Helping Employees Increase Efficiency

June 5, 2003
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The changes that have come with modern computer technology have been dramatic, and the software tools designed to make the jobs of office employees and system designers easier continue to evolve. As more companies and employees become increasingly comfortable with computer technology, the demand for more sophisticated software is expected to increase. The hardest part of the process may consist in keeping up with the industry’s newest offerings.

“We see a trend in this industry to move toward a more complete package of software that is totally integrated, eliminating the need for multiple software packages,” said Clay Ingram, director of marketing for SouthWare Innovations Inc., Auburn, Ala. (www.southware.com). “This is much more efficient for HVACR companies, resulting in better service and increased customer satisfaction.”

Ingram said that his company’s software, although high-tech, actually simplifies procedures. “Service contracts tend to be complex and may include pricing exceptions, different levels of coverage, and even different billing cycles,” he said. “SouthWare’s Contract Management module helps minimize the workload required to record, track, propose, renew, service, and bill your service contracts accurately and efficiently.”

“SouthWare integrates accounting, inventory control, service processing, return authorizations and customer relationship management to help businesses improve productivity and increase profits,” said Ingram. “The Service Order module helps ensure that customers receive timely service and are billed immediately for those services.

“Service technician productivity is key to the business’ bottom line. The graphical dispatch board makes it easy to track each service order and each technician and make sure service calls are handled based on priorities and the technicians’ abilities.”

Business Software

Heidi Paulson, vice president of development for C-U-C Software Inc., Billings, Mont. (www.cucsoft.com), said there are several needs that bookkeeping software for HVACR contractors should address. “There is a great need for software that is focused on job costing, and where everything else, including accounting, billing, payroll, etc., flows from the job,” she said. “In addition, we believe that customers don’t want to have to sort out who to call with questions on accounting vs. job costing vs. payroll, etc. This is why our system is a stand-alone product. We do not rely on outside accounting and reporting products.

“There is a huge need for quality customer support in the software industry. At C-U-C our top priority is customer support because frankly, it doesn’t matter how much a software vendor says their product can do if the customer can’t figure out how to make it perform.”

C-U-C offers a package called “EMS Professional.” Some of its modules are geared to service companies. Modules include payroll, job costing, accounts payable, purchase orders, accounts receivable, general ledger, and inventory control.

“The software goes far beyond bookkeeping and accounting functions, incorporating a multitude of management information reports that allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of your business,” said Paulson. “EMS provides reports on your company’s financial condition, job status and profitability, employee productivity, service records, customer equipment, service contracts, and more. Most of these reports are available in both summary and detail format, allowing you to gain better control of your business operations. Many are available in an e-mail or print-to-file format as well.

“An on-screen, drag-and-drop scheduling board allows employees to see up-to-date information regarding service, install, sales, and lead follow-up calls.”

One group is using the unique features of its software program as a selling point for potential franchisees. Aire Serv, a division of the Dwyer Group, Waco, Texas (www.aireserv.com), offers a proprietary product called Z-Ware to its franchise owners.

“There is a need for small-business owners to add technology features to their business that assist them to operate more efficiently and realize better profits,” said Mike Bidwell, Aire Serv’s chief operating officer. “Z-Ware does this for The Dwyer Group so business owners do not need to reinvent the wheel. All of the research has been done for them, and they are then allowed to follow the system. It’s just another benefit to being part of the Aire Serv franchise.”

Z-Ware includes features such as scheduling, dispatching, invoicing, inventory management, purchase order management, and warranty management. The software is designed to accommodate human resources functions, and it offers a QuickBooks interface, Bidwell stated.

Avenir Software Inc. has created LoopCAD software for hydronic system design. Brad McCrea, product engineer for Avenir Software Inc., notes that loop layout drawings are increasingly required for commercial and residential radiant heating system designs.

Design Software

Brad McCrea is a product engineer for Avenir Software Inc., Calgary, Alberta (www.avenir-software.com). His company makes application design software, such as LoopCAD, for the HVACR and plumbing industries.

“LoopCAD automates the drawing of loop layout designs for radiant floor heating systems,” McCrea said. “It is a specialized, stand-alone CAD software that is also AutoCAD compatible. Designers can use LoopCAD to draw their floor plan or import an existing AutoCAD drawing.

“Then LoopCAD will draw loops automatically in most room configurations, and it provides fast freehand drawing tools for adding custom loop patterns as needed. LoopCAD dramatically reduces the time required to generate professional CAD designs for radiant heating systems.”

McCrea was quick to point out that design software is becoming a necessity for many businesses. “Professional loop layout drawings are becoming a requirement for most commercial and for many residential radiant heating system designs,” he said. “We definitely see a trend toward the need for more detailed design work being performed prior to the approval or installation of radiant heating systems. Professionals in the industry tend to rely on specialized computer software to handle much of this detailed work.”

Publication date: 06/09/2003

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