Founded in 1973, Dunphey & Associates (DASCO) is the northeast’s leading heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) wholesaler/distributor. Headquartered in Whippany, New Jersey DASCO has a total of eight full-line stocking locations in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut where it serves demanding customers in the commercial and residential construction industry.
The DASCO crew consist of nearly one hundred people who are focused on achieving complete customer satisfaction. DASCO's industry trained and certified employees remain committed to providing highly personalized services to assist customers with their orders, answer questions, solve problems and determine needs for specific jobs.
DASCO prides itself on keeping a large inventory at all locations so their busy customers do not have to wait. DASCO’s fleet of 25 trucks offer same or next day delivery throughout New Jersey and the Tri-state area, helping keep their customer’s jobs right on schedule.
Sheet metal fabrication is a specialty. DASCO can make or customize HVAC duct work in its 25,000 square foot sheet metal shop to their customer’s specifications. Utilizing DASCO for shearing, bending, punching, plasma cutting, coil line production and other fabrication services allow contractors of all sizes to take on larger and more profitable jobs. DASCO’s HVAC estimating systems assure that orders will be accurately issued and completed in a timely manner. Smart contractors know that partnering with DASCO provides them with a competitive advantage.
In 1993, DASCO general manager Jim Fabricatore led the implementation of an entry-level accounting program that sought to minimize manual processes in the accounting department. The project’s success encouraged DASCO to do even more. Industry-specific software applications were becoming more widely available for mid-sized companies like DASCO. “We heard about a competitor who used Infor Distribution FACTS to manage their inventory, as well,” recalled Jim. “We decided to check it out.”
Jim and the other managers at DASCO soon became acquainted with FACTS’ suite of supply chain, performance, financial, and business management applications. Designed by distribution industry experts, FACTS provides a highly configurable software that enables distributors to create high levels of efficiency and accuracy while keeping IT overhead costs at a minimum. Impressed with the product’s demonstrated feature/functionality, a decision was made to install FACTS in 1998.
FACTS has enabled DASCO to operate in the easiest and most cost-effective manner possible. DASCO is a high-touch operation that is highly dependent on information. Customers frequently call and visit the sales counters at the branch level to buy the equipment and supplies they need to get their daily work done. DASCO’s customer service representatives (CSRs) rely on their rapid access to information in FACTS to quickly and effectively service these customers.
In fact, DASCO uses FACTS to process around 500 sales orders every business day. This high transaction volume is possible because the FACTS database allows DASCO to work more effectively as a team. For example, CSRs can view the available inventory quantities at each branch and easily request stock transfers, if they are deemed necessary to close the sale. DASCO’s accounting and finance managers can setup customer-specific pricing including contract pricing to make sales to specific customers more effective; while access to current account balances and credit histories helps avoid bad debts.
The FACTS purchasing system allows DASCO to manage an on-hand inventory of over 8,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) at each of its eight locations. DASCO relies on the usage histories captured in FACTS to intelligently replenish its inventories while taking advantage of any discounts that may be available from their suppliers. DASCO procures the best deals possible during the preseason so its shelves are stocked full when customer activity is expected to be at peak levels.
Today, DASCO keeps its FACTS system running smoothly with support from Earnest & Associates (E&A) who has over twenty professionals on its staff dedicated solely to FACTS-specific product sales and support. DASCO benefits from a number of value-added services provided by E&A. These include access to the FACTS Help Desk in Greensboro, North Carolina where DASCO can get fast responses to time-sensitive issues during both normal business hours and after-hours. DASCO utilizes E&A University to introduce new employees to FACTS and to help experienced users learn how to use FACTS to its fullest. And DASCO regularly attends local E&A User Groups to see what is new with FACTS and to interact with representatives from E&A, Infor and fellow end users.
E&A has assigned consultants who have become intimately familiar with DASCO’s operations. Consultative pre-sales support is provided by Bill Delaney who has over twenty years of experience with FACTS and is based in the Meriden, Connecticut office. Craig Fromm, who provides close technical support and consultation to DASCO, has worked as a computer programmer for over fifteen years and with FACTS specifically for over seven years from E&A’s office in Baltimore, Maryland.
Jim appreciates the level of support that E&A provides. “We have our own personal E&A consultants who take care of us very well,” said Jim. “Obviously E&A has other customers that might tend to deal with their particular consultants; but in our case we think that we’re a little bit spoiled. E&A's technical consultants build great relationships with their customers!” he asserted.
Over the years, DASCO president Bob Schwarzenbeck has encouraged Jim’s forward-thinking use of technology. In 2006, Jim led an implementation of a document imaging solution in order to provide greater management control of DASCO’s work processes, documents and materials. Document management has proven to be a great complement to FACTS. “The document management solution has been a life saver,” said Bob. “We couldn’t do without it!”
Document management provides DASCO with an advanced document processing and management solution that dramatically improves employee productivity and reduces the huge expense of handling paper documents. Document management automatically captures, indexes and stores forms and reports generated by FACTS. DASCO also scans numerous paper documents to convert them into digital images. All of these files become available in the system, allowing for quick access to documents without time wasted on manual filing or retrieving.
Perhaps most importantly, document management is used to facilitate DASCO’s highly efficient billing system. Sales orders at the branch level generate pick tickets that are scanned into Max Recall. Workers in the accounting department in Whippany open up the document management system on one screen and FACTS on another. This method allows DASCO to accurately bill its customers using a virtually error-free process. Jim explained the process.
“This is the most powerful thing we do,” said Jim. “Our accounting people run queries for all of the tickets by branch. We confirm all of the tickets for each branch until the report reaches zero. Then we know that we have confirmed all of the tickets for that day.” The few tickets that remain open pending resolutions to customer-specific issues are resolved by the end of the month. Following confirmation, invoices are sent to customers by their preferred delivery method via email, fax and paper using the FACTS Document Delivery module. The end result is a highly accurate process that helps ensure DASCO’s ongoing cash flow and profitability, month in and month out.
The document management solution is also used to store non-FACTS documents such as contractor’s exempt purchase certificates and credit applications; as well as to track various internal processes such as deliveries, ticket processing, inter-branch stock transfers, employee time and attendance, and more. DASCO cross-references this information with FACTS to gain a sophisticated view of its operations that would not otherwise be possible. “The audit controls are amazing!” exclaimed Jim. “For example, we can track what our drivers have delivered, and to whom. We have a log that shows everyone who has touched the tickets: who scanned and confirmed them. We have a record of every piece of equipment that leaves the building. We can see who has punched in and out of the time clock. And so on. With document management, we can do a myriad of things that we might not have imagined doing otherwise,” said Jim.
The availability of rich data in document management makes it easy for DASCO managers to keep the pulse of their business 24/7/365. For example, with eight locations constantly making demands on his attention, Jim enjoys having access to informationl from wherever the journey might take him. “I don’t bring my laptop when I travel anymore,” said Jim. “Through the active domain and document management just about everything I need to see about what is going on at DASCO is at my fingertips, anytime.”
Finally, DASCO has dramatically reduced its use of file cabinets and on-site storage space using document management. “Little by little, we are using less and less paper,” confirmed Jim. To date, DASCO has shredded an impressive seventeen pallets of paper, freeing up valuable space it can use for other productive uses.
Inspired by an insightful discussion at an E&A User Group, Jim became interested in further leveraging E&A’s expertise with FACTS. Jim asked E&A’s Stan Mrazeck to spend a full day onsite to discover opportunities for DASCO to significantly improve its business processes. Stan’s report included specific actions that DASCO could take using its own resources and/or with the help of E&A software engineers.
Jim approved many of Stan’s recommendations which included enhancements to the FACTS customer returns system, credit memos, ship-to entry, and rebate reporting. Craig wrote the modifications which were subsequently tested, approved and installed on the FACTS server. The updated code has enabled DASCO to implement new procedures that have had a net positive impact on the bottom line.
In August, 2012 DASCO acquired Air Mac Distributing of Mt. Kisco, New York which introduced four new branches in New York and Connecticut. The event was meaningful to E&A because both DASCO and Air Mac were FACTS end users supported by E&A.
Since the two companies were on different releases of FACTS, the decision was made to move Air Mac’s data files to the main server in Whippany. Air Mac’s four branch locations were setup as new locations in DASCO’s system which now supported over sixty concurrent FACTS users. Craig provided technical assistance while Wendy Oakes trained end users at both DASCO and Air Mac on the procedural issues associated with the combination.
As DASCO engages with E&A on continuous improvement projects like these, Jim told us that he likes how E&A’s professional services agreement (PSA) has allowed the company to better predict and control its technology expenses. “We think the PSA program works very well for us,” commented Jim. “We always have two or three projects going on at one time so we mainly use PSA hours for those projects. However, we do keep a few hours on hand for any minor stuff that pops up in the meantime. Mostly, we like the fact that we can budget a set number of hours per quarter. That way, we smooth out our expenses and avoid having a major expense in a single quarter,” he elaborated.
DASCO has emerged from the Great Recession as a major force in the industry. With superb leadership from its management team and dedicated employees, DASCO has taken the lead by delivering the kind of high-value products and customer services that few others can match.
DASCO recognizes the important role that technology has played in its success. “We are very, very happy with the FACTS product and the support we get from E&A,” said Jim. “You guys are amazing. On one occasion, I emailed Craig at 11:00 at night with a request for him to call me back the first thing in the morning. Although I didn’t expect that he would, Craig called me back within minutes that same evening!”
Looking forward, DASCO expects to explore new uses of technology. For example, the document management web server solution might be a possible solution to provide customers with access to information and documents from any location via standard web browsers, lessening the burden on its customer service staff. DASCO is discussing modifications to FACTS to manage sales tax exemptions and to the Document Delivery module to enable additional controls over invoices before sending to customers.
