In class on Wednesday, we participated in a simulated construction project. We were broken into teams of general contractors who were to prepare bids for a bridge built out of K’NEX toys. The project was fun, and made us think about what parts needed to be “purchased” and how long construction would take. We also learned the importance of double checking bids to be sure they included everything. For example, we were almost short by 50% of one part because we did not realize the part came separated in two until we inspected the material boxes.

One criticism I have for the activity is that it did not take into account timing very well. We were given 25 minutes to prepare our bid, and we did not have the opportunity to start earlier, so of course we used the full 25 minutes, along with all the other teams. We actually had our bid prepared with 7 minutes or so to spare, but could not do anything with it until everyone was ready. This time taken to prepare bids and find projects is valuable to a contractor because any minute you are not making money, you are losing it to overhead. To make the project more realistic, this extra time should be rewarded by bing incorporated into the final completion time, or allowing the team to start on the bid for another project for bonus points.

While I did not learn any groundbreaking concepts, it reinforced how important the estimating office in a company is. It was also interesting to see how the Instructors were inundated with bids in a very short period of time, probably similar to how an owner or representative must balance many RFIs and bids arriving at once.