|Cary Anderson, Senior Director of Development for Epicor Software, is a leader and visionary in the application of technology to the lumber and building material industry. For over 30 years, Cary has introduced new technologies to LBM dealers, including the first integrations of business intelligence, document management, and dispatch and delivery systems.|
With housing on a solid growth curve in many markets, what would you define as the clearest opportunity— as well as the biggest challenge—facing LBM dealers?
The biggest challenge facing the LBM industry right now is the shortage of skilled labor. This is an issue across the country, and it is affecting both builders and dealers.
Building a house is performed in stages—builders need access to different skilled workers at each stage, or the project will suffer expensive delays. Forward-thinking dealers are filling gaps in labor and providing value for their builder customers through well-managed installed sales programs. Epicor BisTrack software excels at managing large installed sales projects, with call-off orders, contract billing, and rolling job costing. It has helped pro dealers to be more profitable in their pre-fab and installed sales businesses.
There has been a tremendous amount of consolidation in the building products industry among LBM dealers, manufacturers and technology providers. What do you see as the impact of consolidation on the LBM distribution channel?
This consolidation means that there is a large consolidator now in every major market. Independent dealers can compete against consolidators by being more nimble, and reacting faster to local changes in their market. On the other hand, consolidators can use centralized purchasing and leverage the economies of scale to make better purchases.
There has also been consolidation of the software providers that serve this industry. In most technology acquisitions, the acquiring company simply absorbs the other company’s customers and end-of-lifes the acquired product. This is not the case with Epicor. We continue to support products that are 30 years old. But we also offer migration paths for customers operating on legacy solutions. In 2012, Epicor acquired Progressive Solutions and its BisTrack software, the most comprehensive and advanced software solution for LBM dealers and distributors. The company has a clear migration path for existing customers who want to update their technology. The industry’s most technically advanced and comprehensive business management system supported by the resources of the market leading technology provider is an unbeatable combination.
What do you see as the role of technology as it relates to the future of independent LBM dealers?
Mobile and cloud technologies are the future. During the recent recession, many LBM dealers were forced to downsize and they leveraged technology to do more with fewer resources. Now that the economy is doing better, the trend is toward improving performance and managing growth. You don’t want to hire administrative staff to support sales. You want to be able to sustain that growth by getting the most out of each person in your company through technology. Epicor uses the cloud and mobile technologies to help improve the performance of mobile workers, such as outside salespeople, yard personnel, and purchasing managers.
A recent LBM Journal survey revealed that more than half of the dealers who are computerized rely on systems that range from 11-30 years old. Since POS platforms can and do last for decades, why upgrade?
Newer technologies give end users better access to actionable data. With older systems, if users had questions that weren’t answered by existing reports, they would have to ask the IT team to create a new report. BisTrack software allows users to generate ad hoc reports themselves, and then immediately act on that information.
Multitasking is a requirement in the modern business environment. On the old character-based systems, you can only do one thing at a time. They require you to clear out one screen before moving onto the next. However, the Windows environment presents multiple information panes at the same time, allowing you to multitask.
Also, attracting younger employees and training them is easier with newer technologies. You can train new employees five times faster on a Windows-based system because they have already used it and understand how it works. Further, millennials embrace the productivity gains from the mobile and cloud capabilities of newer technologies.
How should dealers view Point-of-Sale ( POS) technology?
First of all, stop thinking of your business software as POS technology. The right software can facilitate every key initiative in your company—recruiting, increasing sales and market share, optimizing inventory management, vertical integration, expansion, centralization, localization—and help you make better, more informed decisions. Technology can and should be a competitive weapon for your company. BisTrack software is specifically designed to help dealers successfully compete in this very unique industry. It is the industry’s most advanced technology that can scale to the size and business model of each company that uses it. By using the BisTrack solution, you are sending a message to your owners, customers and employees that you are ahead of the technology curve and committed to the success of your company.