Is your building firm stuck in the 90s?
Monday, February 15th, 2016
HBXL is a company that has arisen out of a combination of experience, insight and intuition. Our founder, Adrian Wild has worked as a builder and developer for around 25 years, building over 300 extensions and 80 new builds during this time. As a result he not only grew his building firm from one manager and a small group of contractors to a company of 6 staff and over 40 regular subcontractors, but he also crucially had the innovation to see the need for something different. HBXL Building Software is the result.
Where it all began
In order to explain how Adrian developed the idea of a software solution to construction management we must travel back in time to his building firm, Ashby Design and Construct and the early 90’s. Ashby Design and Construct at that time comprises 6 staff at this point, Adrian, Darren, Sylvia, Geoff, Anne and Robert. Each manager has a different role in process of winning the job, delivering the project and monitoring the profitability of the business. Communication between the team is vital to a successful and accurate project. Had HBXL Building Software been around, this communication between different departments and aspects of the project would have been a lot easier.
X-Connex makes all the difference
Due to the unique X-Connex technology which links HBXLs software modules, the information input at the first stage of the process can now be shared with all the later stages to ease the flow of information, increase accuracy and improve efficiency. Watch the video below to get a snapshot of how X-Connex technology can ensure a seamless build project and then read on to see how this process would work in practice using Ashby Design and Construct as our case study.
X-Connex integrated build process in action
Adrian is the initial contact with the client. His job is to interpret what the client wants and relay to the rest of the team so that they can produce plans, estimates, quotes for Adrian to pass back to the client in order to win the work. As the job progresses the team will then need plans, materials schedules, variation control and accounts to track the profitability of jobs and manage subcontract payments and so on.
Drawing the designs
Darren is the company designer. His job is to interpret what Adrian and the client have discussed. He then draws up a plan and when the client is happy he passes this backto Adrian. If Darren was able to use PlansXpress to create his drawings he would import the drawing into EstimatorXpress with a couple of mouse clicks to instantly generating a detailed quote using live prices from many of the UKs leading merchants and his own local suppliers. Darren also could print plans, elevations and 3D models for Adrian to help him wow the client, demonstrate Ashby’s professional standard and secure the business.
Getting the quote out
Normally Sylvia receives Darren’s estimate and notes and gets to work typing out the quote which can take quite and long time and runs the risk that the abbreviate quote she provides differs slightly from what Darren had intended, creating further problems later on.
Now with the combination of PlansXpress and EstimatorXpress (a powerful toolset we call 3D Visual Estimating) Darren produces everything with a few mouse clicks, for straightforward jobs, plans, 3D Models and quotes can be produced in just a few minutes including a professional estimate, quote and letter all taking into account the margins, profit and wastage for the project. In some companies the designer would now go out and meet the client armed with his laptop and prepare the scheme drawing with the client, saving Adrian more time to run the business or even a well deserved break!
At this point, without HBXL both Sylvia and Darren would have put in a considerable amount of work in order to try and win the project. If the client felt they wanted to pay less than the estimated cost, the team may be more inclined to accept a lower cost to produce having previously put so much work in. This would mean already eating into their profit margin. Compare this to the fast and easy process using HBXL Building Software where this pressure wouldn’t exist. Some of our current users even report that it has helped them choose what projects are the best for them in terms of amount of return for time and effort- putting the control back in your hands.
Once the contract has been won the scheme drawings can quickly be converted into working drawings and submitted to the Local Authority for Planning and Building Regulation approval. This is made even easier with the Visual Estimating software as it automatically produces a draft set of Building Regs notes with a couple of mouse clicks, again saving hours of pains taking work for Darren. The software also saves Darren even more time by automatically generating all elevations with a handful more mouse clicks..
