Online product pricing and availability could set you apart from your competition.
BY: PATRICK BENTIVEGNA, CR, CRPM
During the day, I—like most NARI members—am out in the field working on remodeling or new build construction projects. I don’t have a large office staff to do the legwork to find the LBM product information I need. As a result, I must do that research and manage the jobsites myself. Because of this, having web-based access to LBM pricing, availability, material specifications and MSDS sheets would make my job significantly easier for estimating and bid purposes.
Most of the time I review and search for product information in the off hours, when the LBM supply houses are generally closed. Online access to LBM product information would allow me to look up information when I need it as opposed to having to call the supply house during business hours, request pricing on specific items and wait to have them determine availability.
Having online access to this information during the business day would also save me time. If I’m out in the field and I need an item right away, being able to go online via my mobile device or computer to see if an item is in stock would be much faster than going from supply house to supply house. It’s also faster than calling multiple supply houses since they must then check to see if an item is in stock. Essentially, online access to product information is like one stop shopping at your fingertips.
A third, very important reason, that LBMs should provide online access to this information is because products are continually changing. Things are not cookie cutter anymore. Everything’s more customized in the work I do, so knowing the specifications of new products is essential when I am working on a project to complete it on-time and correctly. It’s easier to try and review this information myself versus having to call a supply house and have them mail brochures to me.
If I could have the pricing, the availability and the information that I need readily available, it would save me, and all NARI members, time and labor for estimating and figuring projects out; it would make jobs run a hundred times smoother. If LBM suppliers utilized all the tools to make this possible, it would also make everyone’s life less stressful and easier. For example, if we could determine the lead time on materials ourselves, by just looking online, we would know how and when to order materials to make our jobs run more efficiently. In turn, the homeowner would be happier because everything runs like clockwork.
Likewise, having online access to the LBM product information would motivate me to change suppliers, but you can’t forget about service. If I don’t have the customer service I need from my LBM suppliers, I, or many other remodelers for that matter, would not switch suppliers. If an LBM supplier did both, it would be great. It could reinforce and strengthen existing relationships and help create new ones. I estimate that between 20-25% of suppliers on Rhode Island provide some sort of product information online, but none of them do all that I am asking for. No suppliers have online pricing. One LBM supplier I currently use, Watermill Building Supply, emails me lumber pricing once a month, but it’s not readily available online.