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August 15, 2012

“Electrical Calculation Manager� or “ECM� not working?

Recently a customer called excited and shared with us that they upgraded six new computers to the new Windows 7, 64 bit platform. They said “we are aware you constantly upgrade and keep track of new operating system releases on your programs and as a result we thought you could help us�. 

The customer explained the program they use every day for the last 10 years to make calculations for Lighting, Service & Feeders, Voltage Drop, Segmented Voltage Drop, Wire Fill Motors, Pull & Junction Boxes and more, no longer worked and hoped we could help.

“Of course� was the answer! Their old software program called “Electrical Calculation Manager� or “ECM� stopped working. Originally written and developed (WireGuide) in 1993 by a licensed electrical engineer and is still called WireGuide is available from us as we are the authorized distributor for this software.

It has been updated and ready for any Windows upgrade(s) and happily we were able to get this Electrical Engineering firm back on course and working again. This story applies to and has also helped many Electrical Contractors, Electrical Estimators, Electrical Engineers and Electrical Maintenance Personnel and it can help you too. 

So if you or someone you know used or uses “Electrical Calculation Manager� or “ECM� and has or is planning to upgrade their computer(s) or operating system to Windows 7, 64 bit, let them know about this message and for a quick fix to download a demo version of WireGuide or call 877-900-0477 today.
Construction Industry White Papers
July 25, 2012

Manufacture of traditional T-12 fluorescent tubes ending; T-12 stockpiles expected to dwindle quickly while costs increase.

This month, on July 14th, 2012, production and import of traditional T-12 fluorescent tubes will end by U.S. Government mandate, following a similar ban of the T-12 magnetic ballast in October of 2010. I'm sure you've already noticed it is increasingly difficult to find supplies of replacements ballasts for existing T-12 light fixtures. The challenge of maintaining obsolete T-12 fluorescent fixtures will only become more difficult and expensive following next month's ban as demand outpaces rapidly dwindling supply.

Although substantially more expensive, high efficiency T-12 tubes and electronic ballasts will still be available for the time being, production of 70% of all T-12 models will end, and manufacturers will focus on the production of far more efficient T-8 and T-5 models. Businesses that remain with the obsolete T-12 fixtures will see increasing costs of maintenance as supplies diminish. However, organizations that move to other lighting options, such as T-8, T-5, or LEDs can see a rapid return on investment (ROI), possibly as quickly as one year. Just some of the benefits include:

Greatly improved lighting energy efficiency (70% saving or better in many cases),
Reduced maintenance costs due to longer lifespans for newer tubes
Reduced air-conditioning costs from reduced heat production
Improved light quality
Lower risk of work-place contamination due to reduced levels of mercury in alternative lighting.

Utility companies and municipalities all over the country have begun incentive programs to offset the cost of moving to more energy-efficient lighting systems, so the time is now to encourage your customers to upgrade their fixtures. The window of opportunity may be short though as some incentive programs have already ended.

I encourage you to be alert to the regulatory changes coming in the industry and prepare for their impact on your company and on your customers. I will be sending additional information on ways to do this in the coming weeks.

For more information:
James S. Kantor
A Sustainable Design - LED lighting for Business and Industry
(919) 523-6773, asustainabledesign@gmail.com

Posted courtesy of GRS Tech www.GRS.me
Cert-In Software Systems, Inc.
Summer 2012 Newsletter
Cert-In Times

Version 9 Released

As we mentioned in our newsletter in March of last year we concentrated most of our efforts on the development of the new features that were incorporated in version 9. We completed most of the work by the end of September and released Version 9 in limited distribution in October of 2011. By using the limited release version and installing it on any customer who requested the new version. Since we test on the same systems we develop the program on, this would give us a better selection of test sites that could be used to fine tune our installation procedures as well as give us feed back on problems with the new version. This has gone very well and we believe that the new version is mature enough to release to everyone.

The New Features that the new version will provide are as follows:

Video Training System

Version 9 of the WinTRF Estimating System now incorporates access to 81 different videos covering all aspects of the New Estimating System. We also provided a small utility that will provide access to the videos outside the estimating system.

Special Item Module Complete Overhaul

The special item program we created for the Windows version of the estimating system was identical to the version we had in our DOS program. We did this because we believed that it was the only way to successfully translate the DOS estimates to the Windows program. We began to see the problems with this idea start to emerge very quickly. Users on networks had difficulty numbering specials successfully and quite often used the same number another estimator had used. We have been aware that these changes were needed for quite a long time. We also knew that it was going to take a long time to do and we did not know how many different programs we were going to affect.

We started making the changes in steps and started with Version 8.5 when we moved each estimate into a separate folder. This procedure eliminated the problem caused by having all the specials for all the jobs in one huge special item table.  

