Sure, it’s easy to quote a job. Just take a quick look at what someone wants, guess how much stone it needs, figure how many workers you’ll pay for so many hours, scratch something out on the back of whatever’s handy, and you’ll ….
   Well, you’ll almost guarantee that, unless you’re an amazing guesser or compute the infinite value of pi to relax in traffic, you’ll lose money. Given the competition in the stone-fabrication market, doing business off the top of your head may mean you’ll lose the customer to someone else.
   Fabricators need to know their margins – or if they’re making any profit at all – before sending a slab through the saw to begin a kitchen or any other job. And they also need some way to deal with a growing number of customers who want more than a “more-or-less” price quote given over the phone.
   Fortunately, there’s a growing niche of business software aimed at solving those dilemmas. And, most of the packages go deeper than just spitting out a price – the results can help fabricators get a handle of how they’re really running their business.
   Stone Business surveyed the major providers of estimating and job-workflow software this spring to get a snapshot of what fabricators should expect when considering the various packages. Software prices vary across the board, but all the programs address basic issues of how to price a job and present it to a potential customer.
   On the estimating side, the survey notes several features, including the ability to break down a quote by component (sink cutouts, edges, drainboards, etc.) and mix different stone (priced at different levels) in the same quote. There’s also the issue of the visual appeal of the quote, as in whether it shows the actual edge shape or where countertop seams will be located.
   Some of the programs (as noted in the survey) also work with DXF files or photo-measuring software, allowing them to tap into data from digital-measuring systems. And all of them export the quote numbers to accounting programs such as Intuit’s QuickBooks®; while you may not use the information, your accountant may thank you profusely.
   Nearly all the programs do more than estimating; they also track workflow issues. Some measure inventory, and accept bar-code data from handheld scanners to record stone movement in and out of the yard. Quoting a job is one thing; running short of stone-on-hand to do the project can affect the final price.
   Workflow programs also offer a variety of business-management reports, showing the labor and materials needed to finish a job. It’s the data that allows fabricators to put a finer point on overhead costs.
   The survey also notes the standard business functions of some programs, such as purchasing and invoice orders. And, finally, software providers show the various levels of support for users, such as manuals, training and help provided via a phone call (and whether the call is toll-free).
   One thing worth noting at the start is that several software programs migrated from another trade – the solid-surface industry. While solid-surface and stone fabrication differ in several ways, the programs recognize the different needs of stone shops, while building on the similarities in producing and installing countertops and other surfaces.
   Of course, this only provides a quick look at each program. Contact the providers for additional information and to ask questions before you buy.
   The following information comes from surveys sent to software providers by Stone Business staff in April 2005.

AEGIS COMMERCE
Rosemont, Pa.

StoneLogic Enterprise Edition
StoneLogic Office Edition


Price: $15,000-$25,000 (Enterprise); $5,000-$10,000 (Office).
Platform: Windows
Interfaces with: ETemplate™; Excel; Word.
Accepts DXF files for: Estimating; production workflow.
Software support: Online; telephone; training; manual.
Telephone support toll-free: No
Functions include: Estimating; job ticket; quote print; invoice.
Multiple materials on same estimate: Yes
Estimates show: Materials; labor; installation; added components.
Production categories: Backsplash; sink; drainboard; edges; finishes.
Edge/finish graphics: No
Drawings/shapes to scale: Yes
Cutout/seam placements shown, moveable: Yes, through Etemplate integration.
User-editable database: Materials; shape/layout; edges.
Inventory tracking: Yes   
Automatic inventory reports/reorder notification: Yes
Accepts bar-code input: Yes
Tracking of labor/materials for job-cost reports/analysis: Yes
Prepares: Job ticket; job routing; work management report; change orders; job template.
Business features: Invoices; purchase orders; accounts receivable; aging list; inventory amount and valuation.
Notable features: Full-function Business Process Management System; web-based for secure intranet operation; integration with Etemplate digital templating; gateway portal to enable scheduling-information posting through a secure internet access point; designed specifically for fabricator use.
Contact: Aegis Commerce, 610-520-0282; www.aegiscommerce.com

CRYSTALLINE ENTERPRISES
Bellingham, Mass.

