Right Shop Management Software Can Be Missing LinkPosted 7/17/2006
By Debbie Moore
Unlike many of you, I did not grow up learning about cars. My Dad always relied on his trustworthy mechanic to take care of our vehicles. When I got married, that started to change. My husband, Allen, was an auto body technician.
In 1998, we decided to open our own shop. I answered phones, entered in estimates, ordered parts and dealt with insurance adjusters and customers. At the time, I was creating office procedures by the seat of my pants. We purchased an estimating system and an accounting program when we opened. Almost everything was done by hand. I had to check the prices of parts by hand and enter parts invoices into the accounting computer to pay statements.
Flagging payroll was a nightmare. I kept a three-inch binder with a copy of each work order in it. Each week I had to go through the binder to see if the techs had received all of their allotted hours. Each sales invoice had to be entered into the accounting program as well. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on data entry while ignoring important details concerning job costing or profit margins.
One day, our local paint jobber - the Grinstead Group - invited us to become part of a regional performance group. At my first meeting, I was introduced to shop management software systems. I was enlightened about how any one of these systems could improve life in the office. With help from our 20- Group, I decided to visit three shops that used the management systems I was considering.
I wish we had known about shop management systems sooner. With our management system, we can allocate hours, create work orders and keep track of previously flagged hours. No more flipping through a binder for three hours to make sure the techs get paid all of their hours. Parts order sheets are created by vendors for easy faxing or e-mailing. Once the part arrives, the invoice is entered into the management system, which then lets me know if there has been a parts price change, if parts are missing or if there are extra parts. Return sheets are also created by the system and no longer have to be handwritten.
In our old system, we had to enter the customer into the accounting computer and type in sales by category (parts, labor, paint materials, etc.) This invoice was then attached to a copy of the estimate and given to the customer. We now print customer sales invoices out of the management system with a couple of button clicks. Customer information, vendor information, parts invoices and customer sales invoices are now exported into the accounting program. This has reduced most of the double entering of information, not to mention cutting down on paper waste.
Besides reducing time spent on entering data, most management systems provide a variety of reports and statistics. Want to know what your job cost or profit margin is on a particular job or by insurance company? Click a couple of buttons and there's a report. Want to know how well your estimators sell repair orders? Click, click and out prints a closing ratio report. Want to know cycle time, what percentage of your work is with XYZ insurance company, the reasons for returning parts? Your management system can create reports on this as well. Need to know what jobs are going out today? This week?
We found our shop management system to be the missing link between our estimating system and our accounting program. For anyone who does not currently have a shop management system, I would highly recommend looking into it. Go, talk and visit with shops that use them. Find the one that best suits your needs. Take it from me - you'll never look back once you use it.
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