 500 equipment cabinets, nearly 1000 video jackfields, and just over 100 kilometers of bulk fibre optic cable - all in the last eight years!
Anyhow - I often get quotes thrown back at me by chief engineers who assume I'm trying to fiddle them and they will typically say;
You've quoted ten days for a wiremen to wire those audio patch panels back to krone blocks; I'm sure my guy could do it in seven.
Even as a chief engineer he's probably only built one or two big machine rooms in his time. He might think he has experience of wiring technical facilities, but I've hired and paid wiremen to do many hundreds of audio panels in recent years. Possibly more than all the panels every chief engineer in Soho will oversee this decade! I know how long things take.

Anyway - for the last five years I've done an audit at the end of each year to compare the number of wiremen and engineer days each job used against what I thought when I quoted. It turns out that I naturally underestimate the time required by around 25% - If I quote 100 wireman days it'll be nearer to 130 when all is said and done. This isn't down to me not knowing how long each part of the job takes - it's a function of wasted time;

  • Client won't provide passes to everyone and so guys have to wait idle in rooms or go looking for the pass.
  • Deliveries are late, guys are idle
  • Customers change their mind, but not enough (or it isn't politic) to warrant a change order
  • Faulty parts - we always have to replace those for free!
  • Various other things you didn't expect.
So - I've made it my habit to still estimate the number of days as I think it should be and then add on the 25% extra. Consequently my quotes have been getting a lot more accurate over the last few of years. I also discovered the same effect with parts but in the other direction; I always over-estimate the amount of cable/connectors required by around 10%.

So far I haven't done anything about that!

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