QuickQuote

Price: $995
Platform: Windows
Interfaces with: QuickBooks®
Accepts DXF files for: Estimating
Software support: Telephone; manual.
Telephone support toll-free: No
Functions include: Estimating; quote print.
Multiple materials on same estimate: Yes
Estimates show: Materials; labor; installation; component breakdown.
Separate production categories: Backsplash; countertop; sink; edges.
Edge/finish graphics: Yes
Drawings/shapes to scale: Yes   
Number of shapes: 10
Cutout/seam placements shown, moveable: Yes
User-editable database: Materials; cutout/seam; edges.
Notable features: Stores entire product catalog; multiple pricing options; customizable; compares estimates.
Contact: Crystallyne Enterprises, 508-482-9377. www.crystallyneonline.com

GLOBAL E-SOURCING

South Elgin, Ill.

Global StonePro 3.0
DieCAD 4.1


Software publisher:
Dietrich Software
Price: Global StonePro begins at $4,995 with flexible module-based pricing.
Platform: Windows
Interfaces with: MAS 200; Great Plains®; QuickBooks®: Pro; Macola; Navision.
Accepts DXF files for: Estimating;  production workflow.
Software support: Online; telephone; training; manual.
Telephone support toll-free: Yes
Functions include: Estimating; job ticket; quote print; invoice.
Multiple materials on same estimate: Yes
Estimates show: Materials; labor; installation; component breakdown.
Separate production categories: Backsplash; countertop; sink; drainboard; cutting boards; edges; finishes.
Edge/finish graphics: Yes
Drawings/shapes to scale: Yes
Number of shapes: 10 basic shapes plus CAD engine to draw new or import DXF files.
Cutout/seam placements shown, moveable: Yes
User-editable database: Materials; shape/layout; cutout/seam; edges; other work cycles or installation costs; customers and customer price groups.
Inventory tracking: Yes
Automatic inventory reports/reorder notification: Yes
Accepts bar-code input: Yes
Tracking of labor/materials for job-cost reports/analysis: Yes
Prepares: Job ticket; job routing; work management report; change orders; job template; workstation in.
Business features: Invoices; inventory amount
Notable features: Bar-code labeling for WIP and inventory; planning and scheduling; material requisition; shop floor integration; DieCAD supports work within AutoCAD for design of wall cladding, stairs, and floor tile layouts for large projects.
Contact: Global E-Sourcing, 866-277-8968; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.globalstonepro.com

MORAWARE
San Mateo, Calif.

JobTracker

Price: $6000 (software and first 12 months of maintenance) (Also available for 12 monthly payments of $550. Additional 12 months of maintenance is $1,000.):
Platform: Variable (installed on Windows server, but can be accessed from any type of computer)
Interfaces with: Peachtree®; QuickBooks®.
Software support: Online; telephone; training; manual.
Telephone support toll-free: Yes
Functions include: Estimating; job ticket; quote print.
Multiple materials on same estimate: Yes
Estimates show: Materials; labor; installation; component breakdown. (Price list is completely configurable.)       
Separate production categories: Backsplash; countertop; sink; drainboard; cutting boards; edges; finishes. (Price list is fully configurable and can handle any production category.)
Edge/finish graphics: Yes
Drawings/shapes to scale: No (Descriptive pictures can be included.)   
User-editable database: Materials; shape/layout; cutout/seam; edges. (Database is fully configurable.)
Inventory tracking: Yes
Automatic inventory reports/reorder notification: Yes
Accepts bar-code input: Yes
Tracking of labor/materials for job-cost reports/analysis: Yes
Prepares: Job ticket; job routing; work management report; change orders; job template. (Software allows user to create an unlimited number of fully customized forms, defining user process with the steps user chooses to track.)
Business features: Purchase orders; inventory amount; inventory control.
Notable features: Drag-and-drop calendar with the ability to show any amount of detail; flexibility of multiple price lists, discounts, and different pricing for different customers; track inventory for all materials, including slabs, remnants, sinks, other materials and shop supplies; create custom forms such as shop tickets, selection sheets, or install forms; individual users personalize views of the data to their needs, while all users share the same information.
Contact: Moraware, 866-312-9273; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.moraware.com

NoWag INC.
Mountain View, Calif.

