NICHE MARKET software can optimize the benefits of computerization. Below are three financial software solutions developed or adapted for the construction industry.
Estimation’s T & M Billing (Estimation, www.estimation.com, 800/275-6475, ext. 207) provides computerized time-and-material invoicing. The program comes with a comprehensive database that allows contractors to store items such as material pricing, labor and tools for generating invoices. Through the Internet, the software integrates with e-catalogs from leading data providers, including i2’s TRA-SER Pro and Harrison’s Price Book to instantly update pricing, research products, view specifications and add items to the database.
T & M Billing is compatible with Estimation’s estimating systems, allowing users to import estimating data directly into a work order. After work orders are complete, they are automatically converted into professional invoices that include a description of the job performed, materials used, labor hours and amount owed.
The software, which can store unique customer information with several levels of pricing, supports creation of multiple invoices for a particular job, enabling partial billing.
The program comes with full PDA integration. A contractor equipped with an approved palm device with a built-in bar-code scanner (either the Visor PRO or Symbol SPT 1800) and using Estimation’s ORDERit Palm Application software can capture material identification by scanning bar codes on the material, a bin location, on the service truck or out of a customized material booklet that the service person carries. Once the data is captured on the PDA, it can be synchronized with T & M Billing at the office to extract the work order stored on the device.
WinJob Version 3 construction accounting software (DENEB, www.winjob.com, 800/952-7888) is a Windows accounting and management solution. The basic configuration includes Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Payroll, General Ledger/Bank Reconciliation, Job Cost and System Manager.
Add-on modules include Estimating, Purchase Order, Inventory Control and Item Billing.
The software, which can store and track information for up to 99 companies and keep the books separate for each, handles multi-location inventory, subcontractor tracking, retainers, waivers of lien, union and government reporting and other requirements unique to construction.
Some of the applications can post information for different companies. This could be helpful for businesses that need to track costs for multiple companies but want consolidated balance sheets or profit-and-loss statements, for example. The information in each application can also be posted to other applications (usually within the same company).
The new Accounts Receivable module has capabilities for flexible invoice formatting, quantity and factor pricing, retainers and retainer billing, by invoice or job and automatic calculation of finance charges.
The Estimating module features include: online takeoff; maintenance of user-defined assemblies and of standard phase file; labor rates, fringes, taxes, labor overhead and other overhead controlled by phase, job or company; several ways to update the price book; and a selection of ways to print estimates.
In addition, the solution provides functions for creating recurring invoices in Accounts Payable, copying invoices in Accounts Receivable, creating recurring transactions in General Ledger and copying estimates.
Item billing offers four different billing types, including lump sum/percentage-of-completion format, quantity/unit-price format, and with or without retainage. The module interfaces to other applicable modules: billing detail and current units or percentages are posted to accounts receivable, and job cost is updated by accounts receivable post. The Job Costing module tracks all costs by job, sub-job, phase, cost category, cost code and detail item, and will track change order costs.
The program also allows contractors to choose from user-defined lien waivers and affidavits, user-defined invoice formats, tiered local income taxes, multiple 401k calculations and user-defined Word documents to attach to purchase orders.
Picking up on the trend among software developers to customize off-the-shelf solutions for niche markets, Intuit is releasing a specialized version of its financial software designed for construction businesses with one to 20 employees.
Quickbooks Premier: Contractor Edition 2003 (www.quickbooks.-com, 888/246-8848) includes all the general features plus additional functions that can streamline estimating and change order processes and help increase accuracy.
In addition to the full complement of Quickbooks reports, five additional job-costing reports help contractors track and bill expenses and evaluate the profitability of a project. Customized templates and contractor-specific sample files help ease new-user setup.
Contractor-friendly features start at the menu, which provides one-click access to activities and reports commonly used by contractors. Sample reports include Job Cost Detail, Job Costs by Vendor and Expenses Not Assigned to Jobs.
An Employee Organizer feature provides compliance guidance, reports and up-to-date information on federal and state laws to help better manage employee administration, and industry specific help.
Help functions with Contractor Edition 2003 addresses a variety of accounting concepts, including understanding the chain of accounts and job cost reports, financial statements, estimating strategies and labor burden.
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].