Software Choices For All Contractor Functions

May 9, 2002
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The FieldCentrix FX Service Center allows schedulers and dispatchers to access all critical customer information from one main screen.
Quick — digest the information you are about to read in this article and investigate how some of the software can be useful to your business. Why? If you don’t take the time to see how this hvacr-related software can help your business, your competitors might beat you to the punch.

Whether it is service, business management, design, or fleet-tracking software, hvacr contractors are finding many software options in their quest to streamline their businesses and make them more profitable. The News looked at some software packages available and asked the designers to talk about the benefits of their packages.

Here is what we found.

Wireless field service automation software from FieldCentrix is designed to allow technicians to concentrate on servicing their customers instead of on paperwork.

FIELD SERVICE SOFTWARE

FieldCentrix (www.fieldcentrix.com) is a familiar name among users of field service software. The Irvine, CA-based provider of field service automation systems packs a powerful one-two punch with its FX® Mobile and FX® Service Center products.

The company describes some of the features and functions of its Web-based products:

  • With FX Mobile, technicians receive work orders electronically on their handheld computers. It then guides them, screen by screen, through the job, prompting them to perform standard tasks, take notes, and record future recommended repairs.

  • With the addition of online equipment catalogs and diagnostics, technicians can troubleshoot and solve problems faster. And, wireless data communication keeps them in real-time contact with each other and the office, cutting down on cell phone and pager bills.

  • FX Service Center makes completed work order and time sheet information instantly available for export to the accounting system. Or, you can integrate FX Service Center with the accounting system for faster electronic billing and payroll.

  • FX Service Center (along with FX Mobile) helps eliminate paperwork, enhances customer service, and reduces costs.

    “Accessibility and ease of use are the most profound effects of a Web-based system,” said Judy Johnson, senior vice president of marketing. “We believe that the field is the heart of field service. Think of these products as ‘pitch and catch.’ The Service Center pitches and the Mobile catches.

    “We will soon be offering the ability of customers to access their own information via an e-service,” she said, “which is a natural progression of Web-based technology.”

    Aereon Solutions (Princeton, NJ) (www.aereonsolutions.com) offers FieldMaster, a mobile handheld solution that “creates an information bridge between the home office and technicians working in the field,” according to Jason Bleistein, director of sales.

    The FieldMaster has the following features:

  • Service calls are dispatched directly to technicians in the field with complete job details, “Map-Point” directions, and equipment service history.

  • Technicians can complete work descriptions and use maintenance checklists for individual equipment types.

  • Technicians can log records of refrigerant recovery and additional sales opportunities.

  • Technicians can use hvacr diagnostic tools and air quality-monitoring tools.

  • Service tickets or invoices can be finalized in the field for all maintenance work, whether time and materials or flat-rate jobs.

  • Service tickets or invoices can be printed out at the point of service.

  • Service tickets or invoices can be sent back to the home office for immediate processing.

    Bleistein stated, “Commercial service contractors can increase their monthly cash on hand by eliminating delays in the invoicing process and allowing internal staff to be more efficient.

    “Residential service contractors can increase revenue by increasing technicians’ available work time each day and increase cash on hand by collecting credit card or check information and invoicing at the point of service.”

    BUSINESS MANAGEMENT

    Dexter + Chaney (Seattle, WA) (www.dexterchaney.com) offers Forefront® construction management software for service management, including job costing, accounting, payroll, and inventory management. Its Mobile Service component can be used as a fully integrated element of the program tied to all accounting, billing, payroll, purchasing, and inventory functions.

    Some Forefront features include:

  • The ability to manage an entire service operation from dispatch to billing, to field communications and data gathering, to inventory and pricing, as well as service contracts;

  • Complete integration to all of its accounting, purchasing, payroll, and job cost functions;

  • Graphic, on-screen dispatching with “drag-and-drop” scheduling;

  • Profit control for all service calls and service management;

  • Daily scheduling for techs, and collection of data for billing, payroll, etc.;

  • Reduction of data entry while reducing time lag in invoicing;

  • Job cost capability to manage larger jobs; and

  • Document imaging as a fully integrated component of the system to store a whole range of documents, including supplier invoices, timecards, human resources information, etc.