CounterTop Pro1.0

Price: $900 setup, $150 per month per site (unlimited users).
Platform: Windows
Interfaces with: ODBC-compliant program by user data export.
Software support: Online; telephone; training; manual.
Telephone support toll-free: No
Functions include: Estimating; job ticket; quote print; invoice.
Multiple materials on same estimate: Yes
Estimates show: Materials; labor; installation; component breakdown.
Separate production categories: Backsplash; countertop; sink; drainboard; cutting boards; edges; finishes; heatrods; ability to customize/display specifications.
Edge/finish graphics: Yes
Drawings/shapes to scale: No
Number of shapes: Six
Cutout/seam placements shown: No
User-editable database: Materials; shape/layout; edges; ability to customize/display entire line of products and services.
Inventory tracking: No (future release)
Automatic inventory reports/reorder notification: No
Accepts bar-code input: No
Tracking of labor/materials for job-cost reports/analysis: Yes
Prepares: Job ticket; work management report.
Notable features: Customize online business presensce with pre-loaded shapes, materials, edges, sinks; professional estimates in hard-copy or e-mail format; schedule client visits, measures, fabrication and installation times and view by day, week or month; track job profitability and staff performance; try-before-you-buy with trial software download from NoWag Website.
Contact: NoWag Inc., 650-965-8200; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.nowag.com

PINNACLE SOFTWARE
Strongville, Ohio

Counter Intelligence

Price: $3,500
Platform: Windows
Interfaces with: QuickBooks®; Peachtree®; other accounting software.
Software support: Online; telephone; training; manual.
Telephone support toll-free: Yes
Functions include: Estimating; job ticket; quote print; invoice.
Multiple materials on same estimate: Yes
Estimates show: Materials; labor; installation; component breakdown.
Separate production categories: Backsplash; countertop; sink; drainboard; cutting boards; edges; finishes.
Edge/finish graphics: Yes
Drawings/shapes to scale: Yes
Number of shapes: 100+
Cutout/seam placements shown, moveable: Yes
User-editable database: Materials; shape/layout; cutout/seam; edges.
Inventory tracking: Yes
Automatic inventory reports/reorder notification: No
Accepts bar-code input: Yes
Tracking of labor/materials for job-cost reports/analysis: Yes
Prepares: Job ticket; job routing; work management report; missing data report; gross-profit-margin report.
Business features: Invoices; purchase orders; inventory amount and valuation.
Notable features:  Estimating; shop drawings; scheduling; materials ordering; inventory control.
Contact: Pinnacle Software, 888-854-5272. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.pinnsoftware.com

SUITABLE SOLUTIONS
La Habra, Calif.

suitableFABRICATOR™ powered by Intuit Masterbuilder®
GRAPES Visual pricing and estimating


Price: Starting at $1895 (Concurrent single fileserver license, scaleable to 100+ clients /Server Enterprise)
Platform: Windows
Interfaces with: MAS 90; MB Reports; Microsoft Office suite; Peachtree®; QuickBooks®; Tractivity™.
Software support: Online; telephone; training; manual.
Telephone support toll-free: Yes (with annual maintenance)
Functions include: Estimating; job ticket; quote print; invoice.
Multiple materials on same estimate: Yes
Estimates show: Materials; labor; installation; component breakdown.
Separate production categories: Backsplash; countertop; sink; drainboard; cutting boards; edges; finishes.
Edge/finish graphics: Yes
Drawings/shapes to scale: Yes
Cutout/seam placements shown: No
User-editable database: Materials; shape/layout; edges.
Inventory tracking: Yes
Automatic inventory reports/reorder notification: Yes
Accepts bar-code input: Yes
Tracking of labor/materials for job-cost reports/analysis: Yes
Prepares: Job ticket; job routing; work management report; change orders; job template.
Business features: General ledger; invoices; purchase orders; payroll; accounts receivable; aging list; inventory amount and valuation.
Notable features: Flexible and easy to use sales presentation/proposal tool; unlimited pricing level capabilities; two pricing levels for every client; integration with accounting and business-management software; business and financial analysis.
Contact: Suitable Solutions, 800-525-6966. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.suitable1.com

OTHER SOFTWARE PROVIDERS

Stone Profit Systems, Chicago. 773-239-4648; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.stoneprofits.com

This article first appeared in the June 2005 print edition of Stone Business. ©2005 Western Business Media Inc.