What Cost Estimators Do
Estimators often collaborate with engineers and architects.
Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service. They generally specialize in a particular industry or type of product.
Cost estimators typically do the following:
- Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time, materials, and labor expenses
- Travel to jobsites to gather information on materials needed, labor required, and other factors
- Read blueprints and technical documents in order to prepare estimates
- Collaborate with engineers, architects, clients, and contractors on estimates
- Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
- Use computer software to calculate estimates
- Evaluate a product’s cost-effectiveness or profitability
- Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
- Work with sales teams to prepare estimates and bids for clients
- Develop project plans for the duration of the project
Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of businesses. Cost estimators’ calculations give managers or investors this information.
When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs in order to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs and how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.
Cost estimators use computer software, including databases, to simulate building construction. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other, similar projects.
General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the cost of the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. Construction companies will hire cost estimators that calculate the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors’ cost estimators prepared.
Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.
The following are examples of types of cost estimators:
Construction cost estimators estimate the cost of construction work. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or commercial shopping center. They may identify direct costs, such as the cost of raw materials and the cost of labor, and set a timeline for how long the project will take. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.
Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company’s goods or services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.
Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and calculating the costs of software development requires great expertise.
Two other groups also estimate costs in their jobs: operations research analysts and construction managers may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties.