Estimating and Shop Management Software

Commitment is half the battle.
Estimating and Shop Management Software

Leaving money on the table? Estimating and shop management software can help prevent pricing and production disasters.

Whew! The Great Recession is in the rear-view mirror and hopefully, your shop’s purse strings have loosened up. Is your shop riding the wave or are you bogged down in daily details, like managing quotes and monitoring shop production? And, have you been gaining in sales only to learn you’re not making a decent profit? If your shop falls into such categories, it may be time to add (or upgrade) estimating and job management software. Fortunately, numerous companies offer estimating and job management applications; however, selecting one may at first appear overwhelming. What do you need to know before making a smart selection?

QUESTION EVERYTHING

Ask first. Do you really need such capabilities within your shop? Small shop owners may initially think such systems are overkill (our small signshop absolutely needed and profited from such software) and large shops may already have management information systems (MIS) in place that offer similar assets. Therefore, if you are on top of things, the added expense of estimating and job management software may not be worth the cost. However, are you sure your quotes are making money? Have you accounted for waste, labor, design time or rush fees? What about job changes? In the heat of production deadlines, anyone can forget hidden outlays that affect job profitability. We’re saying you should reexamine your systems if you suspect the shop is losing business or profits due to the time required to quote clients, the mistakes made in forming such quotes, or in-shop processes.

Can you, right now, determine the status of all in-process jobs? Are all the shop machines up and running? Is your staff clear on their tasks for the day? Are material lead times properly scheduled? Trucks moving, permits in process? Any shop can get behind in production and overlook details; the important part is to have a control system. Adding shop management software that tracks job costs and activities from sales to installation to accounts receivable is truly a benefit. Fortunately, it isn’t complicated because most packages provide an easy-to-comprehend installation and, for everyday use, a dashboard view.

So, what should you be looking for? To some extent, it depends on how tech savvy your shop is. Software can be locally installed (in-shop systems) or cloud based. In-shop systems will generally offer more robust options and are not dependent on an internet connection. Cloud systems allow you to access information remotely, but, again, are affected by your internet connection. In-shop installations may require local networking (LAN) systems or even wide area networks (WAN) that connect to your cell phone. Also, be prepared to provide your own backups and updates to in-shop systems and applications. If the in-shop choice seems complicated, consider one of the cloud- or web-based solutions that manage your software and charge monthly subscription fees (ask about data storage costs). The benefits of cloud systems are that data backup and updates are performed by the vendor; thus, the only technology you provide is an internet connection.

Here’s the hard part: None of these applications will do the job if you don’t properly load the initial data. Furthermore, your shop’s continuing data must be entered and maintained. The software companies should help or offer setup services at the time of installation, but it’s up to your shop to develop and practice the discipline to enter and maintain the data. For example, your system needs to reflect when material prices change. We also emphasize that your sales staff must effectively enter account data into the system.

WINNING THE BATTLE

Fortunately, the rewards gained by using an estimating and shop management system outweigh any setup anxiety. Once done, you’ll have instant access to the status of all jobs in production. Your quotes will be accurate, details acted on and recorded and, as a result, all jobs should reflect a worthwhile profit. If you cannot say the same for your shop today, we suggest adding estimating and job management software to your business.

Signs of the Times September 2018

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