Jim favorably compared the experience of working with E&A to DASCO’s other technology partners. “Some computer companies we have worked with have knowledge in certain areas but do not have the depth of understanding that E&A has,” said Jim. “Sometimes, other companies would do things at our expense. We might be able to find someone else to do the work at a lower hourly rate than E&A, but we end up paying more when that person takes two to three times longer to do the job. When we pay E&A ‘x’ amount we are confident we will get ‘x’ amount of work in return. We pay E&A for its demonstrated ability to do the job right,” concluded Jim.
To learn more about DASCO, visit www.dascosupply.com.
Ajax Rolled Ring & Machine is a custom manufacturer of seamless rolled rings that are used in a variety of critical industrial components including bearings, gears, flanges, and valve seat rings. End-use markets include the bearing industry; power-generation including steam and gas-turbine; wind energy; mining and construction equipment; oil and gas; petrochemical; defense; rail transportation; and a wide variety of general industrial applications.
Established in 1980 and located in York, South Carolina near Charlotte, North Carolina, Ajax employs approximately 100 employees within a 140,000 square foot facility situated on 29 acres. Ajax's seamless rolled ring capabilities range from 7.5 to 120 inches in diameter, weighing from 15 to 3,000 pounds using carbon, alloy, and stainless grades of steel. Ajax offers value-added services including design-engineering of ID/OD contour shapes, heat-treating, testing, shot-blasting and semi or finish machining.
In 2012, Ajax made the strategic decision to move into precision machining services. Ajax is investing in a new, state-of-the-art machine shop facility which will soon provide capabilities of turning, milling and drilling to cover a complete range of ring sizes. The machine shop will allow Ajax to become more ‘Lean’ in the sense that it can significantly reduce lead time for the supply of fully machined rings. Ajax believes that operating a fully-integrated, machining facility will be the best way to supply machined rings to its customers in the shortest time possible.
The attention to customer service and quality that has put Ajax in its market-leading position remains stronger than ever today. “Our goals are: to make doing business with us easier, to keep our lead-times within 2-3 weeks, and to offer solutions which will contribute to the success of our customer’s business,” said Simon Ormerod, CEO. “We are a customer-focused enterprise that believes in delivering value to our customers. We are dedicated to Continuous Improvement by working together with all Ajax team members, our customers and our suppliers.”
With its proud past, solid financial position and strong executive leadership, Ajax is poised for a very successful future.
Simon joined Ajax in 2006. As a seasoned manufacturing executive, Simon recognized there was a need for a new enterprise system. The legacy character-based application did offer limited functionality for managing Ajax’ manufacturing operations but had almost no financial capabilities. Consequently, Simon tasked the Ajax management team with selecting a new industry solution that would better align with the company’s business model. Simon also wanted to shield Ajax by sourcing the best available and widely-supported technology available in the marketplace.
After a thorough review, in early 2007 Ajax selected Infor VISUAL, a powerful enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution designed with the manufacturer in mind. Scott Sprouse, Information Technology Manager was recruited in early 2007 to help drive the implementation to conclusion. Bob Komisarski, CFO headed up all of the financial aspects of the transition. By September, 2007 everything was successfully installed including the new software, hardware and a staff of well-trained computer end users.
Today, Ajax has 36 users who rely on VISUAL to manage a highly efficient and effective operation. From accurately forecasting demand to materials requirements planning, scheduling, production, quality inspection, testing and shipping, Ajax uses VISUAL to manufacture at a level of speed and efficiency that makes the best use of its available resources.
Ajax competes in an industry with a high barrier of entry. Acquiring the plant and machinery had required major long-term capital investments. Ajax contends with a myriad of fixed and variable costs, as well. For example, the raw materials inventory consists of steel ingots that are subject to market price volatility. A highly skilled workforce is required to run the operation in shifts to meet demand. The furnaces consume huge quantities of natural gas whose price can spike during cold weather season. All of this means that Ajax must run at peak efficiency to earn a reasonable profit.
In order to control costs and to maximize its return on these investments, Ajax has learned that it is critical to make intelligent use of its information technology assets. Fortunately, VISUAL provides Ajax with access to an advanced shop floor scheduling system that has been refined through years of experience and thousands of successful customer implementations. Ajax relies on VISUAL’s patented finite scheduling algorithm that accounts for actual capacity and includes on-hand and expected material availability. With VISUAL, Ajax can utilize its capital, labor and material assets in the most efficient manner possible.
VISUAL helps Ajax bring order to the thousands of orders that are processed each year in the sales engineering and customer service departments. The requirements for each customer’s job can vary widely from ring dimensions to the specific kind of machining, heat treating, machining and other services. Ajax can capture new opportunities more easily with VISUAL by modeling changes to its production schedules quickly. Ajax uses VISUAL Scheduler to work backwards from the delivery date through all of these processes to schedule jobs in mere moments. With this information, Ajax can communicate in a very precise and effective manner with its customers including when their jobs will be started, finished and delivered. With a full grasp on the decision’s impact on costs, schedules and resources, Ajax knows instantly what to do next; meaning that the company can attain its goals that much faster.
VISUAL outputs bar codes that are used to track jobs and materials through the plant. Workers scan paper labels to check jobs in and out of their work areas. The data provides an accurate picture of the operation with real-time data, allowing Ajax to quickly adjust to customer changes as the need arises.
For example, having the right dies on hand is essential to keeping production moving forward in a timely manner; similarly, the time associated with changing out dies for different jobs can significantly slow down the lines. Additionally, VISUAL has been configured to allow Ajax to group and schedule jobs in a way that minimizes the number of die changes and keeps things moving along faster. “We use the VISUAL Scheduler to create our schedule,” said Scott. “We then use a custom program we developed to group like tooling jobs together. We can run these jobs back-to-back-to-back. This saves us the expense and downtime that comes with frequently changing out dies for different jobs. That’s one of the great things about VISUAL. It is very simple to customize as the need arises,” continued Scott
Ajax uses VISUAL to monitor its overall manufacturing progress. VISUAL features built-in reporting capabilities that make it easier to manage a complex enterprise. Ajax uses VISUAL to gain a clear, complete, up-to-the-minute view of its entire operation from the forecast to the shop floor to the shipping dock. “We track a capacity view of our shop,” said Scott. “VISUAL looks at the production forecast against our available resources including machines and the number of shifts on each day.”
Ajax drives quality into every aspect of its manufacturing operation with the VISUAL Quality module. Ajax thoroughly inspects and runs quality control checks before, during and after production to catch problems before they go out the door. “Although it might be expensive to have scrap in house, it’s far more expensive to ship a defective product to the customer,” said Scott. “We use VISUAL Quality to ensure that we fix quality issues before they become a problem for someone else.”
E&A supports Ajax with a number of professional services for its VISUAL system. Ajax enjoys access to local consultants who are available to provide both remote and onsite consulting and technical support services. Ajax also participates in local E&A user groups to keep up-to-date with software enhancements and to gain exposure to fresh ideas.
E&A’s Gary Ussery is a VISUAL business consultant who has worked very closely with Scott, Bob and Simon for a number of years. Gary has frequently advised Ajax on how to best use VISUAL to support Ajax’ unique business model including implementation services. Gary has also provided an array of technical support services to Ajax including data analysis, programming and report writing.
Most significantly, Gary wrote a custom application that helps Ajax better cope with fluctuating commodities prices. Although the base price of the final product – the ring – remains the same once it has been sold to the customer, it is generally accepted that prices for steel, energy and other commodities will change frequently. To help ensure that Ajax can adapt to these price increases and decreases, Gary created a SQL server database stored procedure. Ajax personnel simply enter the price indexes for the commodities the company’s management wishes to surcharge. A stored procedure runs nightly to add the surcharges to each invoice. Surcharges for up to ten commodities including steel and energy is then added or subtracted from the cost of the finished good. When the invoice is sent to the customer it contains additional line items for each surcharge item.
Ajax was inspired to use technology to provide customer self-service tools on the web. In 2012, Scott began work on a SharePoint site for Ajax that would enable customers to access their own information.
Gary was asked to create a customer-facing report for the SharePoint project. Gary examined the existing printed reports that had been provided to Ajax customers in order to determine what pieces of information end users might request. Because the data might be stored within and without VISUAL, Gary wrote a query that is capable of searching through multiple databases. Once the information has been retrieved, the final report is rewritten in SQL Server Reporting Services. The end user is presented with a read-only report in SharePoint.
One of the most valuable reports that is now available to Ajax customers through the SharePoint site is the steel certificate. Steel needs to be traceable to its source of origin. Customers must know everything there is to know about the steel including the specific alloy content, lot number, supplier, testing, treating, and so on. Ajax’ customers can now retrieve this information simply by entering their purchase order number after logging into the SharePoint customer portal (https://myajax.ajaxring.com).
The convenience of online self-service has relieved Ajax’ customer service representatives from fielding many routine requests, saving the company significant time and money. “We have definitely cut down on the types of calls where our people are asked things like, ‘Hey, can you print an invoice and send it to me?’,” said Scott. “Although we are happy to fulfill the request, many of our customers are finding it easier to get into SharePoint to view and print their invoices, packing lists, bills of lading, shipments and other information on their own. It’s a win-win for us both,” continued Scott.
At a local E&A user group, Scott was inspired by the feature/functionality of VISUAL 7.0 to upgrade to the current version. Gary provided close support on the upgrade project including stress testing the test environment prior to go live. Gary also worked with Scott on a practice upgrade in a test environment. During this upgrade they created a procedure to be used for upgrading the production environment at a later date. Scott was then able to upgrade production through this series of steps to bring the software live over the weekend. “Gary was very helpful to me when we upgraded,” said Scott. “I sent Gary several emails over the weekend and he was very responsive. Gary is super helpful in that way. In the end, the upgrade went well and was successful.”
