Building a Future for Distributors and Dealers of Building Products

March  2005                                Volume 44,  Issue 2

A Variety of Products are Available to Help Improve Efficiency
by Samantha Carpenter

Millwork distributors have a variety of software products from which to choose to help their businesses run more efficiently. Here are some of the software products available.

Friedman Corp. Releases a Stand-Alone Dealer Quoting Tool
Friedman Corp. of Deerfield, Ill., is now offering software designed for and marketed directly to dealers and suppliers primarily in the various trades within the construction industry (sub-contractors and material suppliers). PowerPak provides dealers with the tools needed to address different aspects of the sales cycle, from the creation of the quote through the printing of the final invoice. 

Designed to be the dealer’s own quoting system, PowerPak enables dealers to create and maintain their own price book for non-configured products such as glass, mirror, screens, caulking, siding, garage doors and more. This application will work for most sub-contractors selling products that are dimensional as well as each, per hundred, etc. 
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Bid Master Adds Two Features to Programs
Employees at Smyrna, Del.-based Bid Master say they learned early on that the best way to improve their product was to listen to the customers who use it everyday.

Two customer inspired features to be added to the Bid Master family of programs are the grille-draw feature and the live update feature.

The grille-draw feature allows the end user to draw his own grille patterns on the unit of his choice and print it out on the bid to be submitted to the manufacturer. The grille-draw feature comes in handy when your customer wants something special that you won’t find in any paper catalog.

The live update feature allows users with Internet access to update their software automatically from the Bid Master website. The program will automatically go to the Bid Master website each day, check for new updates and download new versions. End users also have the option to update their program manually.
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Majure Data Offers RF Navigator
Roswell, Ga.-based Majure Data’s comprehensive warehouse management system (WMS), RF Navigator, offers the functionality needed to improve accuracy, control and productivity throughout your warehousing operation. It utilizes 20-plus years of experience with bar-coding and wireless technology to help you increase your competitive advantage, according to a company release. 

The company says key benefits include: 99-percent-plus inventory accuracy, 20- to 30-percent productivity improvements, reduction in safety stock, improved responsiveness to customer demands and commitments, more pro-active management and less fire-fighting and real-time accuracy.
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WoodWare Offers Document Storage Solution
Among the software modules currently being offered by Memphis, Tenn.-based WoodWare is DataView document imaging and document management software. 

This software complements its business software for quoting, order entry, purchasing, inventory control, production scheduling, accounting and more.

Documents from WoodWare and other sources can be stored electronically in DataView. Most of these will be handled through an electronic file output from WoodWare directly into DataView. Others, such as signed delivery tickets or picking tickets with handwritten shop notes, for example, can be scanned and indexed to match up with the original quote, order, etc. from WoodWare. Barcodes can be printed on these documents within DataView to further automate this matching and indexing process.
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Seradex Develops Manufacturing Software
Seradex of Burlington, Ontario, develops manufacturing software for small- to mid-size companies. According to information provided by the company release, the Window Xpress product is a leader in the market for make-to-order and project-based businesses. The company’s graphical rules-based product configurator and its field-service modules are easy-to-use and implement. Field service reps or dealers can design any window or door orders and download that order to the company’s ERP software over the Internet electronically, according to the release. 

The company’s Window Xpress product is a manufacturing software application with modules for: estimating and sales order, product configurator, production, multi-level BOM and job planning, job tracking, job costing, data collection, purchasing, vendor costing, and time keeping/scheduling, invoicing, shipping and receiving.
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Progressive Solutions’ Software Targets Suppliers
Progressive Solutions Inc., headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, offers a number of business software solutions for wood products and building materials suppliers.

bisTrack™ can handle buying, selling and inventory functions for building materials distributors and dealers. bisTrack offers extensive back office and counter sales support, and is loaded with pricing, negotiating, reporting and security features to help maximize a distributor/dealer’s margins. Built on the latest Microsoft® platform, it is easy and flexible to use, and integrates with Great Plains® accounting software and other Office® products, according to a company release.
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DMSi Software Brings New Technology to Millwork Distributors
While some software firms let millwork distributors maintain expensive servers, upload new releases and perform nightly back-ups, DMSi software of Omaha, Neb., offers a unique architecture—Agility in a hosted environment. DMSi software customers can access the Windows®-based Agility system from the web to run their entire business and efficiently manage day-to-day distribution processes. 

This model gives distributors top-tier technology performance, continual updates, network security, disaster recovery and remote access while eliminating the need for a network-savvy technical staff. According to a company release, the software allows millwork companies to focus on their core competencies without the distraction of technical issues such as implementation and on-going maintenance. 
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Computer Associates Offers Ponderosa for Warehouse Management 
The Ponderosa warehouse management system (WMS) from Computer Associates (CAI) of Smithfield, R.I., is an enhanced, fully-integrated, Windows-based warehouse management system. 

According to company information, the new system provides immediate inventory visibility to accurately monitor material flow from the time raw materials arrive to the shipping of finished goods.

When materials are received, warehouse staff can use a variety of wireless Windows CE operating system-based handheld scanners to capture order number, lot number, serial number, supplier, manufacturer, date of manufacture and other essential data. This data can then be routed, in real-time, to the front-end Ponderosa business software to optimize all aspects of the enterprise, including receiving, tracking, material movement and transfers, picking for sales orders, truck loading and routing, physical inventory and employee utilization.
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Distributors Agree Software Equals Time Savings
Most of us use a computer on a daily basis, and most distributors use some sort of software in their business dealings. For many, a day without a computer is a scary thought. 

