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Mandrel is based on a hierarchical structure similar to the work breakdown structure (WBS) used in project costing. However, since Mandrel can be used for other things besides projects we use the more general term cost breakdown structure.
Cost Breakdown Structures
Setting up a cost breakdown structure is easy. When you open a new project, Mandrel provides you with a top-level node, or cost item, and you then add child and sibling cost items as required. Each entry in the form below represents a cost item.
To insert data into a cost item you just double-click on the item, and the data entry form will appear. You can insert both direct cost and defined cost elements. Direct costs are simply a monetary value, e.g. $10,000. Defined costs are costs which are defined in terms of non-monetary units, such as 100 hours of labor or 3 tons of steel. In order to enter defined costs you first have to define a rate or unit price. This is conveniently done using a separate Setup menu.
All direct and defined cost elements can have variances attached to them, such as 3 tons + 10% contingency, or 100 hours +/- 20%. In addition, rates and unit prices can have variances, so that a labor rate, for example, could be defined as $85/hour +/- 5%.
Any cost element can be in any currency and can have any taxes applied to it.
All cost items automatically have a tracking history attached to them. You can attach comments or any other form of associated textual data to each cost item. Each cost item can also have actions associated with it, and these actions can be tracked in various ways.
Individual cost items can be regarded as planned expenditures or activities, or they can be regarded as provisional, or possible, expenditures or activities. The latter are called risks, i.e. expenditures that you may have to make or activities that you may have to undertake, but not necessarily.
Any cost item can be converted into a risk by assigning it a probability of less than 100%. Scope uncertainty can be included in a project or program by using such provisional cost items.
The impact of a risk is the effect that the risk would have, if it occurred. Most risks will have a cost impact, but you can define non-cost impacts as well. For example, you can have a safety impact, or a schedule impact, and so on.
The Mandrel cost allocation system allows you to allocate, i.e. subdivide, costs within individual cost elements. Costs are typically allocated to different time periods to provide a time dimension to your costing, but they can also be allocated in other ways, e.g. to different cost centres. In effect, cost allocation converts the 2-dimensional cost item/cost element structure into a 3-dimensional structure.
Rates and prices can be cost allocated as well, so that, for example, you can have different labor rates for each year of a multi-year project.
Mandrel has a comprehensive suite of reports. These include:
- Cost Breakdown Structure Report
- Cost Register
- Cost Item
- Summary Actions Report
- Risk Matrix Report
- Weighted Cost Report
Most reports have an associated report designer so that you can design your own reports. You can store a virtually unlimited number of report designs, any one of which can be called up instantly.
Monte Carlo Setup for @Risk
Monte Carlo analysis is a tool for examining and predicting the effects of uncertainty in individual costs on the overall cost of a project or program.
Mandrel does not itself provide a Monte Carlo analysis capability, but it does provide a front end to the market leader in this field, Palisade Corporation’s @Risk for Excel software.
@Risk requires the data on a spreadsheet to have some special Excel-type formulas inserted into it. Mandrel automates the formula creation and insertion process for you.
Mandrel uses Microsoft Excel as a platform. You will therefore need:
- Windows NT or later
- Excel 2007 or later
In addition, if you wish to use the Monte Carlo Setup facility, you will need Palisade Corporation’s @Risk for Excel on your computer.