Tolin Mechanical Systems provides design and build, maintenance, and facilities management services and has more than 1,200 maintenance contracts representing over 40,000,000 rentable square feet of commercial, retail, and industrial space. As the company expanded beyond Denver, Colorado, to Phoenix, Arizona; Washington, D.C.; and other U.S. cities, Tolin required greater visibility into what was happening in the business and what was coming in the months ahead. The company researched enterprise resource planning systems and engaged Microsoft Gold Certified Partner WennSoft to implement a solution based on Microsoft Dynamics GP. By using the solution, Tolin has the ability to track labor costs in real time and forecast resource requirements up to six months in advance. In addition, the company used this solution to grow revenues by 25 percent without adding to administrative overhead.
|With the WennSoft solution, we’re able to budget more accurately and get out in front of labor, revenue, and cost issues long before the financial statements come out.|
|Tom Trefz, President and CEO, Tolin Mechanical Systems|
Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, Tolin Mechanical Systems employs 350 professionals who install and maintain heating, ventilating, and air conditioning; plumbing; refrigeration; and other systems at commercial, retail, and industrial facilities in 11 U.S. states. The company currently services more than 40,000,000 rentable square feet of commercial, retail, and industrial space. In addition, the company has expanded into new markets in Phoenix, Houston, and Washington D.C.
The main focus of Tolin’s business, and its most lucrative activity, is servicing maintenance agreements. “The biggest factor that impacts our profitability is labor costs,” says Tom Trefz, President and CEO of Tolin. “The more efficiently we can plan service visits, the more profitable those maintenance contracts will be.”
As the company grew, Tolin experienced limitations with a UNIX-based accounting system it had used for 14 years. The system worked well for basic accounting purposes, but it was inflexible in terms of reporting and relied on a batch upload to record job-cost data, which limited visibility into current business activity.
Concerns About Labor Planning and Cost Visibility
Managers lacked a way to accurately forecast future labor needs, which made it difficult to properly control costs and recruit employees when the number of service contracts increased. The accounting system could report labor costs for the work that the company completed on a weekly basis, but there was no way to automatically forecast labor requirements for future booked business. Instead, managers developed labor forecasts manually by using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which was a practice that was susceptible to errors. For example, it was common for managers to discover that a service technician was overloaded for the next day’s appointments. Or, managers might find themselves with excess service technicians, but they had no way to know if another manager could use the excess capacity.
|Tolin Mechanical Systems is based in Denver, Colorado.|
Given the volatility of technician assignments, most technicians were scheduled only a few days before a visit and chosen primarily for availability rather than on a careful assessment of their skills and equipment. Says Trefz, “Making labor decisions without the proper information was challenging, because you didn’t know if you were looking at the most current version of a spreadsheet.”
As the company continued to expand, poor visibility into labor costs also caused difficulties for the 12-person accounting department. Managers trying to understand issues, such as cost overages on maintenance, frequently requested detailed information from the accounting department because they were the only ones who knew how to access the system.
Need to Replace an Aging Accounting System
Tolin attributed much of its problems to its aging accounting system, which was based on UNIX and running into technical barriers, such as file-size limits for customer and equipment records. And, because the technology was complex, creating custom reports meant hiring outside contractors and was often not practical from a cost and time standpoint. “It was difficult to hire accounting staff experienced with our system,” says Nancy Locklin, Senior Vice President of Tolin. “New employees regularly spent several days learning the intricacies of the old system and required the time of a more experienced employee to train them.”Solution
To address these issues, Tolin started comparing solutions aimed at the mechanical-services industry, and decided to implement a solution from WennSoft based on Microsoft Dynamics GP. “As we evaluated various ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems, we were keenly aware that the long-term success of our company hinged on the new solution,” says Trefz. “We were unimpressed with many of the packages we initially looked because they did not address our needs as a mechanical-services company. We realized it was essential for us to engage with a partner who understood our business model.”
WennSoft is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with a background in service management software that reaches back to 1989. “We felt WennSoft understood the unique challenges that we face as a mechanical-services company,” says Trefz. “And, we liked that the solution was built on Microsoft technology, which means that we are not locked into a single technology provider and can flexibly extend and enhance our system as needed.”
Setting Up the Solution
|Our new team members are productive faster, and we can more easily find accounting staff who are already trained on Microsoft Dynamics GP.|
|Nancy Locklin, Senior Vice President, Tolin Mechanical Systems|
Tolin assigned five key employees to investigate the new solution and document how it would be implemented at the company. Working with WennSoft, Tolin completed the implementation in six months, including setting up more than 1,200 services accounts in the new system. For each maintenance service contract, employees entered in the scheduled service visits according to manufacturer recommendations and assigned technicians and inventory to each visit.
