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Credit: Precision Development

Forcast by Precision Development can automate and streamline precast producers' information flow.

Every presidential hopeful looking toward the White House realizes that Iowa is the place to start. The state's residents are noted for their ability to measure the feasibility of a new initiative. Political advisers rely on the insights of the state's populace through focus groups to hone an idea into a viable cause.

For the last seven years, there's been a similar sort of research project happening in the state. Lee Bailey and his small group of business software developers have been focusing on a solution package that may not garner the attention of the nation's voters, but is of interest to those involved in concrete production.

Their company, Precision Development, has developed what many consider to be the first total management software program that can fully automate the business practices of a modern precast concrete business.

Late last year, Bailey and his product team introduced the Forcast Performance Management Software at the 2007 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Convention. “We received very positive responses from several producers who sampled the product in our booth,” said Bailey, the product's development manager.

A good testing ground

Bailey admits that when Iowa Prestressed Concrete Inc. (IPC) first asked his team of experts to develop some management software, they knew very little about concrete.

“We realize that in most cases, our clients know a great deal more about their businesses than we do, so we just listen,” said Bailey.

Managers at IPC had hired Precision, an 11-year old company in West Des Moines, to review their managerial accounting system. The producer wanted to streamline its information flow to reduce common production constraints, measure true product costs, and track both equipment and labor productivity.

“The IPC management team knew that to maximize profits throughout their operation, they needed a total approach that would increase efficiency for critical processes and give accurate, real-time information to support decision making,” said Bailey.

His challenge was doubly difficult as IPC managers wanted to apply the management system to each division and location. True gains in productivity would only occur if the system was applied to their full range of products, from prestressed beams to common precast elements.

There also was the challenge of distance. IPC has plants in Des Moines, Iowa Falls, and West Burlington, Iowa, along with sales offices in Des Moines, Iowa City, and Kansas City, Mo.

While the casting operations may differ, the Precision team noticed that there were areas of commonality. IPC management teamed with Bailey's experts to develop and deploy a software that provides a continuous improvement approach to sales, estimating, production, and logistics.

IPC managers have been using the software to direct projects proactively and improve relationships with customers. It's more than a job status activity. The software enables real-time information-sharing across the entire organization, from sales and estimating all the way through product delivery to the jobsite.