Three productivity solutions

William & Patti Feldman examine three productivity solutions for mechanical contractors

Singletouch, www.singletouch.com, is a real-time data capture solution for mechanical and other contractors working on a job that requires materials and workload tracking. It consists of three components: the Windows software platform, called Singletouch Office; a web portal with a user interface, Singletouch Jobsite; and a mobile handheld data capture device, Singletouch Mobile. Designed to emulate the flow of information “from the field in,” it eliminates multiple data entry and multiple control points, directing the flow of information always in one direction and eliminating paperwork bottlenecks and transcription errors.

Service technicians and others in the field capture data on a laptop or on the proprietary handheld device to instantly input and send details collected in the field to the home office, where that data can be seamlessly integrated (without any re-entering of data) into third-party backend systems. The information can then be used to expedite payroll and accounting and project-reporting processes.

Through the real-time reporting, management can derive specific information about issues, such as extreme weather, sudden changes in cost of materials, changes in labor rates, or other factors, that may impact productivity, budget or scheduling. The real-time flow of information facilitates efficient and informed decision-making, enabling contractors to implement, and, if necessary, justify changes in schedules and estimates to control costs.

A nifty Singletouch feature, Labor Monitor report, is a custom report generated by the Project Control module that utilizes cost codes specific to the project to show percentage complete to date by cost code. The field survey, conducted daily or weekly, allows the project manager to capture exactly which items have been installed onsite and, through an easy calculation, determine the percentage complete for that item. By combining budget data, actual data such as time tickets, and the field survey, the Labor Monitor report can assist a project manager in managing workforce efficiency and productivity in the field. Armed with all that data, project managers can of course correct, as needed, to increase productivity, manage cost overruns, meet budget and be more accountable to their customers.

Software for saving energy

Designed to optimize energy savings in commercial buildings through increased operating efficiency, OptimumHVAC optimization software by Optimum Energy, www.optimumenergyhvac.com, can reduce commercial building HVAC energy consumption and operating costs up to 60% without sacrificing occupant comfort. The solution also tracks performance remotely, and measures and verifies equipment operations and savings on both a real-time basis and historical basis.

The software can contribute to the achievement of 27 Energy and Atmosphere (EA) credits within the latest version of the U.S. Green Building Council LEED green building certification program (more than 25% of the points needed to achieve LEED certification). The program can also help increase Energy Star scores, which in itself is one measurement used to earn LEED points.

The solution features ongoing commissioning that continuously optimizes centrifugal plant and/or variable air volume air handling unit performance based on real-time load requirements. It also features Optimum Performance Assurance, provided by measurement and validation of HVAC performance via a secure Web site that can supply facility managers with the data needed to maintain efficient plant operations over time and can also issue alerts as needed in case of an equipment failure event.

OptimumHVAC also conducts an HVAC plant energy analysis, provides a capital improvement plan and calculates return-on-investment for each project (activities thatsupport investigation and analysis, and implementation credits).

E-mail utility

SendSave for Outlook by BCA Technologies, www.SendSave.net, provides a quick, easy way for contractors to save copies of project-related Outlook e-mails and attachments in central folders on a server with the rest of that project’s files. The e-mails are then backed up with all the critical project files and other documentation.

The solution facilitates easy access and sharing of all e-mails related to proposals, contracts, and change orders as well as any other project correspondence. The software, which works with any computer running Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2003 or 2007, eliminates lengthy searches to locate relevant e-mails any time during the project or after completion. Finding all associated e-mails by project or by customer name takes only a quick couple of clicks. And, as the developer points out, if an employee leaves the company, management still has easy access to that person’s project e-mails and can share the information with new employees as needed, increasing efficiency.

How it works: To save incoming e-mail to a particular project, the user simply opens it and presses the add-in “add to project” icon on his or her e-mail toolbar and SendSave for Outlook prompts for the project name. The original e-mail stays in the Outlook inbox, as usual. Similarly, when the user sends or replies to an e-mail in Outlook, pressing the SendSave icon on the toolbar and selecting the project or customer and exact folder from scroll lists saves a copy to the server. (A free trial version is available for download at www.sendsave.net.)

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].

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TAGS: Technology