An easy-to-use software suite is assisting one of the country’s top hardware retailers to simplify customer’s ordering processes and provide them with more accurate estimates of materials required to undertake building projects.

Cashbuild, who recently adopted the locally developed Billcost estimating software suite into its 230 southern African stores, has since its introduction, undertaken estimates valued at hundreds of millions of Rands on the system. About 14% of these estimates were reportedly converted to sales.

Managing director of PPIS, the company responsible for the development of the software, Chris Steenkamp, says that the system is designed to be operated by any person in the store with a little building material knowledge and is particularly suited to the sales structures. Knowledge base is covered by the training provided with the software package.

Quick and easy

“The software was developed according to certain strategic requirements within the retail environment, as builders and contractors nowadays are increasingly turning towards materials merchant for assistance with regard to determining the quantities of materials required for projects – in a quick and accurate manner.

“After a number of years spent in testing and developing, the Billcost estimating software suite was developed and focusses directly on addressing three major concerns, including speed, pricing and operator ability.

“These directly affect the usability of the product in a fast-paced environment, such as retail, as well as rapidly providing pricing guidelines for the contractor at the click of a few buttons. Considering the software will not be operated by building professionals, but rather retail workers, the system had to be simple-to-use but sufficient to provide an accurate measure of material requirements,” says Chris.

Speed

PPIS developed Billcost to be customised to users own database and stock profile. In the case of Cashbuild it deployed a custom designed database specifically created for the retailer. In these stores an operator can comfortably carry out a complete estimate for a small house within 15 to 25 minutes. This includes plumbing, electrical installation and roofing.

Pricing and reporting

Pricing matrix for the specific stores are automatically obtained from the local retail system and applied to the Billcost estimates. Nine different reporting formats equipped with filters allows the estimator the flexibility of multiple reporting angles.

Operator ability

The system is designed to be operated by any person in the store with a little building material knowledge and is particularly suited to the sales structures. Knowledge base is covered by the training provided with the software package.

Solutions for Africa

Based on the success of the roll-out to one of South Africa’s largest retailers, Chris comments that it is an opportune time for other chain stores, as well as independent retail stores to begin using the Billcost estimating system. “It is specially designed with local stores in mind and as such it has built in intelligence that enables the system to overcome typically South African challenges.

“Unlike overseas developed retail systems, ours is homegrown and users have the benefit of enjoying local support from right here in South Africa. With some training and fine tuning, we are confident that the system can achieve a 20% pull-through of sales from original estimates. That is a good motivation to invest in our system and whether it be a retailer or small to medium contractor, the question that needs to be answered is whether you can afford not to be a Billcost user. ”

PPIS, Chris Steenkamp, Tel: 021 852 1532, Fax: 021 851 3432, Email: chris@billcost.co.za, Web: www.ppis.co.za

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