Winding down and ramping up

By virtually all accounts, 2018 has been a solid year for most companies in the construction supply industry. I’ve talked with many dealers who’ve been setting revenue records, month after month. For those who haven’t set records, I’ve heard zero complaints about the new construction and remodeling in their markets. Looking at the numbers, it’s not hard to see why that’s the case. In the years since the Great Recession, we’ve seen steady, year-over-year increases in total housing starts. Indeed, we’ve gone from a low of 554,000 starts in 2009 to 1.2 million-plus in 2017, with most economists predicting at least a couple more years of growth before the next, inevitable downturn.

This healthy market is not without its challenges—especially the well-documented labor shortage—it’s also ripe with opportunities for companies to optimize their operations. Case in point: Technology. While we’ve seen steady advances in every category of building materials (the best place to experience the latest/greatest new products is at the International Builders Show, which will be held in Las Vegas from February 19-21), there’s been a truly explosive growth in technology tools for LBM distribution pros.

Considering how quickly tech tools evolve, we decided to revisit a software-focused Real Issues survey we conducted in 2016. That survey delivered some surprising answers—like half of those who completed the survey were using software that’s over 10 years old, and nearly 20% were using systems that were more than 20 years old. As we learned in our updated survey, there are still a healthy number of LBM dealers relying on older software. The big change: more than four in ten dealers plan to upgrade or transition to new technology in the next three years. Read the whole story on page 40.

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Whether or not your company is planning to upgrade soon, I strongly encourage you to check out the InDepth: Technology Tools feature beginning on page 56. Contributor Jonathan Sweet interviewed the leading providers of ERP/business software, as well as specialized technology tools for estimating, fleet management, etc. If it’s been a few years since you’ve explored software offerings, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how far these tools have come.

Much of the content in this—and every—issue of LBM Journal aims to give you insights to help you grow your sales, your business, and your brand. But that’s not the whole story. We take a lot of pride in devoting several pages of each issue to profiling one of you. This month, I’m thankful to Steve Patterson for letting us share the story of Central Valley, a family-owned success story in the heart of California’s wine country. With a laudable commitment to its employees and its community, and the recent acquisition of Foster Lumber, Central Valley is the kind of company that makes the LBM community shine.

Here’s wishing you, your family and your company a safe and happy holiday season. Until our next issue in January 2019, we’ll keep you updated at LBMJournal.com.