Bespoke Accounts System
Ness Engineering wasn't convinced by off-the-shelve accounts packages, instead opting to stay with a reliable tried and tested DOS system now reaching 20 years old. This system was simple to use and productive allowing them to handle everything relating to purchases and sales efficiently, and meet the demands of a large and busy business. Features included producing invoices with calculated mark-up, credit notes, statements, handling payments and producing monthly cheques, recording staff labour and materials against jobs tied with purchases, maintaining ledgers, and producing a variety of accountant friendly reports and statistics.
Unfortunately this DOS system showed signs of aging, was limited to printing on a dot matrix printer, and only allowed single user access. There were a number of enhancements and features on the wish list, such as producing monthly statements for the Construction Industry Tax scheme (CIS), which was a timely exercise. So the task was to develop a new Windows based system based heavily on the original, maintaining the same efficiency and familiarity, but with added enhancements taking advantage of features in Windows.
A Windows application was developed importing all 20 years worth of data and adding a new Windows interface, as well as adding a number of features including CIS. The new system allowed the same familiar way of accessing areas through key-strokes, but with enhancements such as improved record navigation, logical grouping of information in areas for increased visibility, and recording more information so archived paper records didn't need to be sought. Print-outs such as invoices and statements are now branded in full colour and laser printed, and cheques are now printed without sheet feed issues of old. The system is multi-user and multiple areas can be opened and worked on at once. All print-outs and lists can also be saved in Microsoft Excel or Adobe PDF format for added flexibility.
New features are requested and provided regularly.
As part of electrical regulations, a variety of SELECT® approved forms and certificates need to be produced for customers detailing such things as the installation, test results, distribution and circuit boards, observations and recommendations, with signed declaration. However this paperwork can often take much longer than the job itself, with some longer forms taking 4-5 hours to complete. Handwriting issues and different interpretations of questions by electricians add further problems.
It was decided a portable software system would be the best solution allowing forms to be input and printed easily, since each electrician already carried a laptop and printer. This would produce a professional end-result with clearly typed answers. The form input carried out by the electrician onsite would synchronise with a master system when the laptop was back in the office, keeping everyone up-to-date. This system was built with features including:
- Customer, installation and staff record entry, creating a database of this information for pre-filling forms and navigation.
- 7 Electrical forms available in the system including Fire Alarm Certificates to Electrical Installation Certificate and 5 yearly Periodic Inspection Report.
- Easy-to-use form filling with print preview available at all times. Drop-down lists to pick answers and tick boxes ensure greater consistency; keyboard shortcuts and smart pre-filling ensure much faster entry with minimal typing and data input required.
- By really capitalising on previously entered form information, a large amount of time can be saved. For example, distribution boards and circuits don't tend to change that much on many sites, so by pre-filling with previous form information as a template, it becomes a case of just making slight amendments and recording test results, rather than having to completely re-document an installation each time.
- Excel-like circuit board with test result entry makes it very easy to use.
- Data entry using "input masks" ensure readings were accurate in the correct unit to the correct number of decimal places. Calculations also identified certain circuit problems if certain values don't match up.
- A database of circuit breaker types and ratings is held in the system with associated values. This can be referenced instantly when inputting circuit boards, and associated values inserted. Previously this information had to be obtained and filled in by referencing a book.
- Error checking ensures forms are completed in full before final print out, reducing scope for mistakes.
This system is currently being rolled out to the 30+ electricians in the company.