Plumbing and mechanical contracting businesses come in all shapes and sizes, providing a wide variety of services from installing bathroom and kitchen fixtures and associated piping in residential or commercial buildings to installing gas appliances and pipework, underground piping, or performing maintenance and repair work. Although not all contractors are the same, they all face similar challenges in managing their businesses.
Over the past several years as the number of construction projects has slowed down and competition has increased, contractors have adjusted processes and methods in order to acquire and manage projects more efficiently and accurately and remain profitable.
Many plumbing and mechanical contractors have turned to software to help them streamline specific processes, such as accurately estimating costs for contracts, reviewing plans and specifications, scheduling crews, managing inventory, and buying equipment to ensure that each contract is fulfilled according to schedule.
Although such software has improved processes for certain functional areas, using disparate software applications across an organization creates silos between departments. With the numerous steps and numerous people involved in every construction project, the complexity is compounded if using multiple systems. These silos can result in duplication of effort, lack of communication among departments, inaccurate data for decision-making, delays in processes, no true job costing, obstacles to maximized profitability, and much more.
Today, contractors can use complete construction business management software to handle the complexities of the entire project lifecycle from estimating and accounting to project management and more. An all-in-one solution provides the necessary end-to-end control and seamless workflow across applications to achieve operational efficiencies and costs reductions.
Accurate Takeoffs and Estimates
Starting at the beginning of the construction lifecycle, there is no question that an accurate takeoff and estimate are necessary to win jobs and be profitable. With digital takeoff, contractors can quickly and accurately takeoff a job without ever having to touch a set of bulky, expensive blueprints.
After loading electronic plans, estimators can measure and count simply by using mouse and monitor. Then with a seamless takeoff and estimating system, estimators choose the cost item or assembly to produce a detailed estimate. If plans change, the software allows users to easily compare the new plans to the older version to efficiently manage revisions and create the new estimate. Unique features in digital takeoff also further automate quantity counts, a step that improves accuracy and time savings, not only when taking off original plans, but also when plans change.
Additional time savings and accuracy can be realized by leveraging the comprehensive databases available in a complete solution that provides an up-to-date central location to store historical pricing on cost items including materials, equipment, and labor. Estimators can easily pull the pricing information they need to create a winning estimate.
The seamless solution provides a single application where estimators can generate invitations to bids, create the original estimate and any number of alternates, revise with changes in pricing, and produce the final proposal. Related documentation, such as original plans, drawings, and correspondence can be attached to an estimate, increasing productivity and reducing costs.
Easily Organize All Project-related Data
When a job is won, the moment of jubilation is quickly replaced by thoughts of the myriad of things that need to happen to successfully execute the project and achieve the planned profits. With a complete solution, there is no need for the estimator to pass on reams of paper to the project manager and accounting teams. All the estimate details are in the complete solution and available for convenient access by other team members to create job budgets and billing schedules, automate purchasing processes based on estimate details, and create project schedules, check lists, and much more.
Having everything stored electronically in one central location also eliminates the need for project managers to lug around out-of-date, paper-stuffed job binders. They can easily create, track, organize, route, and manage project documents electronically and have a virtual binder that is easily accessible by anyone on the team. This includes the inevitable change orders that occur on every job. Whether they are caused by weather, site conditions, material specification changes, owner preferences, or coordination between other on-site contractors/trades, changes need to be identified and managed very tightly to ensure they do not adversely affect the profitability of a project. A complete solution allows change orders to be easily created, tracked, and approved quickly and enables contractors to drive timely approvals, capitalize on opportunities for every job, and save money on potentially costly mistakes.
Connecting in the Field
All of this real-time, business-critical data can be extremely valuable, but accessibility is also essential as project managers, owners, and other team members may work on the road and at job sites. Mobile devices have improved the efficiency of communication among team members, and now users can have important information at their fingertips at all times. This helps contractors to further save time and increase accuracy, as well as better manage with timely information to stay on top of every project wherever they go.
Utilizing tools like the Apple iPad to easily and conveniently access important data, rather than chasing down people and papers, equips project managers to more easily track progress of projects and be more agile in the field.
With all the needed data at their fingertips, from original plans from bid, project documents, budgets, contacts, employees, change order requests, purchase orders, open payables and receivables, document attachments, and more; project managers can proactively and profitably execute projects no matter where they are working.
Gaining End-to-End Control
The accounting team is also an essential part of the team, while responsible for developing budgets, paying bills, collecting payments, managing payroll and benefits, handling bonding, developing Work in Progress reports, filing taxes, and much more. So it is important to have a solution that allows seamless workflow with accounting and their processes.
With a complete solution, contractors have cost management capabilities as well as all the necessary financial reporting options to help them gain strict control and flexible processing of financial obligations with superior accuracy and data integrity for peace of mind.
For the owners, there is no need to rely on others for details about the company’s financial position. A complete solution gives owners access to all necessary information to stay informed and up-to-date, and so can make confident, educated decisions and reduce chance of risk. Plus, intelligent dashboards let owners manage by exception and view activity across the company at a glance to easily identify problem areas. Furthermore, with control of financials and insight into bid activity and project performance, owners know exactly where the company stands and can see what issues need to be tackled.
Visibility Across the Organization
When all the applications – from digital takeoff through project scheduling through final cash payment – are in a seamless system, contractors can effectively manage the entire project lifecycle, bridging the particular needs of estimators, accounting administrators, project managers, and owners. Everyone is using the same system and data for timely, accurate information on projects, and so the company can simplify and streamline communication and improve productivity.
With one solution for construction management, plumbing contractors can bring estimating, construction accounting, and project management into a single, seamless system for end-to-end control. Each department can easily access real-time information, share important project details, and streamline communication, which improves overall productivity, reduces overhead costs, increases profit potential on every project. Ultimately, contractors leveraging a complete all-in-one solution can cut costs, increase control, save time, reduce error, and boost profitability.