Estimators, often known as cost engineers, work for manufacturing, engineering, construction and service companies. They deal with the preparation, processing and submission of tenders for contracts by calculating the costs involved in supplying a product or service that meets the client’s technical specifications.
When making estimates they take into account factors such as material costs, cost of operating or hiring plant or specialist equipment, transport costs, labour and other overheads such as rent, administration, electricity and other services. Estimators also have to build into their bids risk identification, inflation and exchange rate variables, projected timescales and allowances to cover contingencies.
In putting bids together, data is gathered from internal company records, stock figures, price indices, industry journals, quotations from suppliers and sub-contractors, and transport and hire companies. Estimators may specialise in one area such as time, labour or transport, and on large projects a team of estimators may be involved.
It is commonplace for estimators to make use of specific IT software to compile, process and report on technical and commercial data. Senior staff will also be expected to analyse the effectiveness of software and make recommendations on which application to use for a particular costing project.
Estimators work closely with other professionals including quantity surveyors, buyers, construction managers and planning engineers.
Estimators work between 37 and 40 hours, Monday to Friday. However, overtime may be required when working to tight deadlines.
The work is usually office-based but estimators working in construction or engineering may be required to work on-site. In these situations protective clothing may be needed.
Travel to clients’ premises is often required, so a driving licence would be helpful.
To work as an estimator you need:
Where appropriate, an understanding of engineering or architectural drawings and principles will be required, as well as detailed knowledge of manufacturing or construction processes and costs.
Prospects are good as jobs are available in many sectors: light and heavy engineering, manufacturing, process industries such as oil and chemicals, public utilities, transport and construction.
Many larger companies have estimating departments. Opportunities to progress to project leader, section manager and estimating department manager may become available. With experience and further training, promotion may be possible to more senior roles, such as cost engineer. Larger firms may have positions working on overseas contracts.
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