Extract from SPLASH Magazine - August/September Issue 2012. Read what our Raving Fan Wright Pools has to say about their Sage Timberline Office Solution
Since 1986, Wright Pools has been designing and constructing concrete in-ground swimming pools for family homes across the greater Sydney area. The company also works with leading architects and construction organisations to create indoor and outdoor pools and water features for apartment blocks, health clubs, holiday resorts, and prestige corporate and government projects throughout New South Wales. Doug Wright, Managing Director of Wright Pools, estimates he deals with anywhere between 70 and 120 projects each year. “We could get a commercial job worth $500,000 one month and another worth $1 million the next. Every job is different in size, complexity and in the resources required,” he says. To carry out the design and construction, Wright employs 10 permanent staff, the majority of whom are focused on site works. Basic accounting tasks are managed internally and at the end of each year, the books are sent to a professional accountant for review and taxation purposes.
GETTING THE COSTING RIGHTS
One of the critical tasks when preparing for any new project is the process of estimation. Wright says that pool construction involves many variables including project management, subcontractor, material, labour and equipment costs. All need to be calculated as accurately as possible when creating an estimate to present to a client. For many years, Wright prepared the company’s estimates with the help of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. He and his staff would detail all the factors required for the project and itemise costs to arrive at a project total. It was a laborious task open to the occasional human error such as transposed or mis-keyed figures. Eventually Wright decided it was time for a faster, more tailored solution. Rather than using generic spreadsheets he wanted a dedicated estimation software solution – one that would provide customisable templates and automatically carry out calculations required. “We were looking for something that would automate the estimating process. Our old methods were becoming too time-consuming and the risk of error was growing,” he says.
He decided to deploy Sage Timberline, an enterprise resource planning software package that had proven to be particularly suited to companies in the construction, real estate and property management industries. “I’d come across it years earlier when I first started out and was in general construction, “Wright says. The benefit of Timberline’s estimating module is that it offers a simple on-screen question-and-answer format that steps users through all the elements required for each project. From this information and a built-in database of costs, customisable formulae are applied to automatically calculate the costs for each line item or portion of the project. It was an ideal solution to Wright Pools needs.
With help from the solution provider, Enabling, the estimation software was installed on Wright Pools’ computer system as a stand-alone solution. “We don’t need a great deal of complexity so we haven’t integrated it with Excel or with our accounting system,” Wright says. “We simply use it to create an estimate so that we have a price point to work from. We take the figures from Timberline and work them into our own documents. Then, when we are awarded the contract, we print off the estimate and it contains all the costs for the job.”
HALVING THE TIME
It’s a couple of years now since Wright adapted the software solution, but he still remembers his first impressions. “When I first saw it, Timberline seemed a bit daunting but like all things, once you start using it, you get used to it. Now I don’t find it the least bit difficult. We do around ten to twenty estimates a week, week in and week out and have become fairly proficient in its use. I can play it like a piano,” he says.
Since the introduction of the software, accuracy of estimates has improved noticeably. One reason for this is Timberline’s process of testing formulae. Whenever a new formula is added or an existing one changed, a new formula is added or an existing one changed, Wright performs a manual check to come up with an answer to the calculation. He then runs the test in Timberline. If the two answers are the same, he knows the calculation has been written correctly and that it works. If the answers differ, he begins his search to find the mistake. It’s deceptively simple process but one that wasn’t automatically an option when using spreadsheets. “I’d say that Timberline is not so much saving us money through better estimating, but it’s not costing us money,” Wright says.
Periodically Wright has turned to Enabling for support and assistance. He’s developed a close relationship with the consultants there, but has come to know enough about the program that he rarely needs help. “The only time we really need help is if there’s a bug or we need to install the software on another machine,” he says. “If I were to benchmark what we were doing with the spreadsheets compared to what we are doing with Timberline, we have a far more accurate and far quicker set up now. We’re saving around fifty precent of the time that used to be spent on creating an estimate.”
“We do around ten to twenty estimates a week, week in and week out and have become fairly proficient in its use. I can play it like a piano.”
Visit Wright Pools Website: http://wrightpools.rtrk.com.au/?scid=1072&kw=3781792:21956 or See the Enabling Wright Pools Raving Fan Story: http://www.enabling.net/raving-fans