Security Estimating Software Review

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Dec 14, 2011

Responding to RFPs can be time consuming and error prone. With FRPs often being hundreds of pages long and bids of hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving things or rushing to get the response out can result in expensive problems. In this note, we examine a software package designed to enhance the security estimating process.

On Center Software's On-Screen Takeoff is an application intended to reduce time required to estimate projects by performing common tasks digitally and automatically. 

Overview

On-Screen Takeoff has several potential benefits for integrators who regularly bid projects.

  • Device Auto-Count
  • Digital Takeoffs
  • Linear Measurements

Those predominantly performing design/build work would likely find it less useful. We'll look at each of these three features below.

Auto-Count

Perhaps the most time consuming part of bidding any project is counting the symbols on each drawing. On-Screen Takeoff aims to expedite this process through its auto-count feature, demonstrated in this video:

As demonstrated, the user highlights the selected symbol, which is then highlighted with a user-selected color to assure it's been counted, and automatically tallied. This need not be restricted only to symbols, but instances of text may be counted as well, to count drawing notations, for example, such as different styles of camera. Tallies of all symbols may be automatically saved on the digital copy of each plan, for quick reference, and they are also saved to a separate tally sheet, which may be exported to various formats, most commonly Excel.

Once symbols are counted, the user is presented with a summary screen showing each instance, so they may glance at each and remove any false positives. Sensitivity is adjustable, to account for blurry or low-quality copies of plans.

Digital Takeoffs

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

Even if auto-count is undesirable, or if user preference is to count manually, OST may still save time. While there are still many bid documents which are only available as paper copies, digital distribution from online plan rooms or FTP sites has become much more common. OST can import multiple formats, such as PDF or TIFF, and loads each set of drawings as a project, keeping all bid information together.

Normally, contractors would need to either plot out a full set of drawings, or pay to have them plotted by a print shop. With plotters costing thousands of dollars, printing in-house may not be an option for some integrators. Print shop fees also add up, sometimes running up to a few dollars per page. Performing take off work digitally avoids both of these fees, allowing the contractor to spend money printing a set of drawings for installation only if a project is won. 

Linear Measurements

The final point security integrators may be interested in are OST's measurement capabilities. While these are often used for measurement of walls or floor/ceiling areas in construction trades, they may also be used to measure cable and conduit lengths, by clicking the start and end points, along with any bends taken in the run. Assuming the scale is set properly, measuring this way is likely quicker and more accurate than using a scale rule or measuring wheel on each sheet.

Cost

On-Screen Takeoff is not inexpensive.  A single-user license is $2,500, with a $375 annual maintenance contract required for updates. The question is whether it will pay for itself in labor savings over time. Assuming an estimator costs about $50/hour, the software will need to save 50 man hours in order to pay for the base license, and an additional 7.5 hours per year to offset the maintenance contract. These costs may be further offset by savings on plotter paper and ink, or print shop fees, if the integrator does not have a plotter in-house.

First-Hand Experience

My experience with On-Screen Takeoff was mostly favorable. The most-used feature was auto-count, which was surprisingly accurate. It took an estimator a few days to test and tweak until he knew what sensitivity to use for best accuracy, and to build symbol libraries. However, once it was set, it likely cut count time by more than 50%. Full sets of plans for large projects could be counted and checked in 1-2 days, instead of week, since the estimator was then spot-checking the machine's work. Spot-checking previously took a second engineer's time, to ensure accuracy. OST also assisted with documentation. Since no paper copies of plans or count sheets were required, there was less chance of documentation being lost as a project progressed, with counts saved directly onto each plan, for quicker reference.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

RealNetworks Free School Facial Recognition on Aug 03, 2018
The company that created RealPlayer is moving beyond media delivery and into the security space with a new facial recognition platform they have...
Improved Security And Surveillance Bidding - 2018 MasterFormat Divisions Examined) on Jul 19, 2018
Navigating the world of system specifications and bidding work can be complex and confusing, but a standard format exists, and understanding it...
Installing Dome Cameras Indoors Guide on Jul 16, 2018
IPVM is producing the definitive series on installing surveillance cameras. This entry covers one of the most common scenarios - installing dome...
4 Most Difficult Camera Installs (Statistics) on Jul 12, 2018
Heavy housings, cumbersome brackets, heavy ladders required, and tricky field of view requirements will cause difficulties no matter the camera...
GDPR For Access Control Guide on Jul 03, 2018
Electronic access control is common in businesses plus organizations are increasingly considering biometrics for access control. With GDPR coming...
Most Wanted Improvements In Manufacturer Technical Support (Statistics) on Jun 21, 2018
5 key areas of improvement and 1 clear wanted support feature were voiced by 140+ integrator responses to: What improvement in manufacturer...
Axis Guardian - Cloud VMS And Alarm Monitoring - Released on Jun 19, 2018
Axis has struggled to deliver a cloud-based managed service video platform. Video service providers have utilized AVHS for over a decade, and have...
The Dumb Ones: PSA's Bozeman On Cybersecurity on Jun 15, 2018
The smart ones are the hundred people who flew to Denver and spent $500+ on a 1.5-day conference featuring Dahua as a 'cyber responsible partner',...
Worst Features for Camera Installation (Statistics) on Jun 07, 2018
4 clear worst features for installing were identified by 140+ integrator respondents to: What feature(s) make a camera hard to install? The...
Top Features For Easy Camera Installation (Statistics) on Jun 05, 2018
Camera installation is the most fundamental and common task for video security technicians. Because of this, camera manufacturers market their...

Most Recent Industry Reports

SimpliSafe Violating California, Florida, and Texas Licensing Laws on Aug 14, 2018
IPVM has verified that DIY security system provider SimpliSafe, founded in 2006 and acquired in June of 2018 at a billion dollar valuation, is...
Cut Milestone Licensing Costs 80% By Using Hikvision and Dahua NVRs (Tested) on Aug 13, 2018
Enterprise VMS licensing can be quite expensive, with $200 or more per channel common, meaning a 100 camera system can cost $20,000 in VMS...
Nortek Sues SDS, Battle Over Unpaid Bill and Cancelled Lines on Aug 13, 2018
Nortek and SDS legal battle continues. As IPVM reported, SDS sued Nortek alleging bribery and antitrust violation. However, Wave fired back at SDS,...
Uniview Intrusion Analytics and VMD Tested on Aug 13, 2018
IPVM's IP Camera Analytics Shootout featuring Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision created some ill will with a Uniview distributor who...
ADT Employees Protest ADT CEO on Aug 10, 2018
So many ADT employees were so upset with ADT's CEO speech reported on by IPVM, that ADT's CEO was forced to send a mass email to employees to...
Axis / Avigilon Legal Battle Rises on Aug 09, 2018
In what is shaping up to be high-powered, will-not-back-down battle, Axis and Avigilon are squaring off in multiple legal contests. In 2017, IPVM...
Camera Focusing Tutorial on Aug 09, 2018
A camera's focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can cause important problems. In this guide, we explain focus issues and proper...
Dahua Ban Response: NOT Chinese Government Owned on Aug 08, 2018
Dahua has responded to the US Congress passing a US government ban on Dahua and Hikvision's products. While Dahua offered the now standard...
Bad Move: ADT Markets Rival Amazon on Aug 08, 2018
Amazon may be lining up ADT as its next victim but ADT is happy to promote Amazon. Amazon has made major moves recently, including acquiring...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact