Computer solutions enhance productivity

WinEst Pro Plus (www.winest.com, 800/950-2374) is a multi-user estimating software that uses a spreadsheet-plus-database interface and Construction Specification Institute coding format for all database items. The solution lets you customize the database and offers detailed analysis capabilities. It interfaces with CAD, Digitizing Takeoff, project management and job cost systems. An add-on RFQ Server

WinEst Pro Plus (www.winest.com, 800/950-2374) is a multi-user estimating software that uses a spreadsheet-plus-database interface and Construction Specification Institute coding format for all database items. The solution lets you customize the database and offers detailed analysis capabilities. It interfaces with CAD, Digitizing Takeoff, project management and job cost systems. An add-on RFQ Server option supports online bidding and e-procurement.

The software, which allows the user to open up to nine estimates at a time and “drag-and-drop” items between estimates, uses item assembly takeoff (with items accessed by CSI number, name or assembly), and permits users to add items into assemblies.

Users can attach notes to any line item in an estimate. The materials factor allows variable adjustments to prices by locality. It’s possible to change prices either for a specific bid or for all bids.

The RFQ Server enables users to create and deliver (or “serve”) both requests for quotations and invitation to bids to the Web, for online delivery to suppliers or other subcontractors, using either a WinEst v.6-compatible Web-based e-Procurement portal, such as www.ContractorHub.com, or conventional e-mail. The RFQs are created from the completed estimate takeoff without re-entering any data. The application features filtering functions that enable users to condition, sort and summarize bid-specific items and as report on individual bid totals.

Integrated accounting

A fully integrated networkable accounting and service software solution from Gary Jonas Computing Ltd. (www.jonassoftware.com, 800/ 352-6647, priced by modules and number of users) is configured around basic accounting modules and can include a wide range of functions. Service companies can select from 16 service dispatch contractor modules, including Dispatch/Scheduler Board, Mobile Jonas and Inventory.

The Dispatch/Scheduler Board enables dispatchers to electronically dispatch work orders to technicians with Jonas-approved mobile wireless devices. The Mobile Jonas module, created for field technicians, connects any approved mobile wireless device to Service Dispatch to allow field technicians to process work orders through to completion, saving time in billing and minimizing any chance of miscommunication between field and home office.

The dispatcher assigns a work order ticket to the technician on the Dispatch Board and then sends that work order for that technician to receive on the mobile device. (The Dispatch Board can be set up to help find the nearest technician and supports click and move between technicians.)

The technician receiving the work order can access additional customer and site information or any other related data such as warranties or serial numbers. Upon completion of the job, using a touch-screen keyboard, the field technician can prepare billing by charging parts, material, labor and equipment for serviced items and send the bill to the home office, where the approved bill is completed and integrated with the rest of the Jonas system.

The Inventory module, which integrates with third-party parts pricing services and holds 24-month parts sales history, supports parts look-up by code, category, description and parts cost tracking by multiple vendors. The module, which supports bar coding and prints parts labels with optional bar codes, lets users track the minimum and maximum inventory levels in multiple warehouses or on multiple trucks. The module also prints physical inventory count sheets.

Other modules suitable for service contractors include Service Billing, Service Contracts, Progress Billing, Change Order Management, Equipment Management, Job Costing, Job Cost T&M Billing and Union Reporting.

The Executive Dashboard Module provides a bird’s-eye view of every aspect of a company, with modifiable columns and extensive drill-down facility.

Flat-rate pricing

Flat Rate Plus 2002 ($2,199 for one database; additional databases $599 each, Mr.HVAC.com, www.mrhvac. com, 866/267-4822) features four industry-specific databases, any of which can serve as the basis for creating and printing customized flat-rate pricing books reflecting a company’s own labor rates, parts markup, sales tax, discounts and other factors.

The residential and commercial plumbing database includes more than 1,000 tasks and 10,000 inventory items. The HVACR database, covering residential and light commercial up to 25 tons, includes more than 4,000 detailed tasks in about 100 categories, and 4,600 items in 133 categories. The appliance database hold about 1,000 tasks, in 40 categories, for major appliance repair scenarios.

All inventory items can be identified and classified by vendor. An import utility allows users to import data into the inventory list.

The software, fully networkable for up to five computers at no extra charge, allows for different global labor rates by department and an unlimited number of material price markup multipliers. The program also supports printing of inventory item labels including bar code fonts for labeling repair parts. The solution supports preferred customer discounts on parts, labor or both.

Customizable and printable reports can be automatically converted into formats for use in third-party word processor, database and spreadsheet programs.

William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected]