Acquisition, upgrades move ConEst rapidly forward

Less than a year ago, bidding and project-management software producer ConEst (www.conest.com) announced it was acquiring the RapidBOM telecommunications design...

Less than a year ago, bidding and project-management software producer ConEst (www.conest.com) announced it was acquiring the RapidBOM telecommunications design and estimating system from Catalyst Data Inc. Since that announcement, ConEst has worked with the system’s producer, Mainstay Software Corporation, to fully ingratiate RapidBOM into the ConEst portfolio.

The two organizations also have worked together on a soon-to-be-released next version of RapidBOM-a package that promises to take ease-of-use to a new level.

For years, RapidBOM has been available as a communications-network estimating system that automatically creates a bill of materials (BOM) that includes material and labor costs. The package’s claim to fame has been a regularly updated catalog that contains more than 130,000 products from more than 100 communications-product manufacturers. “The catalog includes cut sheets and specifications,” explains Mainstay’s president, Dan Walkovitz.

“The system compares created designs to TIA/EIA [Telecommunications Industry Association/Electronic Industries Alliance] and BICSI standards,” he says, adding that thanks to that feature, designers are “less inclined to overlook elements and, therefore, underbid a project. It provides peace of mind to allow contractors to bid tightly without fear of having to add to a project in-progress.”

Another of RapidBOM’s features is a kitting function, which lets users select product types, then choose certain criteria from a dropdown menu. The package searches the catalog for options, and puts those options together into a kit.

The software system lets designers specify products and labor, and thereby generate cost estimations on several levels, including full project, crossconnects, work areas, and outside plant. As the designer builds the communications infrastructure segment by segment, the system creates a hierarchical diagram of the project as a whole.

Within each individual segment, users can import any kits they have previously built. ConEst and Mainstay estimate the package provides a 65 to 75% reduction in design and estimation time compared to manual methods.

The biggest news from the combined providers of RapidBOM will be the newest version of the system, which is imminent. Among the most significant enhancements in the new model is the interface between RapidBOM and NetPricer. Using the soon-to-be-released version of the software package, users will be able to export pricing to NetPricer and have real-time quotes come back to them in 30 to 40 seconds.

Among other new features will be a level of customization that will let users identify tasks and organize projects in their own manner. From a pricing-estimation standpoint, the new package will have several upgrades. Users will be able to assign factors of difficulty for certain products in certain applications, giving them the ability to more accurately determine a labor rate for a given product depending on the environment in which it is being installed.

Also, the new release will provide categories of labor, each with its own hourly rate. This feature will be particularly useful to contractors who carry out projects in different cities, or who work on General Services Administration contracts.

As for functionality, the new release will provide multiple bid recaps, and it will have a single point of launch for all reports.

When ConEst acquired RapidBOM last fall, the design-and-estimating package joined the firm’s stable of offerings that includes the widely recognized and widely adopted IntelliBid, a software package that is primarily geared toward electrical projects but also incorporates communications.

“RapidBOM complements IntelliBid, especially in the design aspect,” says Walkovitz. IntelliBid is available in several varieties, including “Lite,” “Pro,” and “Plus,” as well as IntelliBid Design Build.

“IntelliBid has and still does address voice, data, and low-voltage projects,” explains George Hague, president of ConEst. “RapidBOM has brought new feature sets into ConEst, and we are targeting contractors that do both electrical and communications work.”

As the promise of converging building systems gets closer and closer to fruition, the coordination of many products, systems, and tasks becomes increasingly significant. With a history of serving electrical estimators and the recent enhancement of its offerings to communications estimators, ConEst is positioning itself as a provider of functionality, convenience, and efficiency for these converged systems.

As such, the company is evolving its product lines. Hague notes, “We have adopted reports for our contractors to work according to the MasterFormat.”

The MasterFormat is a construction document published by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). With its most recent edition, CSI significantly overhauled the document. Of particular significance to professionals in the electrical and communications fields, several disciplines/systems that formerly resided in the electrical division of the MasterFormat now have their own division numbers attached to them-including many different communications systems.

Many construction professionals find a great deal of irony in the MasterFormat overhaul, considering the trend toward convergence of many of those systems in newly constructed buildings today.

Regardless, the MasterFormat is what it is, as the saying goes. And ConEst continues to work to provide simple and efficient means of planning and organizing the construction of these intersecting systems.-Patrick McLaughlin

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