Scott commented on the support relationship with E&A. “Gary is great to work with,” said Scott. “Gary has a comprehensive knowledge of VISUAL. All you need to do is tell Gary what you want the end result to be and he can handle the rest. Gary is there whenever we need him.”
Ajax is excited to have its new precision machine shop ready to enter production soon. With the ability to reduce the number of jobs sent outside the plant for machining services, Scott believes that Ajax will be able to dramatically decrease turnaround time and improve quality for many customer orders while reducing freight costs. By simply adding the additional machining resources into VISUAL, the VISUAL Scheduler will expand its existing traveler to include these new machines; thereby enabling Ajax to closely coordinate the flow of materials between the two shops.
Ajax is using VISUAL to implement lean manufacturing principles into action. Ajax has defined two ‘value streams’ meaning the labor and processes associated with those jobs that are routed into the large and small rolling mills. Employees are encouraged to contribute improvement suggestions (‘My Continuous Improvement’) on-the-ground that can help Ajax reduce wasted motion, time and energy in the value streams. Many of the ideas are then implemented in VISUAL. In this manner, Ajax continuously improves and thus becomes a leaner and more competitive business.
With sound management practices, savvy use of VISUAL technology combined with expert support services from E&A, Ajax is ready for the battle ahead.
To learn more, go to www.ajaxring.com.
Since its founding in 1936, Littlejohn, Inc. has established itself as the largest single source distributor of petroleum, chemical and dry bulk tank trailer parts in North America. Headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Littlejohn’s singular focus gives it the ability to service its customers in an unparalleled manner.
"Our vision is not just to be the biggest parts distributor in the nation, but the best,'' said Tully Brewer, president of Littlejohn. "Two principals drive the Littlejohn philosophy: We believe that what we do is more important than what we say, and we believe in service that exceeds expectations. We want to create raving fans, not just customers.”
Littlejohn goes to great lengths to provide their customers with access to a parts inventory that is second to none. Littlejohn’s purchasing power enables the company to provide these parts at competitive prices. Over 5,000 items are kept in stock including couplers, discs, flanges, gaskets, gauges, hoses, manways, pumps, tee’s, valves, vents, and related petroleum, dry bulk and stainless products.
The sales staff at Littlejohn has a combined experience of over 100 years in the industry. From the moment a call, fax or e-mail is received to the time the order is processed and shipped, Littlejohn’s customers are treated with true professionalism. Littlejohn’s salespersons are very knowledgeable, each having additional specialized knowledge in different product types. "Our large and diverse inventory, pricing and customer service is what sets Littlejohn apart from the competition,'' said Tully.
Recently, we visited with Littlejohn to learn about their history with FACTS, Earnest & Associates (E&A) and their plans for the future.
In 1991, Littlejohn was using an archaic DOS system to help run the business in a limited manner. After reading a book by distribution industry expert Gordon Graham, Tully decided to replace the legacy computer system with Infor Distribution FACTS, a comprehensive software solution that would allow Littlejohn to automate its operations, end-to-end. “We knew a lot about parts distribution but only enough about computers to realize that we needed an industry-specific computer system,” recalled Tully. “Graham recommended FACTS for distributors who want to become more efficient and effective. So, we purchased FACTS and ever since then we haven’t looked back. It’s been a fantastic distribution system for us.”
E&A’s Jeff Sprowls has worked with Littlejohn for all these many years. In fact, Jeff advised Littlejohn during their initial purchase of FACTS and through numerous system upgrades and enhancements. Jeff’s experience working with many dozens of distributors has proven valuable. Jeff has matched E&A subject matter experts with Littlejohn as its needs have grown, enabling Littlejohn to get the most from its technology systems.
“We choose our partners strategically and with certainty we can say that E&A has played a big role in what we have accomplished,” affirmed Tully. “We feel that E&A brings the kind of technology solutions and value-added services to the table that have helped us achieve an extremely high level of service. And that’s how we believe we will continue to create separation between ourselves and our competitors in the future.”
Littlejohn has managed and sustained a track record of steady growth with the aid of FACTS. Initially, 8 computer users were installed in the Spartanburg office in 1991. E&A helped Littlejohn gradually scale the system as new branch offices were opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois and most recently in Los Angeles, California. Today, FACTS supports Littlejohn’s thriving business and its 24 computer users.
Tully believes that Littlejohn’s financial commitment to FACTS has been fully justified. “We want to get better, better and better,” said Tully. “Our FACTS system is key; we’re putting a lot of our eggs in this basket.” Tully told us that Littlejohn allocates dollars in its annual budget for continuous improvements to its information technology systems. “We feel that it’s important to stay up to date, so we budget for technology upgrades to occur every single year,” said Tully. “We feel that strong about it!”
Littlejohn’s managers stay up to date on technology and industry best practices by regularly attending conferences at both the local and national levels. Purchasing manager Steve Willard and chief financial officer Bryce Simpson recently attended E&A’s local user group in Greenville, South Carolina to learn about the latest version of FACTS, related technologies, and to network with fellow end users. Tully and Bryce traveled to TUG (The User Group) 2012 in San Antonio, Texas to meet with end users from all across the country. “We learned so much from that conference,” enthused Tully. “It was first class and very educational. I highly recommend TUG to everyone!”
Indeed, Littlejohn’s technology partnership with E&A has allowed the company to get a day’s work done in a day and with fewer people. “We’ve gotten better, quicker and faster doing the same jobs as before,” said Tully. “Most companies our size have a lot more back office support, but we’ve become extremely efficient. That’s why we see the value in technology! We believe that we get a real return on our investment.”
Littlejohn services a diverse customer base including hundreds of tank trailer repair shops, original equipment manufacturers and industrial customers in the consumer products, soft drink, and nuclear industries. Although there are repair shops located just about everywhere across the country, a relative small number of distributors support this specialized industry. “People like ourselves are not in every city,” said Tully. “It’s very much a niche market. Last year there were maybe 2,000 new tankers made in the whole country. Compared to other distribution companies in our industry we’re one of the biggest in parts distribution,” he continued.
Littlejohn delivers exception service by relying heavily on FACTS to stay on top of what their customers need most. “We use FACTS to track what our customers have purchased in the past and to better predict what we need to keep in stock to satisfy future demand,” said Tully. “We’ve grown primarily because we stock more of the parts that our customers need than anybody else. That’s a big part of what we’re doing.”
Tully explained that having the right inventory on hand is critical in an industry where downtime is costly. “Our customers call us because they have a need: a tanker’s down,” said Tully. “That tanker truck represents an expensive asset to someone who can’t make money when it is sitting idle in a shop. Therefore, there is intense pressure to get that tanker back on the road! If you’ve got the part in stock at a reasonable price, typically you’ll win that business.”
To that end, Littlejohn has found that using FACTS’ multi-warehouse functionality during the order entry process has helped the company maximize its sales opportunities. “The beautiful part about our system is that we can service our customers from whichever warehouse makes the most business sense,” said Tully. “For example, if a customer calls from Indiana, we don’t have to choose between Chicago or Cincinnati. We can process the order from any site because we can view the available stock quantities at all four of our warehouses. We can take the order and send a pick ticket to print out at the warehouse that is located closest to the customer and/or has the items they need. Our customers really love that flexibility!” exclaimed Tully.
Littlejohn is careful to set credit limits in FACTS to minimize its exposure to bad debts. “It’s great that we can setup terms in the back office,” said Bryce. “We store our customer’s past purchase and payment histories in FACTS so we’ll know if a customer still owes us money, or not. FACTS can also alert us at the time the order is being processed when customers have reached their limits to make decisions about whether or not to extend credit to them. Of course, we want to make as many sales as we can but we need to collect on those sales, too!” said Bryce.
Orders typically ship UPS on the same day when they are received as late as 4:30 p.m. Littlejohn can turnaround orders with such remarkable speed in part because it uses FACTS to keep track of inventories set aside for specific customers. “We’re not afraid to make a deal to secure that customer’s business over the long run,” said Steve. “We make an upfront investment in purchasing the parts we think they will use over a set period of time. We create virtual warehouses in FACTS to track these customer’s inventories and make sure the parts are available for them when they are needed most.”
Littlejohn’s pick, pack and ship processes are facilitated by the warehouse location codes that are stored in FACTS. “It really helps that everything has its own location in FACTS,” said Steve. “FACTS points our guys in the right direction! Anything that’s dry bulk is in one area, petroleum is in another, and so on.” Steve added that the three full-service branch locations are organized similarly to the Spartanburg warehouse. Overall, the efficiencies made possible with FACTS has allowed Littlejohn to process an average of 75 to 80 orders every day, nearly double the amount from years past and with almost the same number of people as before.
Although the industry it serves generally uses standard parts, on occasion Littlejohn will process requests for non-stock items. Littlejohn’s salespeople can easily use FACTS to generate purchase orders for non-stocks and arrange direct shipments from vendors to customers. These special purchase orders are stored in a FACTS file folder for management review and control. “We use the Suggested PO feature in FACTS to see if there might be special orders pending that we can aggregate,” said Steve. “This helps us meet vendor minimum purchase requirements and obtain additional discounts. We closely manage the process to ensure that we generate the five to ten best POs possible on any given day.”
In late 2010, Littlejohn approached Jeff about a major project. Littlejohn wanted to upgrade to the latest version of FACTS in order to utilize the software’s latest feature/functionality. Littlejohn was also interested in migrating from Linux to the Windows operating system. Additionally, Littlejohn wanted to improve its efficiencies by implementing add-on modules to FACTS including several of E&A’s Pro Series applications.
