Master Builder/Suitable Fabricator
"I believe in 'God we trust,'" says Andrea Chapman of Suitable Solutions, "all others bring data. This industry is changing so rapidly that the people who don't know the business side of their operations are dying. I don't care what management tool you use, show me the data."
A former process improvement specialist in the healthcare industry, Chapman's goal is to help fabricators implement solid business practices into their operations. "I use Master Builder by Intuit as the software engine. To supplement that program I have developed what I call Suitable Fabricator, which is the business process integration," Chapman says. "It has flow charts and business process standard operating procedures. It has all the parts from all the different materials in the system already. It has a full estimating system."
When using Suitable Fabricator the sales person enters pertinent data relative to the project and the program produces a price based on actual costs in the fabrication shop. Once the estimate becomes a job, Suitable Fabricator produces a measure template sheet, a production document and installation sheet. It creates an accounts receivable invoice, an accounts payable invoice and the purchase order. It also generates inventory allocation reports and schedules the job for production. Included with the estimate is the number of hours and the amount of materials required to build and install the job.
More important than the software program to the success of any estimating and management system, Chapman contends, is having control of the countertop fabrication process. "I am a solutions provider," she says. "My first priority is to evaluate and help bring the customer to a better place. I will use whatever they have. If they use Excel, we start with that. Selling them software doesn't solve the main problem."
Chapman uses Internet technology to meet with each fabricator for at least one hour every week. The philosophy is to work on business processes one step at a time. "We don't eat the elephant all in one bite," she explains. "We just keep knocking away at it. Because he has to meet with me regularly, and I give him homework, it keeps him motivated."
Chapman also hosts a weekly fabricator forum conference call, where her customers have the opportunity to compare notes with each other regarding their collective effort to improve business practices. Topics of conversation range from estimating and scheduling to new technologies available in the industry.
"If one of them comes up with some really cool thing, then the others go out and compete with him. I set it up that way on purpose, because that is how men are. One fabricator can't stand it when his numbers aren't as good as another's."
According to Moraware's Harry Hollander, the JobTracker estimating and management program is a tool that evolves with the needs of its customers.
"It adapts to the way you run your business, so you dont need to change your methods in order to see the benefits," he says. "You define the steps in the process, such as measure, estimate, fabricate and repair and then describe the relationship between these steps. JobTracker will automatically track those functions and warn you of any irregularities."