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Mobile Field Sheets

COBRA Mobile Field Sheet

What is a “Mobile Field Sheet”?

Electrical Contractors, Plumbing Contractors, HVAC Contractors and Low-voltage Contractors deal with a lot of Material Items when servicing their customers, doing bids and purchasing.

COBRA’s unique Electronic Pricebook allows contractors to have these Materials housed within their Contractor Business Software.   Costs can be updated by Vendors taking the time and headache out Estimating, Purchasing, Job Costing and Billing.

COBRA users have been taking advantage of the Field Sheet concept for over 20 years.  A Field Sheet is simply a list of Items from the Material Pricebook that are commonly used to do a certain type of work.

COBRA users create different Field Sheets for different types of work that they do.

The field workers record the Quantity used next to the Item Number and Description on the Field Sheet.  The office person simply types in each Item Number and the Quantity used on the Job.  The accuracy this produces ensures that Billings go out fast with no errors!   Our customers report a 20% increase in payments and they love the confidence they have using Field Sheets!

This concept alone has saved our customers over 10 hours a week on recording Material per tech. The business owner saves hundreds of hours a year manually pricing and Billing Service Jobs.

We’ve taken the Field Sheet concept to new heights by introducing our Mobile Field Sheet program.

Imagine 1 document produced and sent right out of your computer to the field that combines the Customer Name, Job Description and Location, past work History, directions to the site with the Field Sheet!

The new COBRA Mobile Field Sheet does just that.

We’ve partnered with Pro Technology, a document processing company, to create this easy to use solution for use with today’s technologies.

Now, collecting in the field is possible.  Taking pictures can be done.  Collect Signatures!  Techs can talk their field notes onto the Field Sheet.  The Field Sheet “reminds” Techs what was used on Jobs and they can enter Items onto the Field Sheet that are not on it.

Then, all of the Job information is imported into COBRA for easy processing.

Ask yourself, how much time, effort and expense you could save with this solution in place in your company?

Video of Mobile Field Sheets coming soon at


How much is your Material Costing you?

Material and Labor are the basic elements of the contracting business.

Electrical, Plumbing and HVAC Contractors use hundreds, if not thousands of different Items when servicing their customers and doing long-term projects each year.

 Everyone knows that managing Labor is critical to staying on Budget and maximizing Job Profits.

 But, what about Material?   Many construction periodicals stress the fact that, without proper tools to manage Materials at every stage of the business / job cycle, contractors have up to 20% added onto the cost of those Materials.

 How?  Think about it. 

 How much time does it take your Inventory Manager or Estimator to get up-to-date costs on Materials?

 Which Supplier has the best Cost to you?

 Do you know when to expect Materials at the Job Site?

 Are you being overbilled on those Materials?

 Do you know how much has been ordered, received, installed on a Job?

 On T&M Jobs, how fast and accurately can you get out Billings?

 How much Material do I have in stock and how much do I need to buy?

 All of these common problems add to the Cost of Materials, basically because they require more Labor to try and thwart them off.

 So how does an Electrical, Plumbing or HVAC Contractor overcome these problems?

 The best tool in the contractor’s arsenal is business software designed to automatically handle these issues before they become problematic.  But too many “industry-specific” software programs don’t go far enough in addressing them.

 Let’s take just one of the problems.  Which Supplier has the best Cost to you?  How do you know?  How much work is it to find this out?  What do you do with the information once you have it?

 COBRA Contractors Software has the answer to all of the above problems.  But, when it comes to knowing your best Cost, we’ve set the standard!    COBRA Customers taking advantage of our unique COST CODES feature are saving up to 15% better simply by knowing which Supplier has the best Cost to them!  Add on the benefits of a suite of business software programs designed to work together and address all of the above issues – you can imagine the edge on their competition they have!

The Importance of Contracting Business Software

Major changes are afoot for Electrical, Plumbing, Low-voltage and HVAC Contractors.