Jeff made arrangements with E&A’s presales consultant, Dave Johndrow to demonstrate the software to Littlejohn’s decision makers in January, 2011. Jeff then presented a comprehensive plan for hardware, software and implementation services. The following month, the proposal was accepted by Littlejohn, and work soon began.
E&A’s Paul Muller spearheaded the hardware project from E&A’s office in Greer, South Carolina. Paul delivered and installed two new Dell PowerEdge computers in the Spartanburg location. One of the machines was configured as a FACTS server and the other as a terminal server to provide remote connectivity and data services to the branch offices. Littlejohn installed new dual monitors at each workstation, allowing end users to open multiple sessions of FACTS and other applications simultaneously and improve their productivity.
Commenting on the install, Bryce said, “Paul was a big help moving us from Linux to Windows. The new platform has noticeably improved our system’s performance. From our branch locations, using the remote desktop via the terminal server has sped things up considerably. When you’re on the road or at home you can get right into FACTS. It’s fantastic! And the Windows server has allowed us to be a bit more independent with our hardware support and reduce expenses,” he concluded.
E&A’s Wendy Oakes provided training to help Littlejohn understand how to use the new features in FACTS 7.7. Wendy spent several days before and after go-live to train end users and to make sure that everything went smoothly. E&A University was a core element of Wendy’s training strategy, encouraging Littlejohn’s end users to go online to familiarize themselves with the software beforehand. “E&A University is a great training tool!” said Bryce. “It really helped because we were able to learn a lot about FACTS in general and the 7.7 upgrade in particular.”
Bryce credits the training services provided by E&A and the improved feature/functionality of FACTS 7.7 with helping Littlejohn to attain greater efficiency. “Now we have more time to do things that can help us generate revenues and cash to invest in our business growth,” said Bryce.
For example, prior to the upgrade Littlejohn had been using two separate systems for credit card processing. Littlejohn now uses the PayPal integration with FACTS to save time and improve service to customers. Applying deposits for customers who pay on multiple accounts has been made easier because Littlejohn can now credit multiple accounts with a single check. Littlejohn is also using the FACTS bank reconciliation system (available in version 7.5 and up) to update all bank transactions that occur during regular processing, including AP checks, PR checks, AR returned checks, AR cash receipts, SO invoices, and AR invoices. (The bank reconciliation feature can also be used to enter other transactions such as bank transfers and fees; which are posted to the General Ledger when a subsequent bank transaction register is run and updated.) And Littlejohn has recently begun to use Automated Clearing House (ACH) services to send payments electronically, with receivables planned in the future.
E&A’s add-on solutions for FACTS have also proven useful to Littlejohn. E&A installed its Document Delivery and Email modules to empower Littlejohn to send invoices and statements to customers electronically, saving substantial amounts on labor as well as paper, printing and postage. With E&A’s solution, Amanda Deaton testified that she spends much less time printing and sending documents than before. “We used to spend an hour and a half folding and stuffing envelopes every day,” said Amanda. “It doesn’t take anywhere near that amount of time now because the majority of our customers have chosen fax or email as their preferred form of delivery, although we can still print and mail if they want. For instance, we’ve found that some of our larger customers with multiple branches want copies of hard copy invoices sent to their home offices for record keeping. In other cases, our customers might want a combination of all three – fax, email and print. The Document Delivery system can handle that for us, too,” she said. Steve added that sending invoices by email and fax versus snail mail has helped improve Littlejohn’s cash flow by speeding up the billing and payment process.
UnForm, a forms management solution, complements the FACTS system including Document Delivery and Email. UnForm is designed to eliminate the expense and limitations inherent with using pre-printed forms while preparing them for print or electronic delivery. E&A’s Edgar Diaz worked with Littlejohn to customize UnForm to meet the company’s business and branding requirements. With the UnForm project complete, Littlejohn maintains greater consistency in how invoices and statements are presented to customers. Additionally, Littlejohn has been able to replace its slow and expensive dot matrix printers with laser printers that output printed materials much faster and at less cost than before.
An E&A Pro Series module that has benefited Littlejohn is Pro ShipLink, an application that links FACTS with popular shipping services including UPS WorldShip. Steve described the features and benefits of Pro ShipLink to us. “The integration with UPS to bring in the tracking numbers has been helpful,” said Steve. “We often have customers call us to ask, ‘I ordered this part yesterday. When shall I receive it?’ With Pro ShipLink, we can provide accurate information to the customer. We can go to the FACTS sales orders inquiry screen, click on the tracking link and pull up the relevant information from UPS. In addition to serving customers better, Pro ShipLink saves our salespeople the time and hassle of walking to file cabinets in the back office to find this information,” emphasized Steve.
A major motivating factor for upgrading FACTS was to gain access to new tools that could help Littlejohn control its inventory better. As a distributor, freeing up cash from making unproductive inventory investments is key to helping Littlejohn expand across the country. “We need to keep up with our customer’s buying habits and patterns and invest in the right inventory,” said Tully. “We have to have cash to grow. That’s where the upgrade to 7.7 has helped us.”
Several of E&A’s Pro Series solutions for FACTS have proven important to Littlejohn. Pro Buyers Control Center (Pro BCC) streamlines replenishment processes for multi-location distributors. Pro Decisions extracts the data locked in FACTS and makes it come to life in a series of graphical dashboards and pivot tables to facilitate more effective data analysis and decision making. Together, these two applications have helped Littlejohn achieve its business objectives.
For example, Pro BCC’s central work center design makes it easier for Littlejohn to manage the transfer of inventory between branches and make better purchasing decisions. “Pro BCC has made my job easier,” affirmed Steve. “I used to open two separate screens to view the information I needed. Now, Pro BCC puts it all right in front of me on a single screen including usage, turns, cost, movement class, and so on; everything is right there!”
Tully concurred. “How did we ever live without Pro BCC! It’s fantastic because it streamlines all of our purchasing processes for us. Seeing all of the connections between the data points has been like an eureka moment for us,” said Tully.
Similarly, Pro Decisions has vastly improved Littlejohn’s insight into its operations. FACTS data is stored in a SQL data warehouse and presented in Excel, making it both accessible and familiar to a large number of people in the organization. Importantly, Littlejohn has used Pro Decisions to identify dead stock and reduce its inventory carrying costs.
“Pro Decisions makes information readily available to us, even for our ‘non-computer’ people,” said Tully. “Computer consultants call it ‘data mining’ but we prefer to think of it as ‘hunting for cash’. That’s because we want to find the inventory that is not working for us and replace it with inventory that turns faster and produces greater profit. With Pro Decisions, we did in fact succeed in finding the cash sitting in our inventory. We converted the inventory to cash and opened up another branch location.”
“That’s why I’m putting as much as we can that makes sense into FACTS and E&A,” continued Tully. “Information technology allows our company to grow because we can grow our cash. Growth gives us more profit; and on we go.”
Over the past ten years, Littlejohn has doubled in size. 2010 and 2011 were both record sales years, with 2012 on track to do the same again. “We’re just now hitting our stride, if you will,” said Tully. “We think we can go from four locations to ten. Technology has been a huge part of our success but we feel that we’ve now got the right management team to really put the pedal down.”
Littlejohn is taking steps to improve even more with technology. In January 2012, Littlejohn purchased Infor10 Distribution Storefront, an e-commerce solution for FACTS. Littlejohn expects to use the Storefront module to provide self-service capabilities to existing customers as well as capture new business opportunities. “We just feel that it’s a strategic move,” said Tully. “We want to lock in customers who are already doing business with us by offering greater value-added services through the Storefront. We want our customers to check our inventory levels at all locations and place orders online.” Tully also believes the Storefront can help Littlejohn expand its market share. “We want to make an executive-level pitch to larger companies where we say to them, ‘You will gain access to the Littlejohn Storefront when you award your national contract to us.’ We don’t know that anyone else is doing that in our industry yet. We think it will help us leapfrog past the competition.”
Looking ahead, Littlejohn has factored in an upgrade to FACTS 7.8 into its current year’s budget. Bryce is excited about implementing the Grant W. Howard-approved inventory management features built into 7.8. Steve would like to see bar coding used more widely and hopes to begin using the FACTS cycle counting system soon. And Tully anticipates that Littlejohn will use tablet computers to access data on the go, including at the customer site.
“We’ve had such a great relationship with everyone at E&A who have simply done a fantastic job of taking care of our information technology needs,” said Tully. “We are pouring even more money into technology because we think that’s going to increase the degree of separation between us and our competitors.” Tully emphasized that Littlejohn relies on E&A to recommend the tools and best practices that help his distribution business remain competitive. “We need that support and that’s the value that E&A brings to us. They’re looking out for our best interests. They’re a part of us.”
To learn more about Littlejohn, go to www.littlejohninc.com.
Philadelphia Reserve Supply Company (PRSCO) was founded in 1930 by local building material dealers who wanted to form their own wholesale distribution center. The purpose of this new entity was to collectively pool its member’s purchasing power to buy materials at the lowest available prices. Furthermore, all net profits of this entity would be rebated back to each owner in the form of patronage dividend. Today, PRSCO is recognized as one of the most successful regional cooperatives in the nation with over 100 stockholder dealers consisting of over 175 locations.
PRSCO is headquartered in Croydon, Pennsylvania where it serves independent lumber and building material dealers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. PRSCO functions as a wholesale distributor, providing warehousing and delivery services to its customers. PRSCO’s stock inventory features drywall, insulation, roofing, treated lumber, plywood, lumber, sheathings and other commodity-type products that are widely used in the new construction or remodeling industries.
