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Spring 2001

Quoting & Ordering System

Enhancing Relationship Management Between the Manufacturer and Dealer Network
by Jim Naas

 A key to success for the window manufacturer is the development and maintenance of a long-term relationship with the network of dealers who are doing the “front line” marketing of your various product lines. Success is no longer just ensuring your product lines have more features and cost less than your competition. Rather, it lies in the maintenance of long-term relationships with your dealers. Your dealer customers are your most important assets and it is important to apply some of your resources to improving their experience in doing business with you.

Customer Relationship Management
Customer Relationship Manage-ment is the buzzword frequently used to describe the comprehensive approach which provides the seamless integration of every area of business that touches the customer—namely, the window manufacturer’s dealer network. Com-prehensive marketing, sales, customer service and field support is achieved through the integration of both your business processes and technology. 

Of course, speed to market and exceptional quality are both important in maintaining the dealer relationship. However, your competitors are focusing on the same goals. True market differentiation can only occur by providing your dealers with the most comprehensive, easy-to-use and accurate way of creating quotes and orders for your window product lines. A dealer based proprietary ordering system that is totally integrated with the manufacturer’s order fulfillment system serves to reduce overall lead time from quotation to delivery, resulting in a distinct competitive advantage. This, coupled with the strengthened relationship among the manufacturer and the various dealers marketing his product position, the window manufacturer increases his market share, and ultimately his overall profitability.

Benefits of an Integrated Dealer System
There are several benefits you should expect to realize from the implementation of an integrated dealer system. These include:

Enhanced Relationship with Dealer Network—The manufacturer that provides the dealer with the tool to create bids in the shortest time possible and at the highest level of overall accuracy is at a distinct advantage over his competition. A dealer may have to generate between five and six quotes for every one or two jobs that he actually gets. All this requires time that often gets overlooked in the process of the busy business day. When this process becomes difficult due to inaccurate configuration and pricing rules, the dealer will lean to the manufacturer who is easiest to do business with. 

Reduction of Overall Order Fulfillment Lead Times—The traditional use of manual systems to generate window quotes and orders using tools such as hardcopy price books, which may or may not be kept up-to-date by the dealer, results in a quotation process that can entail several iterations before it can be accepted as an accurately configured and priced order. Combined with the use of either mail or facsimile transmission, both of which result in complete re-entry of the order into the manufacturer’s business system, the overall time from dealer quote to window manufacture is needlessly lengthy. 

The key to an effective dealer system is an optimum level of integration with the manufacturer’s database of both window design rules, and current price and discount (multiplier) structures. Only through a seamless electronic interface between the dealer system and the manufacturing system of accurate sales orders can the overall lead time from quotation to shipping be minimized. The sales order is configured accurately and priced at the point-of-sale (the dealer’s office or the individual job site), only needing the assignment of the earliest possible promise date by the manufacturer.

Creation of Error-Free Quotes and Sales Orders—There is only one means of ensuring that a quote or order is accurate from both a pricing and configuration perspective. This is through the use at the dealer’s location of exactly the same window design rules and pricing schedules that are in use at the manufacturer’s order processing center. Dealer systems (either manual or automated) that rely upon a separate database of quoting specifications and prices will, by definition, become out of sync with the manufacturer’s latest product data. This is the biggest single source of error in window orders received by the manufacturer, resulting in needless cycles of order validation. Once again, the overall lead time is lengthened, resulting in a less than optimal order fulfillment cycle.

Even if the design and pricing rules are kept in sync, the lack of scaled CAD images of the custom window (single or mulled combination) can result in a manufactured window that does not meet the requirements of the end customer, either esthetically or functionally. The integrated dealer system must be capable of generating an accurate image of the complete window assembly, including grid patterns. This image must be propagated throughout the manufacturing system, ensuring the delivery of the ordered product in the minimum time, without the need to be drawn manually via CAD by the design engineer. 

Extension of the Sales Channel Directly to the Field—The integrated dealer system, in the hands of both the dealer and the outside salesperson, improves the probability of closing deals with your prospective customers. The phrase “perception is reality” is true in selling windows as it is in all other areas of life. The end customer perceives a level of professionalism and accuracy (as well as the use of current technology) that enhances his willingness to do business with your company. Being able to provide the end customer with a customized, detailed quote of your product, including all specifications and prices in an easy-to-read and understandable format, en-hances the chance of getting the job. The dealer or the outside salesperson has the confidence in the information that is being quoted and presented to the end customer.

Increase in Point-of-Sale Revenue—Having the manufacturer’s complete product catalog online in the form of the integrated dealer system’s database enables the dealer or rep to cross-sell the entire product catalog to the customer with complete confidence in the accuracy and completeness of the final quote. With the dealer system’s ability to also support the sale of other merchandise such as accessories and installation services, the dealer is maximizing the total amount of revenue that is possible for the various jobs.

Increase in Product Engin-eering Throughput—As mentioned above, the dealer system, with its integrated parametric drawing capability and complete set of product engineering rules, provides complete orders capable of being sent to manufacturing without having to first be pro-cessed by the design engineer. The only way that throughput in the product engineering department is maximized is by having the point-of-sale dealer system complete the design and drawing process for all but the most complex of custom, combination windows. The integrated dealer system’s configuration capabilities allow for engineers to focus on new product development rather than on repetitive renditions of window drawings.

Improved Effectiveness in Communication with the Field— The integrated dealer system also provides for the automated transfer of both design and price updates from the manufacturer to the dealer. There is no need for the dealer to concern himself with the accuracy of the information he is presenting to his customer. The integrated system also gives dealers tools for tracking quote history as well as packing lists and invoices for their customers.

Reduction in Field Product Training Requirements—As the window business continues to become more complex, due to the myriad of product lines and style offerings, the problem of dealer training becomes more complicated. The integrated dealer system, which is constantly kept up-to-date by the host manufacturer database, presents the dealer with a complete product catalog. This is presented to the dealer in an intuitive, easy-to-use manner that requires little or no ongoing training by the manufacturer. The use of information, via the product configurator, is provided in terms that are relevant to the dealer. Additionally, scaled CAD images of the product as specified provide a self-teaching environment.

Since your dealers, as well as your outside sales staff, are your lifeline and are at the forefront of your success and survival, it is critical that they be empowered with the optimal selling tools you can provide. Imagine the level of productivity that can be achieved by realizing a system that is totally integrated, from the dealer showroom or end customer living room, through the shipping department of your manufacturing facility. All of this integration is being powered by a single, complete and accurate set of product design rules present in your configuration rule engine (a single set of product specifications insuring optimal order accuracy and minimum to market overall lead times).

Jim Naas is a configuration product manager with Friedman Corporation, based in Deerfield, Ill., a supplier of Frontier fully-integrated ERP systems to the window and door industry. Naas focuses on the evolution of the product development to continually meet the challenges and needs of window and door manufacturing.

DWM

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