The close relationships we’ve built with contractors in designing and developing Contractor Accounting Software and Contractor Estimating software for over 25 years gives us special insight into the many changes happening in the industry.


It’s not surprising to hear about new tax code requirements by federal, state and local governments.


What we were surprised to hear is that more and more Builders and GCs are now requiring Electrical, Plumbing, Low-voltage and HVAC contractors to prove they have the correct business software in place to give accurate, reliable, verifiable figures regarding Job Cost, WIP and Bonding information.


In many cases, GCs and Builders are actually going into the businesses of their sub-contractors and making sure that the information generated by the business software is accurate, integrated and not produced outside of the business software in spreadsheets, etc.


This shows how tight the controls are getting on the Electrical, Plumbing, Low-voltage and HVAC contractor!  It also underscores the importance of using business software that is actually designed to give you, your bank / bonding company, GCs and Builders irrefutable and verifiable information regarding your business.


Furthermore, a software company that is dedicated to the continual enhancement and updating of their software solutions to meet new technological and other standards put forth ensures that you can have confidence in the information generated by your business software!


Understanding Labor Burdens

Inaccurate labor burdens can cause a job to look bad, even when the labor hours and material costs are within budget. 

Labor Burdens are the “hidden costs” associated with each employee.  The labor burden is the difference between what is paid to the employee and what it costs the employer.  The labor burden will vary per employee.  Typically, each employee has different labor burden costs, here’s a sample:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Training
  • Union Benefits
  • Company Benefits
  • Taxes

Labor burdens also include non labor costs such as company cell phones, uniforms, vehicle usage (depreciation, gas & oil, maintenance, license, insurance) small tools and equipment usage.  All of these labor burden costs need to be accounted for in order to establish the true cost per worker.  If you have payroll changes throughout the year, you’ll want to review your labor burdens and update them accordingly. 

Contractors often have a difficult time determining their labor burden because their contractor accounting software isn’t designed to automatically breakout the costs and sales by job type.

A Case Study

Why different types of Jobs require different labor burden rates.   Some jobs are more difficult and dangerous than others.  Recently, a plumbing contractor told us that a number of their employees do underground sewer jobs where the work is very dangerous.  Other times, these same employees work on residential homes replacing/installing plumbing fixtures. The sewer jobs require a higher workman’s compensation rate than the residential jobs. Our customer had recently overpaid on their workman’s compensation insurance by paying the higher sewer rate for all hours worked. 

Here’s how to avoid paying higher workman’s compensation.  We told our plumbing contractor about COBRA’s Job Type Codes and how they group a contractors business into sectors for better, more accurate reporting.  Depending on which type of job the worker was doing, COBRA produced the correct amount of workman’s compensation owed based on each individual’s actual hours worked within the Job Type.  Our plumbing contractor is no longer paying extra dollars on his workman’s compensation insurance. 

Why Vehicles should be considered a Labor Burden and not Overhead.  Some may argue that a vehicle is considered overhead however, we beg to differ.  While you need vehicles to operate your business, we think there’s a good reason to consider them a labor burden:    

When vehicles are assigned to different workers, the labor cost (burden) will vary based on the job type.   For example, vehicle # 1 is used by our service tech while vehicle # 2 is used by our foreman on long-term projects.  Our service tech travels around the area doing one service call after another accumulating more wear and tear and higher maintenance costs than vehicle # 2.    

Never combine your labor burdens and overhead together.   Generic Accounting programs often don’t have the built-in features to easily track labor burden and overhead.   Combining these together will only muddy up the water, preventing the contractor from understanding what jobs are truly costing their company. 

And finally…….knowing which jobs and workers require which labor burdens is critical.  A COBRA business professional is available to discuss this with you so can achieve the best results for your contracting business.  



Understanding Overhead Rates for Contractors

Inaccurate Overhead rates can cause a job to look bad, even when the labor hours and material costs are within budget. 

