Trends and new products on the mobile solutions front.


Business software is designed to help organize information all across your business, and streamline your processes. It will either make you money or save you money … or both.

Let’s take a look at some of the newest mobile solutions products on the market for plumbing and heating contractors.

This type of software turns up on three types of hardware - global-positioning units attached to service trucks, hand-held devices with added GPS capability, or laptop computers.

  • Hand-held mobile units. Hand-held systems are based on cell-phone technology with GPS capabilities. In addition to being able to pinpoint the locations of company vehicles, hand-held systems can locate employees. They can also collect employee time card and job data, such as Xora’s GPS TimeTrack - the information is captured in real-time, and wirelessly transferred into accounting, payroll or other back-office systems.

    As with GPS units installed in trucks, hand-held systems can also save contracting firms money by more efficiently routing workers to new service calls, or locating the closest tech to the customer’s home or business.

    Gearworks, Sprint and Nextel’s etrace 6.0 also uses GPS to automate supervision of field techs. Contractors can configure the system to match the way they work, such as sending alerts when employees are going to be late for service appointments, auto-distributing reports via e-mail, reducing labor costs by alerting when an employee is about to hit overtime, automatically instruct employees about what to do and what information to gather from the customer.

    The Spectrum Mobile module from Dexter + Chaney  allows field supervisors to submit daily field reports on labor and materials to the main office via a hand-held PDA or laptop computer. At the jobsite, the supervisor can use an integrated bar code sanner to scan an employee badge or other items. The data flows directly into the payroll system for processing, which reduces error and saves time. The system can be set up using a wireless network for rapid data delivery or batch communications.

  • In-vehicle global-positioning systems. These types of systems, such as the Qualcomm OmniVision Metro Service Fleet Manager, involve the installation of the GPS unit on or inside the vehicle, where it can pinpoint the exact location of each truck and provide it with more efficient routes, as well as allowing dispatch to schedule the closest technician to the service call. These systems can also measure the speed of each truck, engine idle time and keep track of maintenance issues.

    The Service Fleet Manager system is designed to meet the specific needs of local service-based businesses centered in metropolitan areas. The system can precisely calculate engine idle time, resulting in reduced fuel costs. The company notes that the system can help companies lower insurance premiums, self-insurance costs and liability exposure by deterring risky driver behavior, quickly locate stolen vehicles and generate reports about off-hour truck usage. It also helps billing accuracy and logistical planning.

  • Dexter + Chaney - Spectrum

  • Project management. With WennSoft’s Web-based Job Cost Portal, project managers can access job and project details with the company’s Job Cost software - including cost codes, forecast revisions, customer invoices, transaction details and change orders - and make informed decisions based on real-time data.

    Job Cost Portal provides data security by giving companies the ability to control the information their project managers can access. Based on employee identification, security features allow each office to define staff member access to job details and history data for all projects or assigned projects only.

  • Virtual showrooms. For anyone doing remodeling work or who may have a showroom attached to their business, CompuTool now offers CompuTool/enhanced. Contractors can show homeowners available styles and grades available, as well as other projects in the vicinity. References, estimates and contracts can be printed from a mobile printer, ready for the homeowner to review.