We sat down with Jennifer Gordon, Project Manager and Christopher Hale, Engineering Supervisor from Halton Hills Hydro to learn how their organization is using Quadra Job Cost Estimating software to streamline the estimating process for complex utility projects.
Read the full blog post featured on the Electricity Distributors Association website.
- What challenges and limitations did you experience with your previous estimating solution/process that led you to Quadra?
Our process pre-Quadra was very manual. We predominantly used Excel spreadsheets and would copy materials from a stock assemblies list into job-specific spreadsheets. We would have many tabs in the spreadsheets with multiple materials. Anytime the job requirement changed, we would have to manually go back in and change the materials. If prices changed or if we had the same material on multiple material lists, we had to go into our inventory system and manually take those prices and populate them into all of the spreadsheets. When we would go to order the materials, our stores/buyer would be provided with multiple material sheets, that they had to try to compile and reconcile.
With Quadra, there is a lot more accuracy in terms of pulling materials into a job bill of materials because now we’re pulling from stock assemblies where all of the information is there, and Quadra is pulling the pricing directly from our inventory system. When the Engineering Technicians are building the bill of materials, they no longer have to manually pull those materials. If needed, we can go back in and quickly update the pricing using Quadra, rather than having to manually go into our inventory system and pull out the prices.
- Tell us about the Quadra implementation process and the transition from your previous estimating solution.
We implemented Quadra back in 2014. It was part of a larger implementation of the Microsoft Dynamics GP financial system. We implemented Quadra at the same time as part of an overall ERP solution.
Our previous process was very manual and spreadsheet-based. During the implementation, ERTH provides templates to create assemblies based on the spreadsheets that we had before. It was about 10-months for the implementation process because of the upfront manual work to create assemblies.
As we implemented Quadra and went through the testing phases, our engineering techs had the opportunity to work in the environment and gain a certain level of comfort with Quadra before we went live. The techs like the flexibility in creating jobs. They are able to structure the job and the events to suit the job itself. Quadra reduces the amount of time it takes to prepare estimates and bill of materials because it is less manual and Quadra pulls information directly from our inventory system. When we are ordering materials, the techs appreciate that we no longer have to run pivot tables – we can actually use Quadra to generate bill of materials and reports in real-time.
- Briefly tell us how your design techs create estimates in Quadra.
Typically, the process for design, whether it is service layout or capital, is that the design tech does the drawing to a point where they are able to build a bill of materials. Our drawings will have the construction that is being proposed, along with notations for the standards we will build the construction to. Those standards in Quadra are essentially the assemblies for items like pole framing, transformer installations and underground services. They will take the design and start entering those assemblies into Quadra. Any of the billable items for a service layout are charged in one event and any items that aren’t charged, such as transformers which we treat as our own asset, go into a separate event, along with the meter and basic connection allowance. That way we can still track them as costs on the jobs and we are able to make sure we are only billing the customer for what is appropriate.
- Halton Hills Hydro uses Dynamics GP and KEY2ACT for their ERP, can you talk about how Quadra integrates with these applications?
The main integration is with Dynamics GP. When we create a job in Quadra it is pushed through to GP in real-time and the actuals against the job are brought back into Quadra so, there is a direct connection back and forth. Pricing is also brought in from GP and that is a huge benefit to the techs in that it is a big time savings for them. They can easily go directly into Quadra and see the individual items, see the costs associated with those items and make sure they are picking the right parts for the job. The other piece is the new reporting capabilities where we are able to track budgeting. As we create an event in Quadra for the budget we are able to view the budget amount compared to the actuals that are fed into Quadra in real-time from GP. Quadra not only benefits our engineering department but finance as well.
- Briefly tell us how Halton Hills Hydro uses Quadra for managing complex construction projects.
Typically, what we are doing is using the events to manage how projects are estimated and how materials are ordered depending on the type of project. We are using the events to capture costs that are billed out to customers versus costs that are solely on the hydro.
- Halton Hills Hydro uses Quadra from capital planning, budgeting and tracking. Tell us how Quadra has helped you manage this process.
It’s an end-to-end process when we’re creating our distribution system plan. We create the estimates that go into that plan within Quadra at a high level to help create the fiveyear budget and each year when we are getting ready to implement the various jobs we enter the budget as an event in Quadra. We’re able to track that budget against the estimate that we created for the job and then against the actuals. We’re using this as a real-time check for the techs to see where their jobs are at and from a planning perspective to look at how jobs are tracking, where we are year-to-date, and how close we are to budget. Moving forward, we’re looking at it to improve the estimating process because we can compare the budget and actuals and we can tighten up some of those processes. Recently, we’re looking at the quarterly budget vs. actuals report to replace some of the more cumbersome reports that our finance department has been doing for the Board. We can do the quarterly budget vs. actuals report by selecting the date range in Quadra and we’re now able to quickly provide a report, which used to take finance several days to prepare.