PA Solutions is an automation solutions company established in 1978 and recently acquired by ATS, a global $1.5 billion corporation. PA Solutions itself has employees in over 20 different countries and provides unique and expert machine automation services to manufacturers across the world. In 2019, PA Solutions southeast adopted Sigma’s estimating software as their tool for all automation projects and estimates that they complete. As a recently new adopter of the Sigma estimating software, the Southeast division of PA Solutions has seen drastic improvements in growth, volume, and cost savings related to their business practices directly as a result of their full adoption of the Sigma Estimating Software.Emil Forys serves as the Technical Director of the Southeast region of PA Solutions and was the major proponent for the selection and onboarding of the Sigma Estimating software into his company. Emil was originally brought in as a lead robotics engineer to the PA Solutions team and as he moved up through the ranks, he quickly gained an understanding for the estimating process and how critical of a business function it is for automation projects. Emil was asked a few questions to reflect on the transition to Sigma Estimating Software.
Q. What was the process that PA Solutions used for estimating prior to adopting Sigma’s Estimating Software and why did you switch?
The adaptation of the sigma software was fairly simple, to be honest. Previously, over the years at PA Solutions we have used Excel for estimating projects. We actually grew an application in Excel that was very similar to the way that Sigma structures everything in the estimating process. It was all based on a work breakdown structure, we had libraries, so transitioning my group from our homegrown solution to Sigma was very simple.
You could ask why did we transition? We did so that we could have a more common platform, with ease of use, and it solved the fact that our Excel program was buggy with all the different versions that existed. In the past, we would have to maintain the software and all of the customization to it, but with Sigma all of that is packaged together.
I’m not going to lie, the Sigma Software is probably 100 times faster. It gives us additional capabilities that we did not have before. So, all together it really took our estimation to the next level.
Q. Why did Sigma Estimating Software stand out amongst your other options?
We evaluated everything from SAP to JD Edwards, and also different types of ARP systems. Another tool that we looked at using was Sage Estimating. These were all good systems on the ARP side but did not seem to fit well for estimating. They all had a variety of tools, however often I found the estimating capabilities were limited to a raw material type of estimation. For example, inputting numbers of certain building materials in a points-of-use type of system.
There weren’t any compound type units integrated into these programs. For instance, PA Solutions is a tool maker and machine builder. We develop solutions, so take pre-packaged solutions that we’ve developed previously and we re-use them over and over by adjusting different types of criteria. For example, if one particular customer uses union labor, we might elect to outsource or take out the installation portion from the estimate. This is where Sigma’s categories and numerous operations come into play. We can segment what we want desired in an estimate and filter the use of applicable labor costs.
Q. How long did it take to integrate the Sigma Estimating Software into your team for?
I don’t feel that we will ever fully integrate it. Primarily because the system is so flexible, we constantly develop and discover new ways or better ways to deal with difficult adjustments and creating additional visibility throughout the process. On average within one week you can take someone that never worked with Sigma before and make them a power user.
We are still working through some things, so we are definitely not finished with it yet. With Sigma though, we were able to develop reports that essentially, once the estimate is completed will generate everything from quotes to internal bid approval forms. Everything comes from that one source.
Because we get so much out of the software, one of the things that we are looking to do at the next step is to combine a lot of exports. If I click one button, it generates five different reports at once. Everything that we need to our customer, internal documents provided to teams, to our financial team, as well as our upper management for bid approval. All of this seamlessly comes out of Sigma Estimating Software. No manual type manipulation is needed.
Q. What does future growth look like in PA Solutions and how does Sigma support that growth?
The easiest way for me to answer that question is by saying: in the 2018 fiscal year were at $45 million in revenue. Since we started using Sigma over the last year, our revenue for the 2019 fiscal year was over $100 million dollars. I’m not contributing all of that to Sigma, but we were able to onboard two brand new accounts and retain them to capitalize on future business. This is all because of the way we were able to respond to projects, we were able to venture into new areas of automation with a better understanding of what it takes to be successful in them. Sigma allows us to consolidate on subject matter experts and bring them to the front end of the business. This lays out the foundation for the rest of the projects that PA Solutions plans to complete in the future to improve the success of the company.
Q. What types of competitive advantage has Sigma Estimating Software given you since you adopted it?
The biggest benefit is the timesaving aspect of the software. This is especially true on the larger projects, where using the estimating software is a big help. When using Sigma on small projects, the software helps remind our engineers to dig down into the same level of detail as the larger projects. The software forces us to cover all of our bases no matter the size of the project. When we work with our customers, no matter the project or the timeline, we no longer send simple quotes or one-pagers.
Besides the vital benefits in time saving and accuracy, one of the biggest benefits of using Sigma is in risk mitigation. The amount of risk mitigation that Sigma provides is through the amount of re-use that we can get out of the program. For example, we use parts lists any time we estimate something. The Sigma parts lists that we’ve integrated store the actual prices of materials according to what the material currently is priced at or the last time we purchased this material.
Most of the equipment that we build is purpose built. When I design a manufacturing line for Mercedes Benz, that’s the only line in the world that produces that vehicle. With Sigma’s ability to import project templates, not only do I start with an actual reference and actual price, everything is simplified because I’m not making up terminology or units. Sigma enables me to go to my library of plans and estimate templates and pull up specific version to say, ‘This is what I envisioned.’ This gives the project team a real advantage, they can have a good starting point and foundation, versus trying to envision ideas from scratch.