    “Using wireless handheld computers with real-time synchronization, Forefront Mobile Service increases hvacr technician productivity, improves communication between the office and the field, and streamlines the service billing process,” said Brad Mathews, vice president of sales and marketing.

    SuccessWare21 software offers extensive reporting capabilities designed to maximize profits.
    SuccessWare21 (www.successware21.com) is a “fully integrated software system designed specifically for the residential hvac service and replacement contractor,” said Chris DiRe, director of sales in Williamsville, NY.

    DiRe said the software has extensive reporting capabilities designed to “maximize every profit opportunity you have in your company.” Some of the measurable information the system can gather includes:

  • What a tech’s billable efficiency is;

  • How much non-invoiced time techs have;

  • How much revenue per hour techs are bringing in;

  • What tasks they are best at and which they’re the worst at;

  • How much paid and non-paid time techs clocked in;

  • Which techs take longer to do a task than what they’re supposed to;

  • Who spends the most time driving; and

  • How much profit each tech is making for the company.

    “We believe there’s only two reasons to use software in your business: to make your life easier and to make you more money,” said DiRe. “If your software can’t do that, why are you wasting your time using it?”

    Examples of schematic drawings utilizing HVAC Solution design software.

    DESIGN SOFTWARE

    HVAC Solution (www.hvacsolution.com) is hvac system design software for contractors, engineers, and (obviously) designers. The software was designed for HVAC Solution, American Fork, UT, by Van Boerum & Frank Associates’ engineers for the company’s in-house use, which contributed to the success of the company.

    “The purpose of HVAC Solution is to design and size hvac systems and equipment based on seasonal heating and cooling extreme temperatures,” said Lisa Simons of HVAC Solutions marketing.

    Highlights of this design software, which is focused on the commercial hydronic systems market, is that it helps users calculate detailed information, such as pump head pressure drop, pipe size, and mixed air temperature. If a calculation is changed, the program automatically updates the entire design.

    A user recently told HVAC Solution that the project he was working on would normally have taken two weeks to design — but with HVAC Solution it only took four hrs.

    “HVAC Solution is just what I was hoping to see for a long time,” said Phillip Rowland, P.E., RNL Design, Denver, CO. “The object-oriented programming approach is certainly the wave of the future. This was clearly written by engineers, not just software developers.

    “It certainly saves me time, and helps produce a better design because it allows me to think more clearly about the design while keeping tabs on the details,” said Rowland.

    The FleetBoss fleet management system is designed to track and record the activity of service vehicles.

    FLEET-TRACKING SOFTWARE

    Hvacr contractors who wish to manage their field personnel and make field operations more efficient often turn to fleet-tracking software. One company that is positioning itself in the global positioning market is FleetBoss Global Positioning Solutions, Inc. (Fern Park, FL) (www.fleetboss.com).

    “The purpose of the Fleet-Boss™ fleet management system is to track and record the activity of the service vehicles,” said Mark Campagna, communications director. “With this fact-based information, managers and owners can make and/or enforce policies which lead to significant overhead cost savings through improved efficiencies and vehicle utilization.”

    Some of the benefits of the software include:

  • Verification of service calls and time on each specific service call;

  • Verification of the route traveled to the job;

  • Elimination of moonlighting;

  • Elimination of unauthorized use of company vehicle;

  • Elimination of speeding; and

  • Improved customer service.

    “I will save enough money just in stop/idle time to pay for the units,” said Tyson Swann, Premier Indoor Comfort Systems, LLC (Canton, GA). “It was unbelievable — these guys let the trucks sit and idle for up to an hour at a time. Now they are using it to compete with each other to have the lowest average speed and idle time.

    “This kind of competition is the kind a business owner likes to see.”

    Publication date: 05/13/2002

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