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Estimate Software- Printing software that helps you find the hidden treasure in your business.

Project Management Made Easy Through Estimating & Business Management Software

The programs continue to evolve and mature, and with this improvement cycle the results are increased productivity, greater control of costs and an improved bottom line. All achieved with greater ease and accuracy than ever before. So how can you afford to not be on this bandwagon?

By Johnny Duncan

Estimating software programs have evolved to powerful tools for preparing estimates with speed and accuracy. Increasingly, more of these programs are offering enhanced features that assist you in managing your business and staying competitive. With all the functionality of the new and improved programs, you are now able to increase productivity, control costs and improve your bottom line, with greater ease and accuracy than ever before.

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  • Many sign companies still have not embraced sign estimating software technology as a required business survival tool. For that matter, many have not taken advantage of any of the new technologies for managing projects that are available on the market that can greatly reduce estimating errors, the time required for managing projects, and the anxieties that go along with that.

    A good estimate
    The importance of correct estimating is obvious. Under-estimating may result in the client getting an unpleasant shock when bids are opened and drastically modifying or abandoning the work at that stage. Over-estimating may lose the prospect, or in any case, his confidence.

    “The sign industry’s desire to estimate quickly and effectively is more important today because of growing competition,” says Terry Miller, President of Activity Software. “Automated software lets you create quotes and email or fax them immediately in a professional style, not just handwritten notes.”

    An estimate is a calculation of the quantities of various items of work, and the expenses likely to be incurred. The total of these probable expenses to be incurred on the work is known as ‘estimated cost’ of the work. The estimated cost of a work is a close approximation of its actual cost.

    The agreement of the estimated cost with the actual cost will depend on accurate use of estimating methods and correct visualization of the work, as it will be done. Automating the process not only eliminates the need to pour in hours of time completing an estimate, but also takes out the worry that you may have miscalculated your figures.

    When making your decision about whether or not to purchase estimating software for your sign business, keep in mind that your competition may already be using one. To remain competitive and achieve a professional quality in your presentation documents, do your homework and select a product that will suit your needs now and for the future.

    The right sign estimating software gives you faster estimates, fewer errors, synchronizes with your job cost accounting, and enhances your ability to communicate with clients, suppliers and contractors. The learning curve for using an estimating software program will be greater or lesser depending upon your computer skills and your familiarity with estimating. Many user-friendly, affordable options are available for small businesses.

    A good tracker
    When it comes to the functionality you’ll find in today’s estimating software programs, estimating is just the tip of the iceberg. Available in some programs is the ability to take advantage of such features as built-in calculators and conversion programs, report and printed form generation, drawing tools, tracking workflow, scheduling, and more.

    An estimating program can work for you when it comes to tasks not only related to organizing bids, but also keeping track of the books, tracking projects in production and costs, presenting documents to clients, writing contracts and preparing order forms and reports. These and other organization tools will allow you to achieve the same professional touch as many of the larger contractors. The more tasks you delegate to your software, the faster it will pay for its keep.

    One complete sign company management system that assists sign businesses in managing the sign process from start to finish is the SignTracker management software. This headache-reducing, time-freeing, jewel of a tool is helping sign shops, large and small, estimate more accurately, track jobs more efficiently, and provide clarity to the bottom line.

    SignTracker was created by Joe Arenella and Robert McDonald of Sign Tech International. “We have been in the sign industry as a sign manufacturer for over 10 years and now close to $10 million in sales,” says Arenella. “We really know the business.” SignTracker was developed over that 10-year period and has been selling like hotcakes since it hit the market two years ago.

    SignTracker is an organizational system that helps with many aspects of what your company needs. It comes with over 500 creative sign designs and standardized sign templates, but the estimating, sales tracking, and project management are probably the most used functions of the system. The system cost is under $2,000 for all modules and multi-users and there are no annual dues or other fees associated.

    One of the greatest challenges for sign business owners today is keeping all of the paperwork organized. “Each project has unique parts, even if you are manufacturing the sign over and over again,” says Arenella. “Different installation conditions, city codes, shipping, and hiring subcontractors are just a few of the unique challenges in each project. SignTracker includes a tool, called Job Tracker that manages everything from surveys, work orders for design, fabrication and installation, agreements with subcontractors, and shipping labels.”

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    The Job Tracker module is a workbook with over 40 project management forms for each stage of production including everything from site surveys, art proofing, drawing approvals, contract preparation, sign code and landlord criteria forms, permits, and more. This tool will help you communicate between internal departments such as project management, design and fabrication. It will also help manage the large amount of information required to complete national sign projects successfully.

    Choosing a good product
    When searching for just the right sign management software system, be sure to look at the ability of the product to access the latest costs for standard industry categories. With many programs, you can access national databases of cost information for many sign-related categories, including accurate and updated prices for material, labor, subcontractor and equipment cost items. By installing updates as you receive them, you’ll always have the most current information.

    You also want to find a system that produces material and supplies lists, and one that offers a purchase order and project scheduling system. Also, if your company does repetitive work on the same types of projects, your software should offer the ability to create assemblies, or groups of associated items with unit costs (materials, labor and equipment, man-hours, etc.). By creating an assembly for a specific portion of your estimates, you can save considerable time and money.

    Obvious additional features should include the ability to take simple measurements for an entire project and convert them into actual item quantities for your estimates, and to make comparisons of subcontractor and vendor costs, which can help greatly in your decision-making.

    Good business sense
    Today’s estimating software programs offer virtually unlimited capabilities for helping sign companies avoid cost creep and margin loss. The key is to know what you really want your estimating software to do.

    Once you begin to leverage all these functions in your business, you’ll be surprised at the many ways your business will benefit. Some of the elements to consider when choosing a sign company management system:

    • Accounting: for tracking of payable and receivable items
    • Inventory: for tracking materials needs on jobs. This also includes pricing lists of the materials.
    • Sales: for client account tracking, sales activity reports. Reporting on sales activity and bids helps you to keep in touch with your bids
    There are several sign estimating & business management products out there in the industry, with prices ranging from $150 to almost $4,000, each with its own unique features. It is up to you to spend a little time doing some research for the system that works best for your business.

    Whatever estimating software you choose, be sure to keep it updated. Nothing is a “set it once and forget it strategy.” Most software developers are good about supplying updates and keeping things current. The key is to apply the update as soon as you get it to take advantage of the full capacity of the system.

    Now, more than ever, it’s important for you to seek the benefits of the sophisticated capabilities of estimating and business management software. It may not be enough anymore to just use stand-alone spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel for your estimates. By upgrading to an estimating software program, you gain greater control by standardizing the process and doing things the same way every time. A good estimating software program will also make sure you’re covering all major aspects of the sign project.

    As Arenella puts it, “Understand that no system does it all. Assess your greatest needs and look for the system that will meet those needs within your budget. Remember that you can always add to your system as you grow.”

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