We all know that time is money, but in the construction industry, so is dirt.
How efficiently an excavator can move and remove topsoil and other layers at a construction site can mean the difference between making or losing money on a job.
Enter Insite Software. The Henrietta-based firm helps resolve bidding and budgeting issues with products that can generate a topographical map, calculate precisely how much dirt must be moved or removed, and then program GPS devices on the heavy equipment so bulldozing is done to within the millimeter of specs.
“We only get paid to move the dirt one time,” said Gary Pooler, founder of Victor-based Pooler Enterprises Inc. “The product made us better contractors.”
Which was the intent when Steve Warfle and the late Richard Chasman founded Insite Software in 1989. A mutual friend had expressed the need for a tool that could determine precise site calculations more efficiently.
InSite developed that product and now, more than three decades later, continues to bring innovation to the marketplace. The firm will be in Las Vegas next week to introduce InSite Elevation Pro at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG.
Based on square footage needed for CONEXPO, the event is the largest trade show in North America, filling the 2.5 million-square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as adjacent outside space.
For major players such as Caterpillar Inc. and small, 12-person firms like InSite alike, it’s a chance to give the industry an up-close look at their products.
“It’s an opportunity for us to differentiate ourselves from the competition and see our customers,” Warfle, the CEO, said, “because the best salespeople are our customers.”
Take Pooler, for example.
“We started using Steve’s products over 30 years ago and it was probably the best investment I ever made,” Pooler said. “They developed a product, and all these years later you can still call and talk to Steve.”
Contractors use the software for a wide variety of construction projects, from retail stores, water treatment facilities and athletic fields to housing subdivisions, highway interchanges and warehouses.
“These jobs are all lump-sum bids,” Warfle said. “You turn in a bid and that’s what they’re expecting it to be done for. If you bid $600,000 on a job and it costs $700,000, you don’t get it back. But if you can make this job less expensive, you can make more profit.
“What our software does is help them minimize the risk (in bidding). “
The costs for miscalculations can add up quickly. Say you determine a job will require the removal of 154,000 yards of earth. A truck holds, on average, 15 yards, so that’s a significant investment just in trucks to move the excess dirt.
“If you’re hauling it off the site and you’ve got a place to put it, you can figure $20-$25 a yard,” Warfle said. “If you have to buy the fill from a quarry, it’s $35-$40 a yard.”
Since those numbers grow rapidly, InSite Excavation Pro was created to make sure bids are accurate. For example, for an athletic field renovation, the software determined that 5,527 yards of fill would be needed for construction of a parking lot.
“That can’t be junk; it has to be good, quality material, oftentimes that might be imported from a quarry,” Warfle said. “The area where you’re going to grow grass, nobody cares what you use for fill there because it’s not load-bearing. Anywhere that’s structural, they have to have good fill under there.
“The contract has to say, what did we generate on the job site (in dirt) and can it be used for fill? Our purpose is risk management, to give contractors the assurance that if they throw a bid out there, they know their quantity so well that they’ve minimized the risk.”
The software then takes the work to the application level. Not all that long ago, you could drive past a construction site and see wooden stakes mapping out excavation areas. Software has made those stakes obsolete because it now programs the heavy equipment, even lowering and raising the blade when necessary.
“Our software exports a model into the GPS control system,” Warfle said. “The satellite information comes in and it turns it into one millimeter accuracy both vertically and horizontally. When they move enough material to get it on grade, the dozers actually stop.
“All of this bidding on projects is in overhead. We need to give the company the ability to manage risk, but also to minimize the labor spent on this overhead, so it’s speed, it’s accuracy, it’s validation, and then the GPS machine control, so if they’re awarded the project, they can get to the production side of things.”
Customers like what InSite creates, too. From 151 reviews on the software review site Capterra.com, InSite Elevation Pro received a rating of 4.7 (the best possible being 5.0). Of those, 94.4 percent of reviewers said they would recommend the product. Two similar products received ratings of 4.5 and 3.7 and far lower recommendation scores.
One reason for the positive feedback may be a willingness to listen to customers. After all, contractors are the ones using the product; they know what they need.
Doug Chasman, Richard’s son, heads InSite’s development team was the primary architect for InSite Elevation Pro, and while Warfle is the CEO, he views himself in a different role.
“I really feel my job is product manager, where I look at what the industry needs and talk to our customers to try to figure out how we can minimize our customers’ risk, make them as productive as possible and give them the tools to basically run the job,” he said.
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