With nearly 30 years of preconstruction experience, Ray Miller started as Vice President of Preconstruction Services at ENR Top 400 Contractors Winter Construction in 2020. Founded in 1962 and based in Atlanta, Georgia Winter Construction is a privately-owned and operated general contractor that offers a wide range of commercial construction services.
Ray speaks on what he enjoys most about preconstruction: “I get involved so early in the design and what I do impacts the feasibility of the project – whether the project is actually something that makes sense. I also help guide the design team, the engineering teams, and the owner through the preconstruction process, and bring the ability to make their dream come true. At the same time, I’m trying to manage the risk of our company and set up our jobs for success. I’m able to have a lot of touchpoints with both our external clients and internal teams at so many different levels.”
But he can’t do that without the right tools.
Like the majority of general contractors, Winter’s preconstruction team was using Excel. Ray says, “Winter was using Excel when I came here, and like a lot of companies in the industry – large and small – they were using it because they found it to be more flexible than trying to estimate in a “box” program, so to speak. With other companies, I’ve used WinEst, Sage Timberline, and of course, Excel. Immediately one of the things I realized was that we weren’t being as efficient and productive as we could.”
When he went to Winter, Ray says he knew how he wanted the Winter preconstruction department to operate. He says, “…the software and the tools that you use really do drive where your SOPs are.” Ray talked to Brent Reid, Winter CEO, and Tom Nichols, Winter President, and told them that the preconstruction team was going to need the right tools to make things happen the way he wanted them to.
Ray says, “I had a lot of experience with DESTINI Estimator, and a lot of the way I work and the way I like our teams to work is derived from DESTINI as our main estimating tool, so that was something that we talked about initially.”
The same year Ray started at Winter, the company chose to sign a multi-year agreement with Beck Technology to implement DESTINI Estimator for its enterprise estimating software, stating that DESTINI Estimator was the “easy choice.”
Implementing the cutting-edge, data-based estimating solution helps Winter align with owners’ goals, increases the efficiency of the precon process, helps the team utilize its cost history, and communicates information exactly how owners want to see it.
Ray says, “The reality is estimating, and preconstruction isn’t just about cost anymore, it’s about how you deliver your information.”
After completing implementation, Beck Technology caught up with Ray and asked him what working in DESTINI Estimator has been like. This is what he said:
“One thing that I like about Estimator is the ability to create infinite work breakdown structures in an estimate. So, the ability to be able to break a project into multiple program elements – multiple floors, multiple buildings, however, we want to be able to look at the job – it lets us plan ahead and understand what the client’s priorities are, and with the client in the room easily flip back and forth between different views."
My other favorite thing about DESTINI Estimator is its integration with Excel. That’s always been the reason that folks like to use Excel as their baseline estimating tool because they can have a lot of programming and formulas built in the way they want to use it. Typical “box” software really prohibits that. But with DESTINI Estimator, you’re able to have that parametric level information brought in from Excel to your estimate, in addition to being able to export the information from your estimate to Excel in a summary format.
So, you really have the best of both worlds. You’re utilizing the same formulas, the tools, and the parametric aspects of a job, and you’re still able to apply that to the estimate and the line items within your estimates. Then when it comes to reporting, you have the ultimate flexibility, because you can set up in Excel any type of cross tabs, any type of variance report, and it’s automatically linked to your estimate.
The ability to work within the box, to not have to worry about any errors or any formula errors in the estimating tool itself, and to be able to have confidence and no copy and paste at all – having that trust in the automatic updating of that information in the Excel formula, to be able to communicate that information to your clients in the way that they want and need, is really my favorite thing about the tool [DESTINI Estimator].”