PRSCO maintains a 65,000 square foot central warehouse for pickup and delivery service to all its customers. PRSCO also facilitates direct order shipments from various manufacturers to its customers in railcar, truckload or skid lots, just like other buying groups. PRSCO also sells material to non-stockholding, independent lumber and building material dealers on request.
PRSCO provides purchasing power and marketing services to assist its members in competing and surviving against the mass merchandisers. The organization seeks to make an important contribution to its owners’ success through its purchasing, sales, marketing, service and financial activities and indirectly through its product knowledge, professionalism and relationships.
Since 2007, PRSCO has implemented a successful Stocking Dealer Program where its members can purchase stock inventory from PRSCO’s warehouse at the same direct price they would pay if the dealer had bought direct from the manufacturer. “Our members can buy one skid of material from PRSCO at the same direct price they would pay if they were buying from the manufacturer by the truck or railcar,” said John Grasso, assistant controller. “We can break down packages and ship smaller quantities to our customers from our local warehouse faster than if the customer ordered direct. The program works because when we buy more from our vendors, our invoice rebates grow; which in turn allows us to offer more attractive pricing to our members. And, our customers are able to streamline their payables and purchasing departments because there’s only one entity to pay: PRSCO,” he continued.
Non-members can order from the warehouse as well, but in this scenario PRSCO will markup the price to more accurately reflect its actual material handling and overhead costs. The money PRSCO earns is taken out of its operating costs. “Most of our margins are a result of earning back-end rebates, and when there’s money left over at the end of the year we pay dividends back to our members,” explained John.
PRSCO has been led for many years by its president, Frank Dalinsky. In October, 2011 long-time PRSCO board member Kim Coleman assumed the role of general manager and chief operating officer. Kim will lead the organization when Frank retires in 2012. "Throughout his career, Kim has had great rapport with the industry's manufacturers and vendors, dealers, and contractors," said Frank. "The strength of these relationships will enable him to lead PRSCO and continue its success in the future."
Prior to 1998, PRSCO had relied on a custom-written software application to manage the business. As the year 2000 approached, PRSCO recognized its systems would not be compliant. Chas Gormley, controller was asked to search for a new enterprise solution.
“When we looked at systems, we looked for the best fit for the distribution portion of our business,” recalled Chas. “Infor Distribution FACTS by Infor was the best solution we found.”
FACTS is a proven distribution based software package that enables customers to streamline processes and maximize resources. With a track record that is unparalleled in the industry, FACTS allows distributors to enhance customer service, optimize inventory levels, increase productivity and improve profitability.
PRSCO installed FACTS in 1998 with assistance from John Genter Associates (JGA) of Downingtown, Pennsylvania who served as the local Infor representative in the Philadelphia area. JGA configured FACTS to run on a UNIX server supporting 20 computer end users. The project included customizations to facilitate the direct order side of the business, where PRSCO handles paperwork for its customers but does not take actual ownership of inventory. JGA also relocated the computer system when PRSCO completed construction of its new office building in 2007.
Shortly after PRSCO had settled into its new space, Chas and John Grasso decided the time had come to significantly upgrade the information system. Specifically, PRSCO was interested in migrating FACTS from UNIX to Windows; upgrading FACTS to the current version; and implementing strategic third-party applications that might help the company gain efficiencies. With this ambitious agenda in mind, Chas and John approached JGA who in turn recommended that PRSCO contact Earnest & Associates (E&A) in Baltimore, Maryland. JGA felt that E&A could bring relevant expertise to the project.
PRSCO contacted E&A’s Mike Manning who subsequently met onsite with Chas and John to discuss how E&A might support PRSCO’s information systems. Believing that E&A had the specific technical expertise they were seeking, PRSCO immediately signed an agreement with E&A for professional services including access to the FACTS Help Desk, UNIX operating systems support, and computer programming services.
As an added benefit of being an E&A client, PRSCO gained access to E&A’s user group series which currently meets in eight cities across the country. In the spring of 2008, Chas attended the user group in Williamsburg, Virginia and John participated in the event held in Baltimore, Maryland. Chas and John intended to meet with technical experts from E&A and Infor in person, network with fellow FACTS end users, and learn more about FACTS and related technologies. PRSCO came away from the meetings satisfied that they had made the right decision to partner with E&A.
“We wanted to see what E&A was all about,” admitted Chas. “We recognized that E&A had the resources we needed to support our FACTS system and impressed that E&A was in direct contact with the developer. It seemed that E&A could help us grow our business with technology.”
The user groups energized PRSCO with new ideas on how to get more from their FACTS system investment. At both the Williamsburg and Baltimore events, E&A’s Bill Briggs had demonstrated UnForm Document Archiving & Management (DAM) a document management system that has been fully integrated within and without FACTS. Simply put, UnForm DAM allows end users to capture, store and retrieve their paper-based and electronic documents through a single interface. UnForm DAM resonated with PRSCO for the reason that its employees are challenged with sifting through and matching up the many thousands of paper-only direct orders that its members place with PRSCO-approved manufacturers each year.
“We really are interested in getting document management,” affirmed John. “Our vision is to decrease paper by getting digitized. We want to deliver information and documents to our customers electronically via email or fax.” John estimates the manual processes that will get eliminated using UnForm DAM could save PRSCO as much as two to three hours of labor per day. “We can put those hours to more useful purposes than simply alphabetizing documents," John emphasized.
In 2009, John started planning for the upgrade to FACTS 7.7 which featured full Windows feature/functionality and integration with UnForm DAM. E&A’s Jim Thomas served as the primary consulting and technical support contact to PRSCO on the project.
E&A began by providing specs for the Windows server to PRSCO’s local network support company. Jim used the new machine to setup a test system for FACTS 7.7 in PRSCO’s training room. Jim stayed onsite for several days of testing and training. “Jim was really good about going around and showing everyone the basics,” recalled John. “He sat down with everyone!”
PRSCO employees, who were accustomed to using FACTS 7.5 in character mode, learned how the improved graphical display in 7.7 made FACTS easier to use. “Before, nearly everyone had defaulted to the character display in 7.5 because that’s how our people had been accustomed to using the software,” explained John. “But the problem with character is that if you get stuck somewhere, it’s not always clear how to get out. Whereas in a Windows environment, navigation within the system is more obvious. There might be a red ‘X’ to help you exit the program or an arrow to go back to the previous screen. It’s more intuitive,” said John.
FACTS 7.7 went live in October, 2010. Jim was onsite for two days to make sure everything went smoothly. The months spent preparing for the event paid off. With the small number of technical issues resolved the first day, the second day was dedicated to wrap-up and additional end user training. PRSCO has used FACTS successfully ever since.
With the upgrade complete, John was glad to see the UNIX server retired. Previously, John had been concerned about his ability to communicate with PRSCO’s technology services providers in the event of an emergency. “With UNIX, I couldn’t see what was going on at all,” said John. “There’s no GUI interface! I couldn’t tell what the UNIX prompts or code lines meant; it was all Greek to me.”
The Windows server now empowers John to provide more competent first-line technical support for PRSCO, helping save on support fees. “I can open up the server and see if something’s wrong. It’s more obvious!,” exclaimed John. “If FACTS isn’t running I’ll look at the server first. If there’s anything glaring or obvious that I can see, I can report it right away.” The quality of PRSCO’s interactions with third-party vendors has been vastly improved as a consequence of the Windows interface. “It’s been much easier for me to explain a situation while I’m on the phone with our technical support people,” said John. “I can make sure the system is connected to the Internet and possibly make a pre-diagnosis. The interaction goes a whole lot faster when I’m communicating with the network guy.”
Since the go-live, E&A’s support services have proven useful to PRSCO. “The FACTS Help Desk is very beneficial,” said John. “Having people available at E&A to answer the phone who are competent enough to figure out what’s going on is great. If our issue is not resolved immediately then E&A will escalate the call to someone who will make sure we’re taken care of.” John added that PRSCO values E&A as a resource to help them do more with FACTS. “When our people are unsure about how to do something, I often recommend that they call the Help Desk. E&A is like an education tool for our end users,” he asserted.
Chas believes PRSCO has made good decisions about its enterprise software. “FACTS has proven to be a nice fit,” commented Chas. “FACTS handles everything for us from sales orders to purchasing, inventory and accounting.” The integrated solution provides PRSCO with a 360-degree view of its operations, allowing the organization to provide outstanding service to its customers.
Chas told us what he likes about FACTS sales orders. “We can enter all of the pertinent customer information about what our customers are buying including description, pricing, our cost, shipping routes and so on,” said Chas. “Our salespeople have the pricing information available to them at the time they take the order. We have the convenience of seeing what’s on hand, what’s available, if items are on backorder or if there is more material on the way.”
The FACTS purchasing system has proven to be beneficial. PRSCO uses FACTS to take advantage of available manufacturer discounts, a critical feature when one considers the very large amount of materials PRSCO purchases. “Suggested Purchase Orders has been a nice feature,” said Chas. “We can view reordering reports that show us precisely when the time is right to place an order; for example, when we have reached a buying target with a specific supplier.” PRSCO has also setup movement classes to better support its buying decisions, making sure that the warehouse has stocked up just in time to meet peak demand. “FACTS recalculates turns on a monthly basis. We use the information to break our inventory out into different classes with one being the most turns, thirteen the fewest turns or dead stock, and everything else in between. We analyze the data to make decisions about what we want to stock going forward,” said Chas.
Importantly, the information provided by FACTS has empowered PRSCO to negotiate the best possible deals with manufacturers and save money. “We have over 500 suppliers but a core group of 80 to 100 suppliers comprise 80% of our business volume,” said Chas. “Using historical data from FACTS, we can talk to our vendors from a position of strength. We can say, ‘We’re moving a lot of your inventory. Let’s talk about how you can support us through a new incentive program or by offering us additional rebates’. With FACTS, we have a tool we can use to gain leverage with our suppliers,” continued Chas.
