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D-Tools: A Cure for Paper Pushing

Paperwork may be an integrator's least favorite chore?drawing up estimates, writing proposals, dealing with general project management. Add in project design, and these admin tasks can be time consuming, costly, and require multiple computer programs.

Paperwork may be an integrator's least favorite chore—drawing up estimates, writing proposals, dealing with general project management. Add in project design, and these admin tasks can be time consuming, costly, and require multiple computer programs. D-Tools Systems Integrator (SI) software, recently upgraded, may offer a way to streamline these tasks.

SI is a database-driven estimation, design, and project management application that automatically pulls in product information from a growing store of AV, networking, control, and security gear. As an integrator selects products for a project, the software tracks pricing, labor hours, and which phase of the project it will be used and generates an electronic Project File. “[SI] automatically calculates all the labor to give [users] a proposal,” says Tim Bigoness, vice president of marketing for D-Tools. “They can run some project management reports … and generate purchase orders and pick lists. They can see how much money they're making per project per job, or adjust it.”

Another time-saving feature: The products are assigned a shape that is compatible with certain design programs. “They can take that same file, give it to their engineers, and by dragging and dropping from the project file into Visio or AutoCAD, they can design the system,” he adds. The shapes are linked to specific information—dimensions, inputs, outputs—so designers and engineers can use them to generate plan views, schematic views with hook-ups, and elevation views. The program even generates wire labels. “We're taking three different disciplines that are normally tracked separately and bringing them together into a single application,” says Bigoness.

That database consists of more than 170 manufacturers, called MVP Partners, that provide D-Tools with the product data. Users access this information from the software's database or, if a product they want isn't there, they can input the data from other services. D-Tools will also provide data for non-partnered manufacturers based on customer requests, but Bigoness admits that it's easier to get data into the software through partnerships. Periodic updates to the database can be downloaded through the Data Management function.

Recently, D-Tools began partnering with several security product manufacturers in preparation for the next version of the software, which, Bigoness says, will include enhancements made specifically for security integrators.

There are three versions available: the basic proposal-generating SI5 Text starts at $999 per seat; the stand-alone SI5 Standard, which links drawings to proposals but doesn't include the business management features, is $2,999; and the networkable, all-inclusive SI5 Pro is available for $4,499. The Text and Standard versions download to individual computers, while the Pro version, which comes with Visio, loads onto a company's server.



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