Automation Technology Provides Queen City Construction a Competitive Edge

lourdesFounded in 1877, Lourdes High School (LHS) is a comprehensive four-year college preparatory Catholic high school and part of the Rochester Catholic School system (RCS). To accommodate the school’s growing student base, RCS decided to build a new LHS facility on 23.5 acres of land in Rochester, Minn. This 194,000-square-foot project was much more complex than the typical public school build.

Because LHS is a private Catholic school, the project was a combination of school and church. While the construction of LHS was new, the school didn’t want to lose sight of its rich heritage; therefore, it required an aesthetic appeal that would integrate the character and elements of the old building with the new. Cultured stone and stained glass were essential elements of the project; this included integrating 100-plus-year-old stained glass windows from the original structure into the new facility.

LHS’s academic wing includes state-of-the-art classrooms and a 7,000-square-foot library and media center. The fine arts wing includes a 625-seat auditorium and the athletic wing includes a gym with seating for 15,000 people. The chapel has a 150-person occupancy for prayer services.

The general contractor, Minneapolis-based Weis Builders, selected Queen City Construction (QCC), Rochester, as the metal framer for the job. QCC was included in the budgeting process throughout the construction of LHS. Multiple change orders during the 16-month project made this an extremely challenging project for QCC. Leveraging On Center Software’s automation solutions, On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid, QCC was able to automate many elements of its framing business such as quantity takeoff and estimating.

Prior to using automation technology, QCC relied on the manual process of entering takeoff and estimating information into a spreadsheet by hand. Colored pencils and highlighters were used to identify wall types, while measurements were done using a hand scale. Materials, pricing and quantity were all hand written on a legal pad. The process was labor-intensive and unreliable as quantities and pricing were sometimes inaccurate. Change orders resulted in the takeoff process being started over again, each time, from scratch.

The use of automation technology has greatly streamlined processes for QCC. With On-Screen Takeoff, all material is accurately measured and accounted for, data can be grouped by type or area, and pricing is linked to takeoff data. Pricing changes are inputted only once and automatically transfer between the estimating and takeoff solutions. The result is a huge time and money savings for the estimator. For the LHS project, which required five different takeoffs to determine the design, relying on manual methods would have been a time-consuming task. QCC estimates saving easily two weeks’ worth of labor, if not more, using automation technology.

Rather than recreating takeoffs by hand when change requests came in, QCC was able to quickly enter changes online. Updates including wall size, number of studs, etc. were highlighted and renamed on the screen for easy viewing. Changes could be laid over previous versions online allowing project managers to quickly view updates. The ability to keep duplicate bids online enabled QCC to maintain original pricing even after changes were made. This was important because they really didn’t know which bid LHS would choose. When changes were requested and LHS later decided it was not what they wanted, QCC was able to easily access the pricing and original bid online.

As changes were made throughout the project, QCC was required to update the general contractor on the exact amount of materials that were added or deleted. On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid enabled QCC to quickly print out the purchasing report, which should how many pieces of materials were added, changed, or removed and the associated costs. The general contractor was able to pass this information along to LHS to justify changes.

An unexpected benefit of the technology which proved very valuable during the LHS project was the ability to stop and start takeoffs without the worry that something was forgotten. When doing takeoffs by hand, an interruption could easily lead to errors as it is often difficult to remember where one left off. That was not the case with the LHS project.

In the pre-bid stage for the LHS project, QCC was able to turn around pricing much faster than its competitors because takeoffs were up to date and accurate. If something had to be changed, QCC could easily do it online and get updated pricing very quickly. Increased productivity and the ability to bid more jobs faster and with greater accuracy have made the move to takeoff and estimating technology the right decision for QCC.

QCC had been using Quick Bid for several years. The addition of On-Screen Takeoff was driven by the desire to eliminate the volume of prints they were creating. As the industry moves away from paper, automation technology is becoming more and more common. This technology provides QCC with a true competitive advantage while eliminating paper usage.

Erin Bluhm is an estimator at Queen City Construction, Rochester, Minn. In business for nearly 60 years, QCC is a family-owned company that specializes in EIFS, DEFS, cold-formed metal framing, light-gauge metal framing, exterior gypsum sheathing, gypsum drywall, insulation, and cultured stone for commercial projects. To learn more, visit