Overhead is the cost of keeping your business operating.  Overhead is harder to determine than labor burden because these costs are not fixed. Let’s review some typical overhead costs:

  • Office equipment – computers / software, stationary
  • Office rent
  • Office utilities
  • Office employee salaries
  • Advertisement
  • Insurance
  • Association memberships

The list of overhead items can be long depending on the size of your company so make sure all overhead items are accounted for.    You should practice reviewing your overhead costs each quarter.  

How you can identify your company Overhead using job types.   

Contractors often have a difficult time determining their overhead % because their accounting software isn’t designed to automatically breakout the costs and sales by job type.

If you do commercial projects – you’ll have a separate set of costs than another job type such as T&M.  For commercial projects you may have to pay an employee a salary to estimate the commercial projects…. their salary, on-going training, software programs and computer/hardware costs…..all of these items contribute to the company’s overhead for commercial jobs.  Conversely, time and material jobs don’t require this same set of costs.  COBRA’s job type codes offer the user a more accurate contractor accounting software as it tracks different overhead % s per job sector. 

A Case Study

A COBRA user who owns an electrical contracting business wanted to know which sectors of his business – time and material, commercial new construction and low voltage – were making/losing money.  We explained how overhead may vary by job sector and too often, contractors don’t have the automated tools to easily track this information.  Here’s what we recommended:    

First, our electrical contractor built three job type code’s in COBRA – TM, CN & LV.  This made it easy to review all jobs by job sector….the material, labor and direct costs, charges and profits.  Then he went onto the next job sector and did the same review.  The old saying, the “devil is in the details” rang true as our electrical contractor discovered a number of surprises during his investigation.  As he told us, “without COBRA’s integrated program and Job Cost reporting it would have been too time consuming and cumbersome to uncover which jobs were making us money and which ones weren’t”. 

COBRA’S Job Type codes automate the breakout of a contractors accounting as it tracks your costs and sales by Job Type.   This is the first step in establishing the correct overhead % for the business. 

Never combine your labor burdens and overhead together.   Generic Accounting programs often don’t have the built-in features to easily track labor burden and overhead.   Combining these together will only muddy up the water, preventing the contractor from understanding what jobs are truly costing the company. 

And finally…….determining which jobs require different overhead % is critical. A COBRA business professional is available to discuss this with you so can achieve the best results for your business. 



Managing Long-Term Projects Just Got Easier

COBRA’s Construction Management Software brings all project information together in one easy to use screen. Project data can be shared across departments helping everyone work more efficiently.

“One click” gives you access to all project information including:

  • Contractor Accounting
  • Job Cost
  • Work In Progress
  • Purchase Orders
  • Change Orders
  • Phases & Budgets
  • Over/Under Billed, % Billed, % Complete, Committed Dollars Remaining
  • Documents
  • RFI’s
  • Submittals
  • AIA
  • And other essential construction business software indicators.

Contact Cobra today to learn more about how our contractor accounting software can work for your business.

Service Management – Building long-term customer relationships

Your customers are the life-blood of your business.  And they expect a lot from you.  From the minute they call-in to schedule an appointment….right up to the end of the job, they are evaluating your performance and deciding whether they’ll do business with you in the future. 

Service Management software is helping Electrical Contractors, Plumbing Contractors and HVAC & Mechanical Contractors build long-term relationships with their customers.  Key elements of a service manager program include customer history records, scheduling & dispatching service techs, flat rate billing and planned maintenance contracts.  Put these pieces in play and you’ll keep your customers happy for a lifetime.

Estimators Take-off with Industry specific tools

In today’s new economy, Electrical contractor estimators, Plumbing contractor estimators and Mechanical/HVAC Contractor estimators are having to bid an ever increasing volume of jobs in order win their share of new business. 

