Software ends dark-age accounting

Monday 10 September 2012, 5:01PM

By Greentree International


A business specialising in steel fabrication forges ahead, with Greentree sorting its job costing and reporting.

Building a tank farm from scratch, capable of holding four million litres of aviation fuel, is no small job – and nor is managing all the costs involved.

Christchurch-based Ewing Construction wanted to grow its Australian operations, and so building the on-site tanks for Australia’s Gold Coast Airport was a prestige project. The 10-month job cost $AU3.5 million and involved assembling some 350 tonnes of steel tanks and pipes. There were various other engineering and trades firms working on it as well, and there were lots of little sub-jobs within the overall task. Ewings’ staff were filling out and pushing around large quantities of paper, to keep track of all the costs.

That was before Greentree.

No visibility

When Geoff Harrison came on board as Ewings’ Operations Manager, they’d been using MYOB for their accounting, and he realised that his first priority was to get a new financial system.
The steel fabrication and maintenance work carried out by Ewing Construction is what Geoff calls “a job cost environment”. Jobs can vary in value from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, and can take anything from several months to a couple of years.

“Capturing time and materials is absolutely paramount to the success of the business,” Geoff says. “We needed that visibility to be able to invoice the clients.

“Under our old system, if you couldn’t see something on a piece of paper, you couldn’t manage it. We had no foolproof way of capturing all the jobs for an accurate view of how we were actually making money on them. There was also no visibility year-on-year because MYOB had a silo approach of closing down one year and starting off another.

“We had third-party payroll system, and to get the employees’ time onto the jobs required a triplication of process – that was a key factor of requiring an integrated solution.”

No information

Another part of Geoff’s role was to provide information to management as quickly as possible.

“We didn’t have any in-house accounting facilities, so we had no management information at all,” he recalls.

“The trial balances were sent off to a third-party accountant to come up with a balance sheet.”

For Geoff, Greentree was the only answer. He was already familiar with Greentree, which offered Financial Management fully integrated with Job Costing and Payroll, and he already knew the Greentree Partner from previous companies.

That knowledge paid off – within three months, Ewing Construction had a fully implemented Greentree system. The Gold Coast Airport job was the last one to be done on pieces of paper.

Are things different now? Oh, yes.

No “OMG” moments

“We just wanted the stable engine room behind the scenes so we can measure and predict the outcomes, and have no surprises,” Geoff says. “We’ve now got full visibility of our work in progress and our margins, and we’re using that to drive our invoicing. We’ve gone from nothing to providing 100% information. That trial balance is now all done in-house and we provide the packs to our management team in the same day.

“There’s always a mismatch between invoices and costs that have arrived. Based on the assumption of the profit on the job, I can actually make the monthly accounts more meaningful, as opposed to waiting until the job is finished, and then having an ‘Oh my god!’ moment.”

Set for further growth

Greentree has enabled Ewings to reduce reliance on third-party accountants, with the in-house staff happily handling twice the processing work they did before.

Geoff also can’t speak highly enough of the work done by the Greentree Partner.

“From the initial discussion and the scoping, we then all agreed a course of action, and they’ve given us their total support.”

As mentioned before, Ewings is expanding its business in Australia. Easily invoicing customers in different currencies is another efficiency that Greentree has provided.

“We’ve set the foundation for growth now – we can go forth and conquer the world based on our current system,” Geoff says.

“Greentree has brought us out of Dark Ages spreadsheet accounting into a modern, robust and very transparent environment.”