Managing the Building Process
Back to the 90’s and the work has been agreed to go ahead. The estimate and the plan are passed onto Geoff, the site manager to schedule every step of the build and organise the work around any other projects that the company is undertaking. Before HBXL this would be a difficult task of juggling many spreadsheets and charts to try and maximise the amount of work each contractor could do, swapping them around a variety of sites whilst ensuring materials and plant are arriving at the right time. Simply drag the bar on the bar chart and all materials and other resources are instantly replanned. Let’s face it nobody can afford to have the bricky sitting there and no bricks! With ProjectXpert Geoff can plan all the required stages and account for the inevitable hold ups with ease. He’s got a big smile on his face when he can print out a whole load of charts and tables and timelines that will help every project run seamlessly and simultaneously. And even when it rains for 3 weeks straight he can quickly adjust the planning charts and advise all contractors of the revised plans in just a few minutes. A few minor adjustments and in no time the sun is shining again!
Any amendments to the original plans can now be easily added to the drawing by Darren and costs quickly estimated and confirmed to the client. New drawings and any impacts on the program of works of materials requirements are instantly estimated and revised planning charts and drawings can be instantly sent off to all members of the construction team in seconds. The site team can also view 3D models of the extension or house, along with 3D floor plans if required so they quickly understand what they are working on.
Now we introduce Anne the company book keeper and Robert their external accountant. Once an estimate has been created and the job won, with a single mouse click the budget for the job can be exported to HBXL’s partner company Construction Industry Accounts (CIA) making cost control task infinitely easier.As each invoice arrives Anne simply assigns the invoice to the relevant job, so that as the job is being constructed Adrian and his team can see precisely how the actual jobs compare with their original budget. They don’t have to wait for months for their year-end accounts to see whether they are making money now!
Furthermore VAT returns, Real Time Tax returns and CIS subcontractor returns are now produced and submitted in just a few minutes all using the same information from Anne’s inputted invoices. Once a month Robert, their accountant, can then quickly produce an accurate set of management accounts and advise Adrian how much business the money is making on a job by job, phase by phase basis. A simple and straightforward programme to ensure all accounts are dealt with properly, swiftly and professionally. No chance of anything getting missed, calculated wrong or slipping the mind. And peace of mind for Adrian who can see that the company is doing well by keeping up to date throughout the year, not just at the end!
Health and Safety
Now we flash forward to the new managers and job roles needed. Health and safety and building contracts weren’t so much of a thing back then, but they are an essential part of any successful business plan now! Before, health and safety was an important consideration of course, but as long as you were being responsible you felt you were alright. Now, you need to cover documentation and demonstrate that you have considered all the risks, to ensure all your contractors are appropriately trained and set up a construction phase plan. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt onsite, but also importantly, nobody wants to get a great big fine slapped on them for not having the right bits of paper with you! Having Health & Safety Xpert removes all these worries, helps you create a safe work environment and allows you to fly though the paperwork required to do so!
Finally, but significantly, building contracts are now an ever important part of a successful building firm. Looking back to the stages of winning the job, a building contract is now an essential aspect, not just a description of the work! Consumer advisors warn customers to be wary of any building firm that doesn’t provide a clear contract from the start. Complete that business winning pack with a clear, professional and watertight contract putting the client at ease and helping ensure your payment for work undertaken with ContractsXpert. No awkward discussions about payment or changes to work, just simple straightforward and legally binding contracts to put both client and builder at ease. In fact if you don’t have a legally bindimg professionally written contract with all the necessary clauses in place, the customer can simply walk away without paying a penny…even f the job is 100% perfect and on time!
As you can see, Adrian has thought of a software solution for every step of the build process as a result of experiencing every step. Ashby Design and Construct was a successful business in the 90s but the question is, would it still be as successful today if it didn’t have HBXL Building Software? Can a company that is ‘stuck in the 90s’ keep up with the pace of the modern construction market? Or better still, can a company that keeps up with advancements in technology and the construction market thrive and exceed its targets?
The reality is that with the new HBXL software Ashby Design and Construct could have taken on even more work; which would have been easily achieved as HBXL’s customers say that with the estimating alone they save on average 63 working days and win 230% more at improved margins….not to mention the enormous savings and advantages that all the other modules deliver.
So will it save you time and make you more profitable? 12,000 of our users seem to think so! Take a look at their stories here, or find out how you can step out of the 90’s here.