Control costs with software
Time is money whether it’s finishing a job or figuring out job costs in between. You can’t wait for your accounting system anymore.
By Daniel Brown, Contributing Editor
Suppose you bid a large excavation job to use an excavator and trucks to produce 300 cubic yards per hour. Say on a Tuesday you work 10 hours , produce 3,000 cubic yards, and production is on target. But is the job in over budget?
How do you make sure you know if you’re over budget? How do you know what’s wrong?
Waiting for your accounting system — which might provide feedback in a week or two — just won’t cut it.
Modern software can make the difference. Here are just a few examples of just how it can work with your numbers.
“Costs are only gathered in your accounting system once a week, and by the time you got that report and looked at it, you might have forgotten what you were doing that day,” says Bill Woodford, chief estimator for Trumbull Corp., a large Pittsburgh-based contractor. “You might find that although you’re making production, you’ve got too many people on the crew, or you’re using a different spread of equipment than what the estimators originally figured.”
To control daily costs for labor and equipment, Trumbull uses Heavy Job software from HCSS. Each day, a foreman enters labor and equipment costs into a computer. “Then we know what our costs are and we can compare them against our budget,” Woodford says.
At Trumbull, Heavy Job software integrates with Profitool, which is accounting software. Profitool is used to track costs for subcontractors and materials and summarize all costs on a monthly basis. Heavy Job is used to track labor and equipment on a daily basis.
“We and most contractors separate them that way because labor and equipment is a very constant ongoing and changing cost, whereas most contractors have a pretty good handle on what their subcontractor and material costs are,” Woodford says.
Seamless exporting for labor, equipment costs
At W.W. Clyde & Co, a large contractor from Springville, Utah, project teams also use Heavy Job, but they integrate it with Viewpoint Construction Software for accounting purposes. Project personnel enter labor and equipment costs daily. “Job personnel have the ability to track costs daily within Heavy Job, but we also export that information each week to Viewpoint,” says Scott Okelberry, a vice president at Clyde.
“We could export it more often, but we choose to do it weekly because the jobs have their daily information in Heavy Job at their fingertips,” Okelberry says. “So to put it daily into Viewpoint doesn’t make that much sense for us.”
For estimating, W.W. Clyde uses Heavy Bid, which is a companion piece of software to Heavy Job. “Our estimates roll from Heavy Bid to Heavy Job and Viewpoint — two places,” he says. “The seamless export to accounting is very important. A lot of programs can export data that can be manipulated, but it’s not very easy to do. Heavy Job is very user-friendly and it’s pretty simple to make the transition between Heavy Job and Viewpoint.
He says Heavy Job allows a contractor to do “what if” scenarios on daily costs. Suppose a pipe-laying crew is not meeting budget. They decide they need another excavator, so they plug another crew scenario into Heavy Job. They could get maybe 25 percent more production for 15 percent higher costs, Okelberry says. Heavy Job will tell the project manager what the projected unit cost would be. “They would try it out the next day, or the next week, and see what difference the added excavator makes,” Okelberry says.
Does Heavy Job help Clyde make more money?
“We try to give projects the information they need every day about whether they’re meeting budget or not,” Okelberry says. “And we expect them to use that information to make decisions to improve.
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