Every business profits from accurate cost accounting, but concrete masonry production really gets a boost because it involves both manufacturing and delivery of a product. In the traditionally low-margin business of concrete masonry production, accurate cost accounting not only increases operating margins but it also can help managers to "de-commoditize" concrete masonry. Latham, N.Y.-based Spruce Computer Systems' BlockBase software helps concrete producers to accomplish both.

Capture direct-cost data (e.g., materials and production and trucking labor) and overhead data (e.g., plant, truck, and mold maintenance; plant and curing energy; and maintenance and material handling labor) from similar past projects and you can set your prices for the desired margin in a quote.

In the software's inventory module, the producer is prompted to enter material and labor costs as well as an overhead factor for a batch. With entry of delivery tickets into the accounts receivable module, the software calculates profitability per unit in the batch. The program also calculates costs based on 8-inch equivalencies in order to allow project-by-project profitability comparisons. For the other half of the project profitability equation, the software calculates freight charges for up to 27 different shipping zones as well as state and local taxes.

Managers can price up to 9 product classes and 36 subclasses with the software. Each product class can have seven price levels, and it's also possible to customize pricing for a project that was involved in a competitive bid by attaching the quote to its file.

Multiplant operations such as Amcor Block Precast in St. Cloud, Minn., have been able to assess the profitability of every one of their products using the kind of data the software stores.