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Southern Plumbing Case Study

Southern Plumbing Keeps Getting More Efficient

Doug Brennan is the CEO and owner of Southern Plumbing. He has been a Nimbus customer since the first version of the software, when it was purely a computer accounting system. An accounting system is unique, he says. It’s an essential system/investment that must grow with your business. Nimbus has been an essential part of his success.

At the beginning, Southern Plumbing needed a digital accounting system. But over the years Nimbus has grown and expanded its system to include all of the processes necessary to support a successful business.

Southern Plumbing, certified master plumbers who serve the Wellington region, will celebrate 40 years of business next year. The company has grown to almost two dozen employees, including office staff who handle dispatch, project management, customer relations management and quoting, marketing and social media, accounts payable and payroll. All aspects of the business are supported by Nimbus’s complete ERP construction and contracting software system.

Track and Manage Hundreds of Jobs per Month

Southern Plumbing is a very busy service business which handles more than 500 transactions per month. To reduce costs, it uses Nimbus to automate as many processes as possible. “I’m always looking at how to remove some menial task and make it automated.”

With so many jobs on the go, Brennan relies on his Nimbus system to provide reporting for everything from quote progress to job status and work in progress updates. Nimbus helps him identify any jobs that may have fallen through the cracks, and to compare quotes to actual costs for time and materials.

Determining which jobs are profitable and which are not is a key utility of Nimbus. Reporting can also provide understanding about profitability of certain jobs. “Have the merchants raised prices? Our prices are all linked to merchants’ price guides so we know straightway when they have pushed up prices.”

“We think of accounting as profit/loss reports and balance sheets, whereas accounting has grown where now we talk about job management and accounting within jobs. In other words, costing jobs and quoting jobs, pricing jobs, managing jobs. The whole process is far bigger than just accounting.”

From Quoting to Invoicing on a Single System

Every job at Southern Plumbing begins with a quote, including all service calls, and all of the quoting is managed within Nimbus. That means time and materials are tracked from the outset. “We’ve got probably one of the fastest quoting systems on the planet, through templates and lists of materials for particular jobs,” says Brennan. “We have menus of prices for tasks and those are added to the quote. And then we simply invoice on that basis.”

Nimbus Mobile Makes Materials Management Easy

Tradespeople spend the bulk of their working day in a company van, and so the ability to access Nimbus on their mobile devices makes them more efficient and makes the company more profitable. Any job that’s live in the Southern Plumbing system is instantly live on the mobile system.

Because Nimbus is integrated, plumbers can manage their inventory of materials right from the van. Using Nimbus’s Mobile Worker, the tradie can key a list of replacement materials into the system, automatically creating an order with the merchant as well as a PO within the accounting system. In addition to saving time on data entry, it saves time for the tradie. “They can pop into the merchant’s on the way and the merchant has the order all ready, which is another time saver.”

Cut Data Entry to Save Money and Time

The ability to reduce data entry has a large positive effect for Brennan’s business because of the amount of data that must be processed. “If you have a couple of people keying in standard data it’s the nicest feeling in the world to take away a task that would take them two hours a day and automate it. Now where can I put that time for that person into something that’s much nicer than mundane data entry.”

Using reports with editable fields is another way to reduce costs for repetitive actions. “If you can send someone a form and ask them to fill it in,” Brennan says, “it will pre-populate stuff automatically. Now you’re getting the customer to do the work and not you.” As an example, Southern Plumbing customers can select their choices for bathroom fixtures and finishes from a web checklist. The information in the forms becomes the basis for a quote.

During his 40 years in business, Brennan says he’s watched hundreds of other companies go bankrupt because they didn’t have the right accounting and business management tools to understand their difficulties. “Largely because of Nimbus I can see very quickly if there’s an area where we can be more profitable. I can see where costs are going and nip those in the bud very quickly whereas other ERP systems wouldn’t have that.”

To learn more about Southern Plumbing, visit the company website www.southernplumbing.co.nz

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