“Entering in the labor and inventory resources required for all our maintenance agreements takes time,” says Trefz. “We do it each time we sign a new agreement, but the payoff is that now we can schedule technician visits for the next three to six months. That’s something we were unable to do before.”
Improving Dispatch Operations
Together with a new voice-over-IP system, Tolin uses the new solution to make its dispatch operations more efficient. Now, service calls from around the country are automatically routed based on the region where the customer is located. Dispatchers can quickly look up information in the WennSoft solution related to the customer and particular piece of equipment that requires service.
“Our dispatchers see everything related to that piece of equipment, including the scope of the maintenance agreement,” says Trefz. “And, they can see which technicians are available to service that call.”
Investigating Real-Time Business Information
Another change the new system has brought is that managers can access job-cost information themselves in real time, rather than requesting information from the accounting department. The WennSoft solution provides simplified access to information with drill-down functionality that enables employees to export job-cost data in one easy step and easily run their own reports.
“Our managers log on to Microsoft Dynamics GP through the enterprise portal and can easily pull information into Excel for deeper examination or into their project proposals,” says Locklin. “They can also investigate information by using the portal. For example, if they want to find the costs associated with a particular service call, they can drill down and easily see each cost by category—whether it’s labor or from a vendor. They can also see which technician made the visit and when that occurred. In the same way, managers can easily look up other information, such as approvals for accounts payable invoices, through Microsoft Dynamics GP, online and in real time.”
|Tolin services more than 1,200 maintenance contracts.|
Several projects are already on the drawing board at the company. A planned mobility project involving the WennSoft MobileTEC solution will let service technicians easily access project details and file reports from a job site. Planned document-imaging capabilities will make print-based documents available electronically for improved collaboration and record keeping, and customer relationship management capabilities will help employees track relationships with customers, contractors, and vendors more efficiently.Benefits
Equipped with a modern financial-management solution tailored to its industry requirements, Tolin enjoys more control over its labor costs. In addition, the company now has a technology partner and platform that will keep up with changing requirements as Tolin continues to expand.
“We’ve always emphasized accounting, but what the new solution does is move us into a more real-time, proactive stance where the project and financial information in our system helps us to direct the future of our business instead of tell us what happened in the past,” says Trefz. Proactive Planning for Changing Business Needs
Now, when scheduling maintenance contracts, service managers at Tolin can schedule technicians and inventory up to six months in the future. Managers can associate hours with planned visits months in advance, and run labor reports to analyze staffing needs in time to address shortages.
“With the WennSoft solution based on Microsoft Dynamics GP, we can be much more efficient in our labor and inventory planning,” says Trefz. “We can schedule technicians to make the most of their time in the field and the tools they are using. And, we know well beforehand if we need to ramp up our recruiting efforts. Or, we can run a report that shows what preventive maintenance inspections a technician is scheduled to perform in a particular day, week, or month. These capabilities help us get a much better handle on our labor costs.”
|By using Microsoft Dynamics GP, our accounting staff can work more efficiently and provide even more value to the business.|
|Nancy Locklin, Senior Vice President, Tolin Mechanical Systems|
In the same way, Tolin has greater insight into potential future revenue. “We have much greater visibility into present and future business conditions,” says Trefz. “We don’t use a batch upload like with our old system, but everything is updated in real time so that everyone has access to the same up-to-the-minute information. With the WennSoft solution, we’re able to budget more accurately and get out in front of labor, revenue, and cost issues long before the financial statements come out.”25 Percent Growth Without Additional Overhead
Since deploying the WennSoft solution based on Microsoft Dynamics GP, Tolin has grown revenues 25 percent from approximately $40 million annually to $50 million annually without adding staff to its accounting department. Tolin attributes this increased efficiency to its financial-management solution. “By using Microsoft Dynamics GP, our accounting staff can work more efficiently and provide even more value to the business,” says Locklin. Lower Training Costs, Greater Ease-of-Use
In addition, Tolin finds it much easier to find employees who are experienced with Microsoft Dynamics GP and spends just one day training new hires, roughly one-third less time than required for the previous system. “Anyone comfortable with the Microsoft Office system can easily learn how to use the WennSoft solution,” says Locklin. “Our new team members are productive faster, and we can more easily find accounting staff who are already trained on Microsoft Dynamics GP.” Ready for New Challenges
Tolin is able to adjust its technology infrastructure to meet the future needs of its business with the WennSoft solution based on Microsoft Dynamics GP. “The flexibility of the WennSoft solution and the number of add-ins that are available for Microsoft Dynamics GP gives me confidence that we won’t be limited by our business system as we were previously,” says Trefz.Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to:www.microsoft.com/dynamicsFor More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:www.microsoft.comFor more information about Tolin Mechanical Systems products and services, call (303) 455-2825 or visit the website at:www.tolin.comFor more information about WennSoft products and services, call (262) 821-4100 or visit the website at:www.wennsoft.com