Many of the distributors that SHELTER staff contacted couldn’t fathom the idea of running their businesses without the use of software.

“Without software, we would have to enter all of our orders twice and maintain two separate systems,” said John Armbrust, owner of Window Classics of Hollywood, Fla. His company uses DMSi software. “We do our own order entry for Marvin Windows, and so we were—previous to implementation—first entering the order into the Marvin Window and Door Co. order-entry system, and then turning around and entering the same order into our own accounting system. With DMSi, we don’t have to do that.”

“I can’t imagine running without WoodWare’s software. At this point, it has always provided the requirements we needed. We’re not bleeding-edge; we are probably not even cutting-edge,” said Dan Barber, vice president of finance and administration of Barnett Millworks Inc. of Theodore, Ala. “We like something to be pioneered a little bit before us. And if it works, we sometimes don’t go trying to fix it. But WoodWare has always been able to give us the products that we needed to do business with our trading partners.”

Jack Cortese, president of Bridgewater Wholesalers of Branchburg, N.J., said that without DMSi’s software, his company would need ten more people in place doing it the old way.
“It’s beyond the ability to comprehend at this point,” he added.

“There would be a revolt if we attempted to take Bid Master’s software away. It is so much easier, quicker and more consistent than any written or spreadsheet method used in the past,” said Jack Huse, president of Milwaukee Millwork in Milwaukee.

The Old Way
The consensus among distributors is that the old way meant having a large paper trail.
Writing everything down is exactly what employees did at South Lake Tahoe, Calif.-based South Shore Glass & Door before using Friedman Corp.’s Frontier PowerBids program. 
“One of the things about writing things down is you can get things confused when transferring them from a bid to an order,” said Warren Andrews, door fabrication manager at South Shore. 

Before K&I Lumber and Building Materials in Evansville, Ind., started using Bid Master’s software, commercial sales representative Rachel Chism spent hours adding up products line by line—colors, parts and pieces.

With Bid Master’s software, Chism said, “It makes it where you can actually print up your orders, so customers can actually see them. It’s got your rough openings, your dimensions; it makes the patterns of the grilles and it gives customers an idea of what their order actually looks like beforehand, instead of seeing a lot of numbers.”

At Midwest Jobbers in St. Charles, Ill., system administrator Norm Franke said before using WoodWare’s software, the old way was to use a card file, which an employee had to look up and maintain.

“If you wanted to find a product, you had to actually go look for it to see if it was in the rack or not,” Franke said.

Before using Bid Master’s software, Huse said taking orders was miserable. 

“A quote rewrite because of some small change was drudgery. It was hard to be nice when some minor change would result in an hour or two rewrite,” he said.

Bayer Built Woodworks of Belgrade, Minn., has been using Computer Associate’s Ponderosa software for about three years. 

“Our main reason for advancing to this version was the GUI interface, which has greatly enhanced the speed of use, i.e. point and click. This has enabled us to key orders into the system, live, while the customer is on the phone,” Joe Bayer, president and chief executive officer, said. “We could not have done that with the previous version, but instead used a method of ‘written up’ orders, and then keyed them into the system later.”

Software Saves Time
The old way versus the new way seems to lead to the same thought among the distributors that use software: it saves time.

“Our business has quadrupled since we installed WoodWare’s software. Now, I can’t say that the software is the cause of that—hopefully, we are the cause of that,” Barber said. “It has allowed us to automate the processes that we had without adding significant staff. Our business has been growing on a fairly steady basis since the late 1980’s. This software has allowed us to do that without adding a lot of overhead.”

Cortese had a similar response. 

“We do more than double or triple the business with roughly the same number of people we had when we went live … Obviously, the direct-labor aspect has had to increase, but our back office has been able to do so much more,” he said.

Brian McIlwee, president of J.J. McIlwee Co. of Itasca, Ill., said it is hard to say how much time Computer Associates’ software has saved his company.

“I’m not sure I having anything to compare it against. The one thing I will say is that we had the opportunity to upgrade [to the Ponder-osa product] when Y2K came around and they were still beta-testing it,” McIlwee said. “We decided to get 2000-compliant and not get the upgrade.”

“A couple of years ago, we bought all new production machinery from KVAL. It took our production lead times down from 10-14 days to 3-5 days. We found out that our bottleneck in keeping up with our machinery was the [software] (i.e. data entry). It became more important that we upgrade,” McIlwee added.

Armbrust said that implementing DMSi’s software may have eliminated the need for one full-time employee. 

“We didn’t actually terminate anybody, but it may have actually helped us avoid hiring one full-time employee,” he clarified.

With the Frontier PowerBids program, “I would say on the average we are saving anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes per order, and our company goes through about 15 orders per day,” Andrews said.

Software Suggestions
Software—as with other products—can always be tweaked.

“There are always things I would like to see improved. DMSi does a fairly good job—year by year—at taking customers’ suggestions and implementing the ones that are the best for the whole industry,” Cortese said. “They’ve done a remarkable job in keeping abreast of the industry and its growth, but I think their biggest plus is their ability to service their software. In other words, if you have a problem, they have the expertise to solve the problem almost immediately.”

“In our particular business, we have to have a service department—to go out and do the warranty service on the Marvin Window products,” said Armbrust. “I would like to see DMSi’s Agility put a service manager system in or at least a service manager module.”

“Any software system a distributor installs will be dynamic as its company grows and as the need or desire for more flexibility of its data presents itself,” Bayer said.

No matter what software distributors have chosen to use, millwork distributors agree that it leads to time well spent. —SC 

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