D-Tools Systems Integration Software is our industry’s best solution for managing the sales/design process and documenting a project’s installation requirements.  It is exciting to use D-Tools for creating the visual illustrations and layouts of a project because we can see the project coming to life.  To get the most from all D-Tools can do in your company, we encourage users to walk through some key exercises before running into drawing tools in Visio or AutoCAD.  Drawings created using D-Tools are an important part of a project’s engineering package, and they can help feed your operations department accurate information that increases efficiency too.  Both are achieved only when you have taken the time to do all of the groundwork required to properly setup your database.  The steps outlined here will ensure that your data is accurate and properly reflects the costs involved for your company.  These ideas are kept in perspective by developing a solid process within your company.  Good documentation within your company will help your sales team to be more confident in the systems they are selling, along with keeping your engineers happy with the systems that they then get to design!

Let’s start with the first step which is defining the systems that your company designs and installs for your customers. This information may already exist within your company – perhaps on your website or printed brochures.  When someone asks you what your company does, how do you answer the question?  Take the time to write down all of the systems that your company installs and a brief description of what those systems include.  Capture this list of systems in the Setup section of D-Tools for your company.  Remember, our industry segment is made up of companies that install systems, not parts.  It is important to focus on the Systems in our presentation and not on the parts since the internet makes it so easy for our customers to go search for individual values on any product that is used in our systems.

Next up, take a close look at phases in the Setup section of D-Tools.  What are the phases involved with the systems that you install? D-Tools comes pre-configured with Rough-in, Trim, Finish, and Programming phases and can be expanded to meet the unique operations of your company.  Consider all the phases of a project that your operation engages in; perhaps you sub-contract the rough-in of projects or the programming task for certain types of systems.  It is important to identify how much each of those phases costs your company.  This cost amount is not just the hourly wage that you pay your employee.  There are additional costs that are involved with employees that increase the cost to the employer – loss time, miscellaneous costs, benefits, etc.  It’s important to have these numbers in front of you when you are entering costs associated with these phases.  Other phases you may want to consider adding to your database can include:

1.       Allowance:  Large projects that we seek can take days to design, engineer, and propose.  Setting client expectations by presenting allowances and requesting a design contract is a proven approach to win large projects.  By using an allowance phase and associated allowance line items in your database, you can deliver a proposal based on allowances and let the customer know how much it would cost them to have you deliver them a full set of design plans.  The customer pays for these design plans which means you have been paid for your time to bid the job.  Your customer then has a set of design plans that they have paid for – they can take them and ask other companies to make bids, but most often you are selected to complete the job.  Either way, you didn’t lose out to all of those hours you spent designing the system and you have maintained the customer’s focus on the services you provide and not on the equipment you are selling.

2.       Warranty Support:  Do you offer a warranty program for your customers?  Have you ever analyzed the costs associated with this? Most customers expect some type of warranty for their systems, and you need to account for this so that your gross profit is accurate.  Creating a warranty support phase with a cost that is appropriate for your company, but with a $0 sales price will appropriately account for this when used with line items in your database for each system you sell tied to the warranty support phase.

3.       Advanced Programming:  This additional phase is useful for companies that have basic programmers in-house and also use outsourced advanced programming for more complex systems. This way you are adjusting for increased costs that are incurred by your company when you hire out for additional programming.  Again, line items in your database tied to this phase is the mechanism used to add these real costs to your project.

Building solid data within your database can be one of the most time consuming, yet most rewarding pieces of the puzzle.  We recommend starting with the smallest type of items like connectors, rack spaces, interconnects, and programming labor.  These ‘smaller’ items are items that do not have accessories and will most likely be accessories to core items in your database.  This build method will allow you to have the ability to properly accessorize items when you are building larger items.

When you begin and have all of the smaller items in your database already, you can efficiently develop the remainder of the database.  For example, when you go to build into your database a Surround Receiver, everything needed to accessorize is in the database already!  Add additional Surround Receivers by copying and updating the first one you have built.  As shown in the screenshot below, you can see this item is appropriately accessorized and we are ready to go!

Another useful method to use for building your data, is to start with the most robust item of a Category and Type.  For Example:  Build out a Denon AVR-5808 first, then accessorize.  Within Category and Type, it is likely that the only differences between the items will be price, and number of inputs and outputs.   By building the larger item first, you will do all of the work creating the I/O table for the more robust item.  Then when you build the smaller models of the same Category and Type,  you can use the ‘Copy a Product’ button within MMPD, rename the copied item, and update the new item by deleting Inputs and Outputs in the I/O Studio, adjusting the price, and modifying the description. This is the most efficient way to build consistency throughout your database.

After you have created a solid database or core items that are fully accessorized, it’s time to begin building packages.  Packages are what will lead you to creating clean and easy to engineer systems within D-Tools.  Packages within  D-Tools are best when configured as an assembly of items that are used repeatedly in your designs.  Keep your package names generic and develop a standard for naming of the packages.  D-Tools sorts packages alpha-numerically and the window to view packages is limited in size.  Our preferred naming convention for packages is the following:
Package Naming Convention.jpg
Inside this package below, note the products are completely accessorized which further reinforces the purpose of accessorizing core items before building packages.

When you add a package to a project through the ‘Add Package’ button in a project, there is an opportunity to modify the package or exclude items from the package that will be added to the project.

Be mindful of this function as you build your packages, you know it is plausible to include a few options for products that meet the need the package fulfills rather than build multiple packages that have little differences in them.  This is why we recommend a more generic naming convention for packages too.  Within the name of your packages, avoid using manufacturer names, quantities, or other specifics that reduce the flexibility of a package.

What’s Next
Once you execute all of these steps, you will have an engineered database in place and can then jump into the visual documentation tools in SI5 which we will offer tips on in an upcoming newsletter.

About Process Dealer Services Group
Our mission is to increase our clients’ profitability by building efficiency into the sales design process – the very root of success in our industry.  To contact Process DSG, call: (805) 275-2308; email: info@processdsg.com; or visit our website: www.processdsg.com Making D-Tools easy with Stuff That Works!