E&A has written several modifications to suit PRSCO’s unique business model. Jim modified FACTS so that PRSCO can process paper-only orders without touching parts of the system that might otherwise skew the FACTS purchasing system or cause extra work in data entry. “When a piece of paper comes in with the vendor’s invoice indicating ‘bill to PRSCO’, we’ll go to the FACTS direct invoice entry screen to enter the order,” said John. “When we’re ready to print, a screen opens where we can enter the vendor information – name, dollar amount, account, due date and so on. The modification bypasses our purchase order system and creates an accounts payable. It’s a huge savings for us because it’s automated and there’s no double entry of data!”
With rebates providing PRSCO with most of its operating margin, it is crucial that claims are submitted accurately and on time. To that end, Jim wrote a modification that links direct invoices to vendors and showed PRSCO how to access this data using the FACTS 7.7 custom reporting tool. “We can run a report where we can see all of the vendors that our customers might have purchased from,” said John. “We can drill all the way down to the vendor’s invoice number and the FACTS invoice number. And we can do it vice versa.” PRSCO sorts the data in Excel in order to determine the exact amount it can claim in rebates from each supplier. “It’s been really helpful!” enthused John.
Other modifications have helped PRSCO improve its management of inventory. Jim created a field in FACTS to enter the four-digit numbers PRSCO uses to tag its stock inventory to allow for better inventory auditing and reporting. Jim also formatted the shelf label to include the warehouse location; thereby improving worker efficiency. “We can export the relevant information from FACTS to Excel and make sure that every tag has been accounted for,” said John. “If we find a discrepancy, we know exactly what to do. We can go to zone AA, AB and so on; make our counts; and adjust our inventory numbers very quickly. It’s been a huge help for us,” John concluded.
PRSCO has developed a good working relationship with E&A. John especially values Jim’s knowledge of FACTS and the insight he has gained through supporting PRSCO’s system. “Jim Thomas has been great,” said John. “We can contact Jim whenever we have an idea for a modification and to discuss whether he thinks it’s plausible or not. If we have a really urgent day-to-day issue we’ll often go to Jim since he’s done a lot of the programming for us and copied a lot of the modifications we had from 7.5 to 7.7. Jim has also implemented some new programs for us, so he’s knowledgeable about our system right away.”
Since 2009, John Grasso had been mulling over how UnForm DAM might streamline PRSCO’s paper-intensive direct order process. John had developed a flowchart that proposed how the handling of paper documents might become more efficient by introducing UnForm DAM into the process. Later in 2011, John attended an E&A user group in Edison, NJ where he met with a fellow FACTS user who highly recommended E&A’s work on its own document imaging system. With this encouragement, PRSCO decided the time had come to activate the UnForm DAM project.
To get things started, PRSCO’s accounting staff met with E&A’s Craig Fromm remotely via Webex to view a demonstration of UnForm DAM within the context of John’s proposal. An agreement was signed with E&A in September, 2011 to move forward with the project.
PRSCO’s challenge is to sort through the thousands of invoices that arrive via email, fax or mail. PRSCO needs to sort these documents alphabetically in order to match up the vendor invoices with the customer invoices generated in FACTS, a labor-intensive process that consumes hours every day. PRSCO intends to improve the process by scanning the vendor invoices using UnForm DAM. Using dual monitors, users will be able to digitally cross reference and match the documents. John explained the process. “Our vision is to have UnForm DAM on one screen and FACTS on the other,” said John. “We can have the digitized vendor invoice here and the FACTS direct billing over there. We can bill the customer right from the screen and have the two documents associate with each other. FACTS can provide the linkage. This will enable us to eliminate the sorting process. At the end of the day, all that we will have to do is pull up the invoices in UnForm DAM, check the ones that we want to send, and then send them to each customer per their preferred method of delivery.”
E&A began work on the project. Several other pieces of software were necessary to support the UnForm DAM system. E&A installed the FACTS Email and VSI-Fax modules so that PRSCO can choose to either print, email or fax documents to customers directly from the system. Meanwhile, Craig began customizing the UnForm DAM software to meet PRSCO’s requirements.
At the time of writing, the majority of the UnForm DAM system has been installed. Vendor invoices have been successfully scanned and archived. The next step will be to associate the invoices with the FACTS billing system so that the process can be completely automated, end-to-end.
“UnForm DAM is already saving us a lot of time with our direct billing,” said John. “E&A is configuring a solution that is unique to us and how we do things.”
Although the construction industry has taken a big hit in the Great Recession, PRSCO has managed to weather the storm. PRSCO’s smart use of technology has enabled the company to do more with less. PRSCO continues to improve upon its core strengths in purchasing and customer service, making the company more relevant than ever to its members’ survival and promising a great future ahead.
E&A is actively engaged with PRSCO on several projects. In addition to working towards the completion of the UnForm DAM installation, E&A is currently installing and configuring the FACTS Document Delivery module which will be used to send acknowledgements automatically to PRSCO customers when pick tickets have been issued in the warehouse.
In the future, Chas thinks PRSCO might take a look at bar coding to improve the accuracy of its physical inventory and implement cycle counting. Recognizing the limitations of backing up PRSCO’s important FACTS data on external drives, John believes that E&A Managed Services might provide a solution. Data could be stored securely in the Internet ‘cloud’ and made available for recovery anytime or whenever an unexpected event occurs. “We have a rotation going where we take one backup offsite every night,” said John. “We’re not quite in the cloud yet but it’s going to be our next step.”
In July, 2011 it was announced that JGA would combine its resources with E&A. The deal formalized what had previously been a professional relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation for over thirty years. Dozens of companies like PRSCO would enjoy greater continuity and level of support for their FACTS systems as a result of the merger.
John commented on the benefits of working with E&A. “We can’t hire someone with the kind of technical skills we can get by partnering with E&A,” said John. “To have a resource like E&A accessible to us has been great. We now have a partner to help us game plan how we might improve our processes and save labor. We couldn’t do that before.”
To learn more about PRSCO, go to www.prsco.org.
Summers Industrial Supply of Johnson City, Tennessee is the leading industrial distributor serving eastern Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina. Since its inception in 1893, Summers has consistently out-serviced the competition by providing its customers with quality products, competitive pricing, and outstanding service.
The company’s industrial sales division, which was added in 1974, provides maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) supplies to area industries. The 150,000 square foot warehouse stores an extensive inventory of 14,000 stock keeping units (SKU’s). These items are available for next day or even same day delivery if necessary. Even though Summers has a vast inventory of MRO, cutting tools, abrasives, material handling items, safety, and janitorial supplies, more than 40% of orders processed are for non-stock or special items.
Summers is a family business led by its owner, Glenn Shaw. The company prides itself on its ability to locate those rare, hard to find, and specialty items in a timely manner and at a competitive price. This is a sharp contrast from larger industrial suppliers who typically will not take the time to locate items that are not held in inventory; and the smaller supply houses who do not have the resources to help solve those special problems.
Summers has nearly 40 people who are dedicated to excellence in industrial distribution. Summers employees include many highly-skilled inside and outside sales people as well as factory certified product specialists, technical representatives, and engineers who specialize in manufacturing and operations.
In order to facilitate reliable and consistent service, Summers has a fleet of vans and straight trucks that make ten scheduled runs a week and are available for special trips as needed. Vehicles and personnel are available to handle emergency situations that may arise after hours or on weekends. Summers also offers vendor managed inventory (VMI) and automated materials vending.
A customer of Summers’ can expect reliable service of the highest quality, integrity in every aspect of business, and experience backed by quality products and services. Summers values all of its customers and views their challenges as their own. Today, Summers is a strong company with proven experience in helping its customers solve their problems as quickly as possible.
Summers Industrial Supply Seeks a New System
Summers’ legacy computer system dated from 1980. The software was written in a proprietary programming language and was supported by an in-house programmer for many years. In the mid 1990s, Summers wanted to reduce its ongoing maintenance costs by installing an ERP package from a nationally-recognized software developer. Unfortunately, the implementation proved disastrous when the developer failed to live up to its promises.
“It didn’t go well,” said Craig Shaw, who recalled the story as it was told to him by his father, Glenn. “When the system went live, the whole operation shut down. We couldn’t get orders out and there were people filling up the sales counter area because we couldn’t get their orders picked. That night, my father said that he and his partner were standing in the warehouse. The trucks were sitting idle. His partner looked at him and said, ‘This is the worst day of my life’ and walked away.” After many attempts to debug the system, Summers reverted back to its legacy system.
Craig had started work at Summers shortly after graduating from Georgia Tech in 2008. Craig’s studies in computer engineering, inventory management and industrial engineering had prepared him well for entering the family business. Craig spent the first six months at Summers learning firsthand how all tasks are performed, from accounting to picking orders to making deliveries and everything in between. “After I had gone through the process of learning about the business and seeing where the business needed to go, I saw the importance of Summers having a good foundation in a new ERP system,” stated Craig.
However, around the same time that Summers came to this realization, the Great Recession of 2009 arrived. Summers’ managers were forced to place the project of a new computer system on hold and make some tough decisions. “We had to make several decisions about how we do business, but because those decisions were made quickly and the relationships we have with our customers, we were able to survive the downturn when others did not,” said Craig. “When the situation started to plateau a year later, we decided that we needed to put the new computer system on the front burner. Our philosophy is that if we’re not making ourselves better - if we’re not going after new business - then we’re going backwards.”
In 2010, Glenn asked Craig to put his formal education and training to work by spearheading the selection process for a new computer system. “Jeff Hardin, who is our vice president, collaborated with me on the project,” said Craig. “It was felt that we had a good idea of how all the departments worked together, so we took the lead on specifying the new system.”
Of course, one of the consequences of the previous failed implementation was that Summers’ personnel had long dreaded the prospect of installing another computer system. “Several people still remembered the last experience of installing a new computer system,” said Craig. “They were more than a little apprehensive about getting a new system. In fact, some were terrified!” he exclaimed. Still, while Summers’ personnel had their reasons for wanting to continue with the status quo, it was becoming evident that Summers’ aging legacy system could not be sustained indefinitely nor could it provide the advanced feature/functionality the company needed to stay competitive in the 21st century.
After concluding that installing an updated version of the legacy system would not be a viable option, it was decided that Summers would need to procure a new system. Of course, Craig was keen not to repeat the previous bad experience and resolved himself to thoroughly review the market as best he could. With that imperative in mind, Craig turned to Smith Brown Wallace, a highly respected consulting firm who publishes a well-known guide to distribution industry software. “We looked over the guide to find the software we were interested in learning more about,” said Craig. “We wanted to know how the software was built including the programming language, operating systems, how much of the application was core versus third party integration, and so on.” At that point, Craig and Jeff together with others on the Summers selection team narrowed down the list and began reading marketing materials, speaking with representatives, and looking at online demos.
Among the companies that Summers seriously considered was Infor, the leading developer of mid-market software solutions for industry. “We attended an industry Webinar where Infor was mentioned and came across the Infor name several times when talking with other people, too. We wanted to learn more,” stated Craig. Infor immediately put Craig in touch with Jeff Sprowls at Earnest & Associates (E&A), the leading Infor channel partner in the U.S. supporting over 300 companies in the wholesale/distribution and manufacturing industries.
Jeff arranged an appointment and drove from E&A’s office in Greenville, South Carolina to visit with Summers at the Johnson City office. After a successful first visit, a discovery was setup in late July, 2010 where Jeff and E&A presales business consultant Dave Johndrow would have the opportunity to inspect Summers’ operations in detail. Information gleaned from the discovery process would allow Jeff to closely align an Infor solution with Summers’ unique business needs.
“We liked the way that Jeff and Dave invested time in coming to our facility and observing our operations,” recalled Craig. “They wanted to know, ‘How does this work?’ And without any prompting from us, Dave pointed out that the software wouldn’t be able to handle our unique zone picking requirements without a modification or extension, which had been one of the causes of the previous system failure. So we appreciated the fact that E&A was approaching us in a straightforward manner.”
Impressed with the level of professionalism displayed at the discovery, Summers made the decision to short list E&A. “E&A was not just about making presentations,” stressed Craig. “E&A was seriously talking to us, trying to figure out who we are and how we work. It seemed that E&A was intent on making the best software recommendation possible to us.” Meanwhile, Jeff Sprowls furnished a reference list of companies that were similar in size and industry, offering to take the Summers team onsite for a visit so that they could witness how E&A and Infor might provide a superior solution.
Over time, Summers diligently narrowed the number of potential candidates down to three companies. “We had scheduled demos, with some of the demos onsite and others via Webex. Then we met as a group to compare notes and discuss the pros and cons of each solution,” said Craig. “We took a vote and came to a consensus that it would be a good decision to go with Infor software from E&A.” The contract that was signed in September, 2010 called for a 23 concurrent user license for Infor Distribution SX.enterprise with value-added consulting, implementation and support services provided by E&A.
Craig emphasized that Summers’ final decision was about more than software. “The reason we chose SX.enterprise was because we were comfortable with E&A,” asserted Craig. “In fact, we thought to ourselves, ‘Any of the software packages from the three finalists we selected will probably work for us.’ But even though E&A was not the cheapest option, we felt that E&A had a much better understanding of Summers. E&A was willing to spend the time to work with us. As a result, we were more comfortable with E&A and the support they were going to give us than we were with the others who were merely trying to sell us.”
An important dimension of the proposal was a lease-to-own option made available through E&A’s financial partner, Ryan Capital. “We chose to lease the software because we didn’t want to restrict our cash flow,” said Craig. “We looked at what our credit line might be with our bank versus the leasing option and decided it was in our better interest to lease.”
Shortly after the software decision was made, E&A submitted a bid and subsequently won the right to source Summers’ computer hardware. E&A would be responsible for supplying two Dell servers which would be used for the installation of SX.enterprise. As a single source for Summers’ software and hardware, E&A could reduce the hassle of dealing with multiple vendors while ensuring that the customer’s system would be appropriately sized and configured.
Summers implements SX.enterprise
The ISOCTM philosophy represents E&A’s solution to enterprise systems management in the small to medium sized business space. ISOC marginalizes the threat of runaway ERP projects that fail to deliver on their promises. E&A’s approach resonated with Summers, who recognized that a successful software implementation would require a structured, coordinated effort.
“ISOC was the biggest selling factor that E&A had,” remarked Craig. “E&A presented a plan: ‘This is how we’re going to implement the system, and it is going to take anywhere from six to twelve months to do the job right’. This is in contrast to another company that said we’d be up and running in six weeks, which we knew wasn’t realistic.”
Jon Woodrum, who manages the SX.enterprise team at E&A, assigned Bill Pattie to the role of implementation project manager. Tina Wang, Leo Lang and Matt DeSalle would supply programming services while Tom Fitzgerald would provide contract management support. Jon’s team worked from Dave’s high-level discovery document to begin specifying the modifications and detailing the implementation plan, paving the way for the ISOC operations review with the Summers team in October, 2010. “We sat down with Tom and Bill to review the specifications,” said Craig. “We walked through all of our critical processes, from receiving to shipping to the warehouse, to gain a deeper understanding of how the software would fit us. Bill then wrote up the detailed specs and gave them to us for our input.”
The operations review helped to flesh out three major modifications to the software. The first was the need to print multiple pick tickets from a single order; and to print these tickets by zone. This modification was deemed to be most crucial as it was the issue that had derailed the previous implementation. The requirement stems from the unique attributes of Summers’ magnificent, multi-story warehouse and office building which dates from 1912. Summers stocks its inventory in designated zones located on different levels in the building and in adjacent storage yards and sheds. With a significant amount of vertical and horizontal movement necessary to navigate through the sprawling facility, orders would be almost impossible to process unless pick tickets are sent to just the right printers in the building. Although an advanced warehouse management system could deliver this same kind of functionality, Summers did not want or need the added complication and expense of implementing another software package, if it could be avoided.
The second unique software requirement pertained to special stock held, or items that major (usually manufacturing industry) customers expect Summers to have on hand at all times. These include frequently-used production line items and mission-critical items that oftentimes means the difference between large enterprises keeping production lines running or having them sit idle. “Our customers might purchase these items only once in a while but if they can’t get the product when it’s needed, a machine, a production line or an entire operation could be shut down. So that’s something we absolutely must do for our customers,” emphasized Craig.
Route management was the third major requirement. Pick tickets must be printed for customers located within specific delivery zones on the days when their deliveries are scheduled. However, since some customers need delivery more frequently than others, Summers must be able to assign some of their customers to multiple routes whose stop orders might also vary according to the delivery day. “That’s something that SX.enterprise didn’t handle out of the box,” said Craig. “We asked E&A to deliver a modification where we could manage deliveries to customers who get service, say, once a week versus others who might get deliveries from us every day of the week.”
As E&A began work on the modifications, Craig arranged with a local computer firm to install high-speed fiber optic cables and wireless network access points throughout the building. New Windows 7 PCs were ordered for the few end users in the office who did not already have them.
E&A’s Adam Team delivered and installed the two new Dell servers, configuring the machines to run flawlessly with the Summers network. A copy of SX.enterprise was loaded onto the servers and a virtual test environment was set up, in turn enabling Summers to create a learning lab where software could be tested and end users could master how to use the software prior to the go-live.
During the software implementation, Bill became the most visible E&A staff member and developed a close working relationship with Craig and the Summers staff. Bill came in for the ISOC conference room pilot, where he met with Summers department managers to compare and contrast their current business processes with SX.enterprise. “Everybody here really liked Bill, and we got along well,” said Craig. “We discussed how things could work better for us with the new system in comparison to how we did things before.”
Bill worked with Craig on importing data from the legacy system into SX.enterprise. Since Craig had previously built a number of extract programs to use for reporting and analysis, Bill helped map the reporting database including all of Summer’s customer, vendor and product records to an import file that fed the data into SX.enterprise. Summers could now create a realistic end user training experience where its personnel could work not with samples but real customer, product and pricing information.
One of Craig’s objectives was to simplify the user interface as much as possible. Craig was concerned that the migration from a character-based screen to a graphical system might cause confusion for some users; while on the other hand, Craig sensed ample opportunity for more logically structuring the system to improve Summers’ business processes and efficiency. “We thought we could gain a big advantage if we could customize the screen layouts,” said Craig. “It would help with the transition from the old to the new system by putting all of the information our end users needed right in front of them.”
Taking advantage of SX.enterprise' customizable user interface, Craig and Bill set up role-specific screens that would allow end users to quickly access information to get their jobs done as efficiently as possible. “We created hot buttons that allow users to access the specific information they need,” explained Craig. “We customized the labels and displayed the links in logical orders within the navigation screen: select this button for accounts receivable, this one for accounts payable, and so on.”
Tasks have been grouped and ordered so that users can perform their jobs step-by-step in SX.enterprise. “We group and order the buttons where the top buttons are going to be the first step, the next button the second step, and so on. For example, on the sales side we’ve grouped order entry before order inquiry. The goal was to make the system as logical as possible and to make the transition easier for the end user,” stressed Craig.
