About five years ago, Ed Castle began managing all his projects using Microsoft Excel. “It's such a powerful program that nearly everyone with a PC already has at their fingertips,” says Castle, of E.M. Castle Construction, in Kensington, Md. Castle creates a separate Excel file for each project, and each file contains 30 to 40 spreadsheets separated by tabs at the bottom of the screen.
Included in the file are all the purchase orders, change orders, work schedules, and subcontractor work orders necessary for the job, each with its own tab. Best of all, Castle inputs administrative information, such as homeowner names and addresses, just once and they automatically appear on all the necessary documents. Using a formula, Castle is able to automatically populate the rest of his forms and documents with the appropriate client names, addresses, and project information. The formula (which is the ‘equals' sign, the reference sheet name surrounded by single quotes, exclamation point, and coordinates of the original cell, for example: =‘Client Info'!D14) simply replicates the information from the original ‘Client Info' sheet into the desired cell.
Castle also likes that Excel gives him the freedom to customize documents. In his purchase orders, he includes an extra column that details where in the house specific products will be used. That way he can send a single document to both the supplier and the project manager, eliminating cross-referencing between different documents that could lead to products being mistakenly installed in the wrong area of the house. “The forms provided by ACT or NEBS don't allow this kind of creative freedom,” Castle says.
In Castle's management system, Excel is also used to map out a schedule that is easy to adjust should the remodeler get behind — or even ahead of — the original plan. See the spreadsheets below for a more detailed explanation.