My Favourite CostX® Feature: Subcontractor Comparison

Each month we will ask a Product Specialist at Exactal what their favourite feature of CostX® is, and how it can be used. This month, for our inaugural post in this series, we are speaking to our Principal Product Specialist Tony Shaw, from New Zealand.

I have been thinking recently about what my favourite feature in CostX® is. Now, those that know me may recall that I came to CostX® from a background of site-based Quantity Surveying for building contractors and, at the risk of highlighting my age, was used to measuring from paper drawings and hand writing each dimension on sheets of five column paper before then getting my calculator out. In light of this, my immediate thought was that perhaps it was the ability to perform digital on-screen measurement and, more recently, the advent of BIM take-off with its inherent 3D visualisation and automated quantity extraction.

Pausing for further reflection, and recalling my days on-site, again, just having a single CostX® file handed over from the Estimators that contained all of the marked-up drawings and detailed price breakdowns in one place, with a revisions history, would have been a huge benefit compared with the disparate pieces of information that we were given.

For me, however, being used to working in the post contract environment- if I had to name one part of CostX® that would be my favourite feature, then the Subcontractor Comparison module would quite probably prove to be it.

This module, which forms part of both the CostX® and CostX® 2D programs, offers the ability to sort/break out the base estimate into separate user-defined work packages that reflect how the job is to be procured. This can be done for whole items or, in the case of elements such as concrete foundations, say, can be separated into reinforcing steel supply and fixing, concrete supply and concrete placing, etc. as distinct packages, if that is how the work on-site will be undertaken. Once broken-out into these work packages, there is an option to export them as Excel® tender files, or CostX® tender files which can be opened in CostX® Viewer and include copies of the marked-up drawings, if desired. This opens up a world of e-tendering where files are transmitted instantaneously and figures received back from the subcontractors are imported, as opposed to being manually re-keyed with the intrinsic probability of errors, which just wasn’t available previously.


All of the work packages are managed in one file set against the original tender budgets, with up to ten subcontractor prices able to be entered against each one. Generally speaking, I would only ever go out to the market looking for a maximum of six comparable quotes so ten would have been more than enough. Once quotes are returned, the CostX® system will accommodate varying levels of detail such as schedules of rates or lump-sum pricing, and can automatically spread a lump-sum price pro-rata across the estimate items, if required. With using my previous manual methods, that would have involved some serious time spent with my calculator or in deriving some fancy Excel® formula to achieve the same end goal.

In my experience, it was common for items to be ‘tagged’ or excluded from a sub-contractor’s price, meaning that the price at the bottom of the quote wouldn’t be the final price you’d pay if you placed an order with that subcontractor. To account for this, the CostX® Subcontractor Comparison allows these items to be appended and priced accordingly to ensure an apples-with-apples comparison across all quotes. Similarly, if a subcontractor has missed pricing an item then the resulting gap can be filled with a choice of the Estimator’s rate, a price from a competitor’s quote for the same item, or a simple ‘plug’, all of which shows up in colour-coded text that denotes the appropriate status, as well as in a colour-coded bar-chart that gives the concomitant make-up of a price.


It is also shown on the analytical reports that are provided as part of the package, which can rank the pricing in ascending order and identify the values and percentages of a figure that have been quoted, or are derived from other sources. Again, this level of automation was unheard of just a few years ago and would have required some degree of set-up and maintenance in Excel® to ensure that it was producing the right information on which to base the ultimate decision of which sub-contractor to employ.

Having made that decision in CostX® the final piece de resistance in my view is having the ability to make lump-sum or percentage based adjustments across wholesale or specifically selected items in the final settlement of a quote. Accounting for escalation /inflationary rises over the life of a project, last minute negotiated buying savings or alterations to a subcontract price couldn’t be simpler and can be changed in real time during a settlement meeting to immediately engender the final agreed figure.

Had I had all of this functionality at my disposal when I was negotiating and placing forty to fifty subcontract orders on each project that I was involved in, then maybe life would have been a lot easier!

sub-contractor report