Unrelated Software Vendors Create Tie-ins

Tie-ins of unrelated software products to streamline productivity are increasingly common. Here are three solutions for contractors that, while they can also stand alone, integrate with other programs to bolster efficiency. Streamlining change orders Suitable for contractors working on medium-sized or medium-to-large commercial, institutional, industrial, and residential projects, ChangeOrder and

Tie-ins of unrelated software products to streamline productivity are increasingly common. Here are three solutions for contractors that, while they can also stand alone, integrate with other programs to bolster efficiency.

Streamlining change orders

Suitable for contractors working on medium-sized or medium-to-large commercial, institutional, industrial, and residential projects, ChangeOrder and ChangeOrder Pro (www.accubid.-com) manage contract variations and produce professional-looking change notices. They can work as stand-alones or in conjunction with Accubid estimating solutions.

ChangeOrder, which works with Accubid’s BidWinner and BidWinner Plus, incorporates a mechanical database of more than 3,000 assemblies and 50,000 items. ChangeOrder Pro, with a database of 4,500 assemblies and 50,000 items, is designed to work with and support copy-and-paste of original estimating information from Accubid Pro, an enterprise estimating/project management solution that handles all aspects of the construction process, from purchasing to project management, billing and accounting.

The materials databases are updateable using industry pricing services.

ChangeOrder Pro also includes labor factor adjustment for takeoff adjustments from the drawing area, phase, system and location, and it allows users to add a new breakdown option or modify an existing one.

The programs support hardware devices such as Quickscaler and Scalex 1000 probes and Numonics BidMat XNT and GTCO Roll-up II digitizers and interface with Sellect AutoCAD.

In addition to tallying up the added costs of labor, material and equipment for change orders, the applications also allow contractors to figure in the extra costs for material handling, cleanup, overtime, relocation delays, and additional supervision and project management. A Project Budget-to-Date screen allows users to view latest amounts as change notices are approved.

The programs allow contractors to combine takeoffs from multiple change notices or the base bid to compile a master job file. A Job Merge capability allows multiple estimators to work on the same change notice. The programs automatically track approval dates and alert users of the critical dates on the ChangeOrder schedule screen.

Users can e-mail change notices from within the program and can select from three client reports (each with a different level of detail) and an office report that could cover all details.

Online ordering

For the past several months, The Home Depot has been distributing free copies of ProBook CD, which is an adapted version of Craftsman National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator cost estimating software for contractors that support online ordering.

Available for the asking at each store’s Pro Desk, the disk is a fully functioning estimating program that enables users to price out a job and then order materials from the store of their choice within the software application.

The program includes the same database of Craftsman labor hours as the original Craftsman database (www.craftsman-book.com), with wage modifications for nearly every U.S. city plus most Canadian provinces. The Home Depot ProBook version, however, replaces the 8,000 Craftsman materials prices, based on prices from building materials dealers, with Home Depot prices on 18,000 tools and materials for construction and facilities maintenance sold in Home Depot.

The software includes graphics and SKUs of all items to help minimize ordering errors and verifies that prices for items ordered online are up-to-date. The contractor has the option of having the material delivered to the jobsite or compiled and held for a pickup.

While the Home Depot database doesn’t carry every item a plumbing or HVAC contactor uses or is likely to need in a bid, the disk at the least could increase the accuracy of any order placed at Home Depot, and should speed the order/pickup process. In addition, the estimates created in ProBook (like those created in the National Plumbing and HVAC Estimator) can be exported to QuickBooks Pro for job costing and progressive billing.

Managing communications

Smart Tools Contact Manager v.2.6 (Ballantine & Co., www.Tools-for-Business.com, $159 single user, workgroup multi-user versions available), manages project communications, integrates all daily communications including fax, e-mail, memos, letters and mailing labels, and it allows users to cross-link any file to related contacts and projects.

The program screens look like a two-page spread in a spiral appointment book with four side “tabs” to “flip” to the screens for Contact, Project, Project Team or a To Do List.

The software supports sharing customer and vendor lists with QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Contractor Edition 2003, enabling contractors to eliminate duplicate data entry in managing correspondence with clients, vendors and other subs.

Contractors can send e-mail to individuals or specific lists sorted by contact or project. The program saves everything automatically, by contact and by project, for retrieval by either classification.

Program users can update lists both to and from QuickBooks, sorting, viewing and selecting specific records before they are updated. The program alerts a user if a record already exists in either software, allowing the user to compare data before modifying the record in either program.

William and Patti Feldman can be reached at [email protected].