Secrets of Bonding #54: (1 of 4) Work In Process Schedules – Own Them!

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Short Form WIP Schedules 

In the next few articles we will explore a somewhat complicated and often misunderstood element of the contractors file, the Work In Process or “WIP” schedule.

Why is the WIP schedule important?

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For Contractors
The WIP schedule is a critically important project management tool, or at least it should be.Contractors use this info to increase revenues and profits.
For Sureties
Underwriters use this form to manage the account and help avoid claims and losses.
For Agents
As the intermediary, the agent must appreciate both points of view and be the facilitator who creates the “win-win” strategy.

Before we explore the details of this subject, let’s review some of the key terms that are used.  For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on a “Short Form WIP schedule.”  There is a long version of the document (more columns of info) that may be too complicated for many contractors to complete without professional assistance.  Since you are likely to see the short form, that’s what we’ll discuss.

The following terms commonly appear on WIP schedules and on company financial statements.  There is a row of column headings across the top.  Let’s go over them:

  • Project Name: This is the name of each individual contract
  • Start Date: Date the contract commenced
  • Original/Revised Completion Date: This is the completion date required in the contract, or as subsequently changed by contract amendment.
  • On Time Completion Expected? (Self-Explanatory)
  • Bonded? (Self-Explanatory)
  • Current/Revised Contract Price: It is not uncommon for the contract price to be changed after the work has commenced.
  • Original Gross Profit Percentage: This ties into the performance bond request form.  In order to facilitate analysis of the contract going forward, this number must be expressed as a %, not a dollar amount.
  • Billed to Date (including retainage): This is the sum of all the amounts invoiced to the project owner (bond obligee) by the contractor.
  • Cost to Date (including approved change orders): These are labor and material costs incurred by the contractor in the performance of the project.  They are “direct costs” exclusively, and do not include any expenses considered Overhead.
  • Revised Remaining Costs to Complete: Current reevaluation of the project costs based on the current / revised contract price. This is a revised cost estimate for only the incomplete portion of the project.

From surety to surety, you will find slight variations in the column headings on a Short Form WIP.  For a more complete analysis, additional columns are needed.  When viewing a WIP schedule prepared by a CPA, you may see the longer version which we will discuss later in this series.

An Analytic Tool

Let’s talk about the nature of this document.  Like all businesses, construction companies are in business to generate revenues and produce a “bottom line” profit for the company owners (meaning after all expenses have been paid).

Construction companies engage in individual contracts or projects, and are paid periodically during the progression of the work.

These payments are normally monthly and are a result of an invoice, or “monthly requisition,” the contractor gives to the project owner for work completed in the preceding period. When the requisition is owed or outstanding, it is an asset on the Balance Sheet called accounts receivable (meaning it is billed but the funds have not come in.)  The dollars become part of revenues or sales (Profit and Loss Statement) when the dollars are received.

The construction industry is highly competitive and often contractors must bid to acquire projects, and only win them if their prices are the lowest.  This means for many contractors, margins are thin.

From a management perspective, construction companies must know if their projects are proceeding as expected.  They need to monitor the progress to assure that the work goes as planned and yields the profit expected.  Contractors must be vigilant to protect the success of the project, and avoid unprofitable contracts that drain funds from the company. The WIP schedule is the document that shows the current status of all open (incomplete) contracts, including their past and future projected financial results.

Keep in mind that financial statements (FSs) of a construction company may be prepared on one or two set dates every year (such as 12/31 and 6/30), but they  perform contracts all year – meaning that on 12/31, some projects are partially complete.  In order for the financial presentation to include everything worth knowing, there must be a way to show these open jobs. That is the relevance of the WIP schedule for bond underwriters and other grantors of credit.

In number 2 of this series we will go over some of the info that is revealed on the short form WIP schedule.  You’ll agree, this document is absolutely essential!

The experts at Bonding Pros can help Insurance Agents and Contractors when tough bonding situations arise. We have the markets and the know-how to succeed even when others have failed.

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