Craig recalled the challenges of training people who had worked for many years with character-based terminals and were unfamiliar with using a PC. “When we started doing training, we had not one but two people look at the mouse and ask, ‘What is that?’,” he said. “We knew right away that we needed to get everybody on board. End user training would be crucial to the success of the project.”
Craig scheduled the training sessions by department where the Summers sales team would practice placing orders, purchasing would practice buying non-stock items, accounting would practice invoicing and receiving, and so on. To make the experience as relevant as possible, Craig asked users to recreate the daily work that they were performing in the legacy system to learn how these tasks would be performed using SX.enterprise. “That way, our people benefited from having a parallel experience: here’s how we’re going to do the same thing we are working on now in the new system,” said Craig.
Summers made sure that every computer user gained competency with SX.enterprise during the weeks running up to go-live. “We didn’t take a day off but end user training was the biggest thing that we did right,” said Craig. “We made it mandatory for everyone to practice using SX.enterprise for an hour every day.”
As Summers personnel gained familiarity with SX.enterprise, Bill began testing Tina’s and Matt’s modifications. Bill then asked Craig to review the modifications, which were either approved or sent back for further refinement. This process continued through the time of the end user training, where Summers had an opportunity to test its personalized version of SX.enterprise using its own data. The readiness assessment confirmed that, apart from a few minor refinements, Summers was ready to go-live on SX.enterprise. A go-live date was scheduled and E&A and Summers prepared for the final push.
To make absolutely certain its employees were ready, Summers scheduled special Saturday training sessions on the final two weekends before go-live. “We wanted to get entire departments in here at one time so that we could run through scenarios together,” said Craig. “We’d give our people a scenario that they’d have to work through as a team. They learned to depend on each other to work through their problems.”
A few nights before go-live, Summers used the training room for a final walk-through of the warehouse pick ticket system and other mission-critical business functions. “Bill and I went through every scenario we could think of, and made sure the pick tickets printed on the correct printers,” said Craig. “When we were certain that everything was working correctly, we decided we were ready to go-live.”
Summers successfully went live on SX.enterprise during the third week of March, 2011. Bill was onsite but thanks to the thorough prep work by E&A and Summers the event went well and according to plan. “When we went live, we didn’t have any major hiccups,” affirmed Craig. “Although the first two were long days for the Summers staff, by the end of the week things were starting to work smoothly. Having Bill with us to provide support was a huge help.”
Craig came to value the ongoing assistance provided by Bill during the implementation process. “Bill was a friend and a resource,” said Craig. “If something wasn’t working the way we had anticipated and we needed help, Bill was there. We’d get on the phone and talk through the issue. In the end, it worked out well because we were on the same page.”
Craig commented on the support services provided by E&A to help Summers quickly work through the few unexpected issues that did occur during the implementation. “Support has been good,” said Craig. “When we contact the E&A help desk a representative will get back to us very quickly. For example, one of the modifications that we had ordered was loaded and tested before we realized that we had missed something. Within a matter of minutes, Bill Pattie and Tina Wang were both on the phone. It was late in the afternoon but we got the issue straightened out before the end of the day.”
Craig also credited the Summers staff for their enthusiastic support of the project. “I was really proud of our people,” beamed Craig. “Nobody griped. Everyone maintained a good attitude and came in to practice when we asked them to. They were all excited about it. ‘We are ready for this!’, they’d say. In fact, there’s not a single person who regrets going to the new system. We were able to make the transition successfully because our people put in the effort need to make it successful.”
Summers Benefits from SX.enterprise
Craig believes that the customized screen displays and processes built into SX.enterprise) by E&A has helped Summers implement standardized procedures that helps make the company work more efficiently than before. “We’re able to standardize where everybody doesn’t have their own individual ways of doing things,” said Craig. “We don’t want to get the corporate mentality of telling people how to do their jobs but we are setting out general guidelines. Our people have actually taken to that philosophy very well.”
One of the largest areas of improvement has been with handling non-stock orders which comprises 40% of Summers’ business volume. Prior to implementing Infor10 SX.enterprise, the lack of visibility to non-stocks meant that Summers would use manual process to place many overlapping small orders to the same vendors or purchase similar items from different vendors. “Beforehand, non-stock information wasn’t stored in the system and it wasn’t assigned a part number. You’d have to put the non-stock item on a PO, email purchasing, and purchasing would print the PO and stick it in a file somewhere. You’d hope that when it came time for purchasing to buy it, they hadn’t forgotten about it,” said Craig.
Now, Summers uses SX.enterprise to cooperatively add non-stock items to their sales orders and purchase them more efficiently. “One of the things we like is how SX.enterprise handles non-stocks,” said Craig. “We can easily add non-stocks to orders and to the database so that if someone else on our staff wants to order that same item in the future, we don’t have to search for the information all over again and re-enter it from scratch.” Non-stock items automatically show up in the SX.enterprise buyers’ control center where Summers can make much more intelligent purchasing decisions, taking greater advantage of buying targets and discounts from suppliers. “It’s a whole lot better than it was before,” admitted Craig.
Summers has implemented a more disciplined cross-reference system to gain greater control over its database and improve customer service. “The pricing and cross-reference system in SX.enterprise allows the catalog to be visible to everybody, not just to the person who entered the item originally,” said Craig. “We came up with a standard nomenclature for how to assign a product number to catalog items. When we search for a particular widget, we can locate it quickly using a manufacturer’s part number or description. If it’s already in our catalog we can see the current pricing and what price we’ve sold it to other people for. It’s one of the big benefits for us because we have such a large volume of non-stocks,” he continued.
Craig likes that he can easily access information within SX.enterprise for reporting and analysis. The application includes many pre-built reports for sales analysis, inventory management, accounting, finance and other critical areas as well as tools for users who want to generate customized views and reports. “Bill gave us a little tutelage on how to extract data whenever we need a report that’s not already standard in the system,” said Craig. “We can drop data into Excel or view the custom report on the screen.”
Craig told us that the open database connectivity features in SX.enterprise that allow him to massage data in Excel compares favorably with the hassle of straightening out information that has already been uploaded to the ERP system. “A big advantage with SX.enterprise is that we can test and play with data before committing the final changes to the database,” said Craig. “For example, our largest pipe fitting vendor has over 700 SKUs where Units of Measure is an issue. We always had trouble reconciling the information in our legacy system. It used to take forever! But now we simply download a price sheet from the supplier’s website, make a few simple changes and then upload the data into SX.enterprise. The fields are updated in seconds! So instead of spending three weeks doing it all by hand, we can take care of the update in less than a day.”
Glenn Shaw discussed how E&A’s solution has benefited Summers. “Customer service is critical to us,” said Glenn. “With SX.enterprise, it is very easy to navigate from place to place in the system. We have gained quicker access to information, vendors and customers. We can provide acknowledgments and copies of invoices to customers on demand. The sales and purchasing reports have also been valuable in managing the company,” he continued.
E&A’s ISOC Philosophy Benefits Summers
The ISOC approach makes sure that systems are properly fitted to the business environment. During the discovery, the utilization of electronic data interchange (EDI) to trade information with suppliers was not deemed to be a critical process in Summer’s operations; and accordingly was not fitted into E&A’s initial proposal. However, as the ISOC management process unfolded it became evident to E&A during the Operations Analysis phase that EDI played an important part in Summer’s maintaining its vendor relationships. E&A made its observation known and upon additional consultation in February, 2011 Summers concurred that it was important to include an EDI interface to the implementation scope of services.
“We came to realize that we needed EDI,” confirmed Craig. “We wanted to maintain discounts and buying power with certain vendors who do require us to trade with them using EDI.” E&A’s Scott Manley took the lead in getting Summers’ EDI solution up and running in relatively short order. Although EDI was not fully implemented in time for the go-live, EDI has since come fully online. EDI has benefited Summers by automating previously manual processes and sharing in the cost savings achieved through participating in its vendors’ electronic trading systems.
Summers Today and Tomorrow
Craig’s ambition was to set Summers on a solid footing to allow for its future growth and expansion. With Infor10 SX.enterprise successfully installed and a good working relationship established with its technology partners at E&A, Craig believes that Summers has achieved its goal and is now ready to do more. “I feel like we have that foundation now,” said Craig. “Today, we’re focusing on improving service to our existing customers and others who are in our defined business territories. Tomorrow, we plan to start work on a B2B website where we can roll out additional services to our customers, with future plans to add a B2C front end to capture new business opportunities, as well.”
Summers has recently opened up a virtual private network (VPN) so that remote users can access SX.enterprise from anywhere. “Our sales people love it!” said Craig. “We don’t need to install clients on the desktop. Our people can access the system through a secure login on our website and get full functionality just like they would if they were sitting here in the office. It’s been a big hit so far!” he enthused.
Meanwhile, Summers is working with E&A on implementing the Max Recall document imaging solution where scanned documents such as MSDS sheets and signed proof of delivery tickets can be accessed anywhere within SX.enterprise. E&A is also assisting with the implementation of the integrated bar code (IBC) module to enable Summers to virtually eliminate errors in its warehouse operations that might be associated with its receiving, shipping, and physical/cycle counting processes.
Glenn has been pleased with E&A’s responsive support. “When Craig was on vacation we had a few problems,” said Glenn. “We emailed E&A’s help desk with details and the problems were resolved in a matter of a few hours. We had believed that E&A would provide the support we needed after the implementation was complete, and they have.”
Craig praised E&A for its support with helping Summers move forward with technology to maintain industry leadership and competitive advantage. “E&A has taken good care of us,” said Craig. “With business, there’s simply no such thing as sitting still; if you are, you’re losing ground.”
To learn more about Summers, go to www.summersindustrial.com.