We knew that we needed to completely modify the special item entry method so a user who added a special item to an estimate did not add it to the estimate at the same time. This became apparent when users started to use Specials to create different types of schedules i.e. Fixture Schedules, Panel Schedules and other similar schedule types. Users would add the specials to areas of the estimate using either standard takeoff or template takeoff.

Since we knew we had to start over and to mitigate the impact on other systems we pulled the Special item program out and created it in its own module. The module gives the user more flexibility and tools to build and modify specials.

Create New Fill Table

The next thing that we needed to do was create a new Special Item Fill table that would hold the fill items used to create a job assembly. In the past the fill items that were added to a special were added in the body of the takeoff. As the items were added they were counted in the takeoff. Many times a user would delete the first instance of a job assembly and lose the ability to be able to copy that Special Assembly to another breakout or another job. If a job that had the first instance of a special deleted and that job was then exported and imported into a new job he would also be unable to copy the special assembly from one location to another.

The Fill Table grid gives a user controls that are easier to use to modify labor levels, labor and material columns, multipliers and quantities for each of the parts in the fill group. We provided tools that will allow a user to import parts from assemblies, other specials, and the parts file.

Sending To Estimate

When you are in the special item system, you can keep it open. If you have enough screen space or are using multiple monitors, you will still be able to send items to the estimate to be counted. If you are using any form of scaling device you will have to close the special item system after sending an item to the takeoff. This is because the Scaling Interface is a popup window like the special item system and one of them must be moved in order for the other to be displayed. If a scaling device is not used then a button allowing you to send to estimate is available so that you do not have to close the window.

Printing the Specials

We added a new feature that let a user Print the Special Item list. This was requested so that those users who use special items to document a project had another way of studying the takeoff process.

Change the Export / Import Program

In order to accommodate the new features added to special items and the relocation of the estimate files the Export / Import program had to undergo some major reconstruction. Much of the modifications that had to be made were needed so that users moving from version 8 to version 9 had some method of importing version 8 estimates into the new version 9 system. This took a lot longer than expected due in large part to the many differences in estimating techniques.

Standard Takeoff -- Special List S? Button

We modified the S? button so that the list would only display the special items assigned to the current user. However, if someone wanted to display all the specials in a job an button has been added that will show all the specials.

New Digital Takeoff Interface

We formed a partnership with a second company that develops a Digital Screen Takeoff System. As a result we now interface with both companies.

Software Utilities

Our support for the first digital takeoff system we incorporated was enhanced in the following ways:

New Import Process – The procedures used to import takeoff information from On-Center was overhauled completely so that is now a single keystroke operation. In the past the user was required to do a lot of work in order to get a job imported into the program.

WinTRF Parts and Assembly Export Utility – The utility used to export WinTRF components to the On-Center Software System was buggy and not very intuitive. We have overhauled the utility so that it is much easier to use.

Parts And Assembly Maintenance Utility – The utility that is used to modify the Parts and Assembly in the On-Center program has been modified as well. The utility will now allow you to change the color, symbol and type of take off (length or count) for a large group of items.

Digital Takeoff Interface

We initiated support for the Digital Takeoff System in August of 2011. Those of you who are familiar to the way the old plan sized digitizers worked will see the resemblance very quickly. This system works by having both the drawing and the estimating system open at the same time. Of course if you have two separate monitors it makes it a lot easier to use. I have it on good authority that the optimum size monitor is 34 inches; however, we do have quite a number of user who are using 40 inch monitors successfully. 

The functionality is very natural in that an estimator selects an item from a menu in the WinTRF program and when he adds it to the Entry line an interface pops open and he clicks a button to transfer control to the Digital Takeoff program. He then selects a trace representing what he wants to take off and measures or counts using the mouse. Once he has completed the activity he clicks a mouse button to return to the estimating system where he proceeds to complete the entry. Basically it is selecting an item in WinTRF counting it in DTO and completing the action in WinTRF.

Clone Button

The Clone Button is a new feature that has been added to the Bid List. Using this button the user can create a duplicate copy of the selected estimate instantaneously. It is no longer necessary to export an estimate and import it to have a second copy of the estimate.

New Estimate Reports

Print Parts Summarized By Phase

Although we have had this report in one form or another for a few years the new system required that it be overhauled. It has been completely rewritten in a different report writer and made compliant with the Version 9 changes.

Job Cost Code Report

The Job Cost Code Report was created to give a user all the information that he may need to create a budget for accounting. It was also written using the new Report Writing System.

Parts Used in Estimates Report

This report is not included in the print management system. This report is used to generate a list of the part most commonly used in a series of estimates. Users then use this report to monitor the price and labor values assigned to the parts that are most used in estimates.