When you increase an estimator’s work load, the chances of mistakes happening can increase.  Last minute quoted items, specification changes, price changes, shortened deadlines – all of these can play havoc on the integrity and accuracy of the final bid price. 

Improved accuracy

To improve on accuracy, the estimator can now work with industry specific estimating software that interfaces with a take-off device.  As the estimator rolls the take-off device over the blueprint, the counts and lengths are being captured and transferred onto the take-off software screen.   There’s little chance for error as the take-off device and the software work together, calculating each material quantity, cost, price and man hours.    

Cuts the estimating time by 50%

And oh yes, with a take-off device and the right Electrical Contractor estimating software or Plumbing Contractor estimating software program, the estimator will complete his take-off work in half time that was spent doing it manually.

To learn more about some of the features and advantages of our estimator, please email or call COBRA today. 1-800-466-2507

Auto Reminders – Set it and Forget it!

“It’s a whirlwind out there”, one busy Electrical Contractor said the other day.  “With all of the jobs and activities related to each job, I sometimes forget about important tasks that need my attention”. 

Not only is this a problem for Electrical Contractors, but other Contractors too…Mechanical Contractors, Plumbing Contractors, HVAC Contractors, and Low Voltage Contractors. 

With so many job responsibilities to keep track of, Permit due dates, Pending Proposals, RFI’s, Submittals,  Pending Change Orders , Purchase Order delivery dates, it’s easy to see how tasks and deadlines are often missed or overlooked entirely. 

A simple solution is to use auto remindersbuilt-in alerts that are embedded throughout contractors accounting software and project management software.  Whenever you feel a task that you’re working on warrants a reminder in the future, simply click a reminder date…set it and forget it! 

Auto reminders not only remind you about the task and when it’s due, they also organize your tasks in a pop up window including all the details behind each task.  You won’t have to re-enter dates and task information into other calendar programs such as Outlook and Google anymore. 

And just in case you’re totally hooked on using outside calendar programs, that’s ok too because auto reminders talks to Outlook and Google…so the tasks you’ve been doing in your Contractor Accounting Software or Project Management software can automatically be sent to anyone using Outlook or Google for auto reminding!

Visit our FAQ page for more information.

Reveal Your Job Cost and Maximize Job Margin

When you ask a Plumbing Contractor, Electrical Contractor or HVAC Contractor how much money they made on their last job, most can’t give you an answer. And it doesn’t matter what type of job….a service call, long-term project, bid/not to exceed, time and material job, change order, etc.

The problem is…

Contractors don’t know their costs. A plumbing contractor recently told me, “I’ve been in business 20+ years and I’ve never been able to effectively Job Cost. We tried it several times, it didn’t work, so we gave up”.

Automatic Job Costing

So why don’t specialty contractors, including Low Voltage Contractors and Mechanical Contractors make a concerted effort towards job cost?    Most don’t have the time or resources to cost out each job.  And paying people to work on spreadsheets or doing the work by hand is not efficient.  The answer is to let the software do the work for you – read more on our job cost feature.

Profit Preview

One tool in particular, Profit Preview gives the Contractor a detailed list of all costs & profits for each material, labor, sub-contractor, and direct item before a billing takes place. With Profit Preview, the contractor can easily spot forgotten items, incorrect material quantities, incorrect man hours…and make the adjustments prior to billing. And this can make all the difference between a healthy job margin and one that isn’t.

“If you aren’t job costing…

you’re operating in the dark and either charging too much (which your customer’s don’t appreciate) or too little (which lowers your profitability)”. – Deb Perry, Perry Heating, Plumbing and Electric.

Newer, custom designed job cost tools like The Profit Preview are only available in software designed exclusively for Electrical Contractors, Plumbing Contractors, HVAC Contractors, Mechanical Contractors and Low Voltage Contractors. The only question is… when will you start you using them?

Learn more about how COBRA can help your business stay on track and on top of their job cost. Email or call 1-800-466-2507.