Volume 48, Issue 2 - March/April 2009

Get Connected
Does Your Software Interface with Your Vendors’?

Before Saginaw Lumber Sales in Guilderland Center, N.Y., had a sales-ordering system that interfaced with its window vendors, Donna Kelly and other employees had to type orders manually. This produced errors and used a lot of time that could have been better used to sell products. 

The company found a faster solution for its ordering system with Computer Associates Inc.’s (CAI) Ponderosa software. The software interfaces with its vendors’ software in the ordering process, with the exception of one vendor who isn’t computerized yet.

“CAI uses a test file from the window vendor and Saginaw pulls it into a CAI sales order,” explains Kelly. “It’s very easy and takes no time at all. The same text file can be pulled into a purchase order once again, saving time for Saginaw employees and reducing errors.”

CAI isn’t the only software that distributors and dealers use that interfaces with vendors’ software.

Window Classics in Hollywood, Fla., uses DMSi’s Agility product. Chief financial officer John Armbrust can’t imagine working without it to order product. 

“Our Marvin window interface to Agility has been a major life saver. It has eliminated double entry and has helped us keep up during our company’s growth periods,” Armbrust says. “We stepped out of the dark ages with Agility and its seamless Marvin interface.”

The software allows the company the ability to offer special customer pricing, print pick up and delivery tickets, or track orders. 

“With our business consisting of 99 percent special orders, the Agility and the Marvin interface has helped us keep our inventory on hand to a minimum, yet provide better service by issuing purchase orders directly from our manufacturers’ order acknowledgment for non-stock items,” adds Armbrust. “We’ve noticed a time-savings in every order, regardless of complexity.” 

WoodWare Systems of Cordova, Tenn., created a Marvin window interface for Bethlehem, Pa.-based millwork distributor Reeb Millwork in Bethlehem, Pa., so that employees no longer had to key-in all the orders and purchase orders manually.

“It took five people full-time to keep up with just getting the orders in so customers could be billed,” says Karen Conover with Reeb Millwork. “With the interface, one person processes all the orders and a second does the purchase orders.” 

Some Vendor Opinions
Both distributors and their window vendors want interfaces that make it easy to buy product with software. 

“We use the software to provide an online quoting tool we call ‘Therma-Tru Quote’ or ‘TTQ’ for short,’” explains William Wagner, go-to-market technology business manager. 

“We use several home-grown web applications built upon a .Net architecture. We have a ‘customer portal’ which provides a conduit for customers to workflow through processes, view reports, retrieve documentation and execute on-line queries representing a variety of internal systems. We have the ‘electronic price guide’ which takes customized data from door shops and presents a pre-formatted output available to publish to dealers, builders and contractors who buy Therma-Tru products through those door shops.”

Atrium Companies Inc. uses a proprietary, web-based program, Atrium Wizard. With this program, customers can generate quotes and process orders. 

“Additionally, our customers may provide the quoting portion of the program to their dealers to use with their customers. However, only our customer, the distributor, is allowed to enter an actual order,” says Chris Reilly, director of marketing communications and replacement programs. “The system calculates each customer’s cost and allows them to adjust their selling price (and margin) accordingly.”

Any Glitches?
Computer software is rarely without problems. 

Kelly says that CAI has been pro-active in correcting any software glitches. “Window vendors update their software which can cause problems on our end. We call CAI and they make an adjustment, and we are off and running in a very short period of time.”

But hiccups aside, having software that interfaces can make business more efficient.

“The gain in efficiency … has been more than worth the effort. Our employees are most pleased with their increased productivity,” Conover says.

Kelly mirrors this statement. “We think this [ordering] process is a dream come true, so until we are out of the honeymoon phase, I can’t imagine how to improve the process.” 

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