Special Price Update System

As some of you are aware we have created a utility that will use a spreadsheet that is maintained by the user to update the bid prices in the estimating system. In this way he is keeping the parts most used in estimates fine-tuned.

WinTRF Vehicle Monitoring System

Last October we established a working relationship with one of the largest manufacturers of vehicle tracking and monitoring systems. These systems will monitor and track hundreds of different processes as well as tracking a vehicles position using 10-second updates. These features are available with no annual contract and a very low monthly rate. The user has the option of purchasing many different types of devices from simple ODB devices that plug into the ODB port on the vehicle to very sophisticated devices that can be hidden on the vehicle. Some of the devices have the ability to receive commands and text messages.

The WinTRF Vehicle Tracking system interfaces with the Time and Material program so that a scheduler can dispatch new Job’s to the vehicle instantaneously. In addition they will be able to turn the ignition off if needed and know when the vehicle is idling too long or needs an oil change.

The Future

Our primary focus at this time is how to incorporate the many changes that are occurring in our daily work environment into our products. I am not sure what the saturation level is but I would bet that 99.99% of our users are on some sort of smart phone, and tablet use is increasing exponentially as well. A recent article I read pointed out that smart phone users are using the device for voice calls less than they are for Texting, Browsing the web or accessing their Facebook account.

It seems pretty clear that this is going to increase and we need to be ready for that eventuality.

As always you the users decide on what needs to be done.  

We cannot do it all but we listen to everybody.
Oct. 19, 2012


After 18 years in the construction software business we are still amazed. We have finished our survey and it's astonishing that 70% of new software purchases either don't use the new software for 6 to 9 months and in some cases never do!

Number one reason is thinking there's no time to learn a BETTER process.

You finally got your boss or you invested in the software purchase and the exact thing it's designed to do, the one thing is will save you is time, but you think you can't spend the time to learn it.

You'er waiting for the the right project to try it on or you think it's to difficult to learn.

The Digital Screen Estimating System we offer includes free training in the help screens so you can learn as you go. Just click on the embedded (over 81) training video's in the help screens for the screen you're in! It is included in the price of the software. Click on the links below and watch the short video's on Digital Screen Estimating and see how you can bid more jobs in half the time.

Watch our video and see how we can help

Make notations, have multiple drawing levels to separate work detail, pin point details on drawings and e-mail the details to the jobsite and use for RFI's. The material list is being built, priced and labor added while you're doing the takeoff, then you can export the quoted material list to Excel and E-mail to your supplier for pricing. 

In this technological age we find it fascinating that most Construction Business Owners still put very little priority on their bidding practices.

Over 80% of Estimators still Bid by hand and wonder why they are not getting work.

Our research says the ones that have software are ultimately doing most of that work in this economy.

With our System you are free to pick and choose what software to start with first. For instance, nothing happens until someone get's and marks up the drawing. Takeoff more prints, turn in more bids.

Like to bid by hand? Great! You may be able to estimate a job in your sleep, but you still have to takeoff the print and our system allows you to start there.

You can add to the system as your need arises. The beauty is as you add to the system your learning and work simply transfers easily into the rest.
You can get material pricing free for now, use your calculator as you like, but prints cost money, so your takeoff/bidding cost you money now. Stop the spending on prints today!

The reason, with a fully integrated estimating system you can download a drawing from an e-mail, a plan room or general contractors FTP site and start the takeoff process immediately, no waiting for a print or pricing.

When you do a Digital Screen Takeoff, you mark up the digital drawing with your mouse and it highlights, marks, counts and adds notes to the drawing permanently Save it in a job file on your computer for easy recall. You can even copy and paste into an e-mail for a RFI or Change Order.

As you count and run off lengths with your mouse, in the back ground the estimating program builds a list of materials, labors and prices the job. So once the takeoff is finished so is the bid.

The material prices are updated 24/7 on-line with supplier pricing in your zip code*, where you'll most likely buy those materials. Your supplier sets up your file in their server, so you bid with your prices, not a guess or some vague regional buy price, but your price.

Still, most are afraid of change, they are comfortable with how they are bidding and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, the same way and expecting different results.

If you aren't afraid of the Digital age or want better results and want the best tools to compete, then we need to talk.
Visit our website for the videos, demo downloads, and more at www.GRS.me.

Digital Screen Takeoff, Estimating Software & Material Price updates for your specific industry for Electrical*, Mechanical & Plumbing Estimators

Would you like to:

Save Money & Stop Paying for Drawings?
o Import your drawings & save thousands of dollars in print costs.

Save Time?
o With Digital Screen, download and takeoff – just point & click. 

Link to your Zip Code* for Material Price updates?
o Would you like to have your prices updated 24/7 real-time?