4 Ways Construction-Specific Software Can Improve Your Business

The last thing most mechanical and plumbing firms want to worry about is their software. But as your company grows and your operations become more complex, you'll likely need software to support the way you do business. While a starter program like QuickBooks or Peachtree can help get your company off the ground, moving to a construction-specific package can help you get to the next level.

The right software isn't cheap; in fact, a mechanical or plumbing specific package can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000. However, the benefits of the move will pay out early and often. Construction-specific software will help you get a better grip on your job costs, manage your risks, and generally “speak your language.”

Let's take a look at four key ways in which software designed specifically for plumbing and mechanical firms can improve your business.

1. Generate Estimates Faster & More Accurately with an Estimating Program

Still estimating the old-fashioned way? We talk to lots of contractors estimating with pen, paper, and Excel. While this might work for estimators who have been in the business for several years, it can become difficult and time-consuming to stay on top of changing materials prices. In addition, it can get costly if you don't estimate prices accurately.

Software vendors such as Wendes offer packages designed exclusively for mechanical and plumbing firms. Complete with updated pricing for PVC, copper, and sheet metal, a good estimating program will walk you through the process of creating a bid. This will allow you to:

  • Get more bids out the door
  • Bid larger jobs
  • Free up your time to manage your business, instead of being trapped behind a desk.

2. Achieve Tighter Project Controls with a Project Management System

Maintaining paper files for schedules, material lists, change orders, RFIs, and daily updates can be manageable for a few small projects, but tracking all of the paperwork can become overwhelming over time. Project management systems can help contractors track all of the communication and documentation going back and forth, ideally from a subcontractor's point-of-view.

Web-based systems such as TrackPoint by eSub help owners centralize and coordinate communication internally, as well as with other subcontractors and general contractors. More streamlined processes provided through project management systems can help you:

  • Stay on top of missing materials
  • Make sure the job gets done properly the first time
  • Ensure you get paid for the work you performed.

3. Get a Handle on Profits with Job Costing Programs

Do you do a lot of side-work in Excel to determine how you did on a job? Or do you simply not know? Too many contractors have outgrown their starter accounting package and are ready for a system that can support their needs for cost-to-complete, work-in-progress, and estimated versus actual job cost reports.

A construction-specific accounting program – such as Sage Timberline Office or Foundation Software – can help break down and track costs due to materials, man-hours, and equipment. And with certified payroll reports for prevailing wage jobs, a good system can save your staff time, as well as give you a better sense of how the business is performing and how to improve it.

4. Manage Service, Contract, and Customer Contacts More Efficiently with Business Management Software

Tracking service work, maintenance agreements, and customer contacts can be difficult for any construction company. While a whiteboard and ACT! by Sage Software can help small firms stay on top of things, more service-intensive companies will likely benefit from a system that makes service a profitable contribution to the business instead of just something you do on the side.

Programs such as the American Contractor and Jonas Software can help you consolidate service-related work orders, costs, and invoices into the company's greater accounting program. Advanced features for dispatch control and scheduling can improve logistical efficiency and make life easier on everyone.

If any of the four benefits outlined above strike a chord with you, it might be time to consider upgrading to construction-specific software. Keep in mind that stand-alone systems are helpful, but that most systems can integrate two or more of the above functions in one system. This integration can link estimates, purchases orders, change orders, and job costs in one system, saving a lot of time and effort as you grow. While the investment is substantial, the returns can be many times greater. By automating more construction-specific processes with the right software, you're sure to get a better handle on your business.

If you are ready to look into purchasing new software for your company, there are professional consultants who can help you select and implement the right packages to meet your individual needs. Construction Software Advice is one example of a company that specializes in helping plumbing and mechanical firms find the right software to run their businesses.

About the Author:
Austin Merritt is Vice President of Construction Software Advice, a website that has helped all sizes of plumbing and mechanical firms find the right software to run their businesses. He can be reached online at www.softwareadvice.com, via email at austin@softwareadvice.com, or by calling (800) 918-2764.