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November, 2007

Wired for Profits

Technology tools engineered to harness efficiencies and fatten your bottom line.

By Craig A. Shutt

With everyone in the channel battling the housing "correction,” it’s more important than ever for dealers to harness the latest technologies to help them run a more efficient—and profitable—organization. That means finding innovative ways to track, measure, and act on data that can help you capture every last penny of profit. With that in mind, here’s a review of some of the technology currently in the market that could help your company become:

ACTIVANT-FALCON

VNS Corp. Gains Inventory Efficiency, Online Service

Tracking their millwork production created difficulties at VNS Corp. in Vidalia, Ga., which operates eight Choo Choo Build-It Mart stores and other facilities. The company had used the same software for many years, but executives eventually decided it was time to update to gain more efficiency .

After examining various options, they installed the Falcon system from Activant—and then realized they should let it replace their entire system, not just the management of the millwork operation.

"One thing you don’t like to do is stir up your computer system if you don’t have to,” says Bobby R. Dixon Jr., chief information officer and assistant CFO of VNS. "But we were struggling to keep up with our millwork operations, and we needed a system that could make it efficient.

"Once we saw the Falcon system, we convinced the company to upgrade the entire [system] because of the benefits it would give us.”

Activant’s Falcon software offers business-management features designed specifically for lumber and building material suppliers of any size. It provides a full-featured Enterprise Resource Planning system to improve order-management operations, tighten inventory management and production processes, and streamline vendor procurement. It also offers a suite of accounting applications, as well as a suite of analytics and reporting products to help manage problems.

The key to VNS’s improved productivity was the Falcon Millwork module, which provides build-to-order capabilities that include creating a bill of material structures using the module’s Configurator mode. The Configurator guides users through order entry by asking questions about each design, ensuring all components and accessories are included. Production scheduling and manufacturing also can be customized to reflect the company’s own processes.

"The biggest benefit for us is being able to keep up with the millwork-inventory process,” Dixon says. "It helps our production scheduling by allowing us to put orders in and schedule their production, and then move the products into finished goods inventory.” Previously, the company’s products weren’t being well-tracked after they were built, causing disruptions and a lack of information on what was completed, he says.

The Configurator also has been a big help by leading order-takers through the process of building a door to ensure each component has been discussed. "Anyone can use it and systematically ensure no parts are left out,” he explains. "When you answer all the questions, you have what you need to build the door.”

The company’s increased efficiencies can be seen in the productivity achieved during inventory counts. Physical inventory discrepancies have been cut by about 90%, in part because they are tracked more closely every day. "We can balance inventory daily on the general ledger and on our perpetual-inventory program, and we couldn’t do that before,” Dixon says. "When we go to do the physical inventory, it’s a lot closer to what we expect because of our regular watch.”

VNS trained about 200 people on the system, including employees from all branches—its wholesale yard, door shop, truss plant, and installed-sales location. The company first trained several overall trainers, who then worked with individual employees. Anyone who was involved with order entry or input into the system in any way, including receiving, accounts receivable, accounts payable, purchasing, and general ledger, received several hours of instruction over two separate visits to corporate headquarters.

"Training was a key component of making the system work well, and Activant really stressed that,” he says. "Our top management got behind it and pushed us to ensure everyone was getting the training they needed.”

The inventory-control programs aren’t the only components of the software that VNS is using, he notes. This spring, the company implemented something called the iNet program, which allows customers to go online to view their accounts at any time. "Customers really like it because they’re away from the office so much of the day,” he explains. "They can review it at night when they’re off the road without having to contact us for access or information.”

The company also is looking at the system’s contract billing, which allows multiple shipments to be condensed into one bill, and is starting to incorporate the installed-sales program to help organize that service.

"We’re definitely expanding what we do with the system and how we use it,” he says. "We will continue to use the advancements as they are introduced, because they are making us much more efficient than we’ve been.”

For more information, visit www.activant.com/products/activant-falcon

ACTIVANT EAGLE

Special Orders Don’t Upset PC Building Materials

PC Building Materials in New Albany, Ind., has been using Activant’s Eagle system for more than 10 years, and the dealer continues to upgrade the system with new services aimed at speeding up operations.

Five years ago, PC Building Materials began using Windows-based applications, and it has added several more capabilities recently. The results have been improved efficiency throughout the company.

The Eagle system was designed to improve customer-order management and point-of-sale operations, tighten inventory-management processes, and streamline vendor-procurement operations. It also provides suites of accounting applications and analytical and reporting products to help manage problems while providing data to continuously improve the business.

The company has seen the most dramatic changes thanks to Eagle’s Advanced Order Entry module. "That has been really big for us, because as much as 80% of our business is done as special orders,” explains Charles Ringle, business planner for the company. Special orders at the company used to be focused on kitchen cabinetry and windows, but now that has expanded to include lighting, flooring, and moulding orders as well.

The system integrates the process from the initial order through receiving and alerting the customer that products have arrived. With a kitchen-cabinet order, for instance, the salesperson creates the plan on design software and uploads it to the Eagle system, where the materials list is attached to a purchase order that is automatically generated and sent to the supplier.

When materials are delivered, order records are automatically updated, and the products are marked as received. Special-order labels generated when the products are received provide a snapshot of the order and contain all the information needed to store and ship the items. The company also runs a report to notify employees when orders haven’t been picked up within 30 days.

"The software is absolutely great, because it saves us so much time in creating purchase orders, tracking products when they’re received, breaking down shipments, and allocating the items,” he explains.

The company also has added the Eagle Document Management program, which Ringle says is probably the second most productive tool the system offers. "It really has streamlined our first-of-the-month billing,” he says. With so many special orders, about 80% of the company’s business is done on account, requiring a lot of invoices and statements, he explains. Avoiding the copying, filing, and sorting of paperwork saves significant time while ensuring none of the records are misplaced.

Eagle’s RF Inventory module also adds productivity, allowing even an employee with limited knowledge of the system, to update inventory by walking the floor and scanning inventory. That information is then sent over the wireless network to update inventory as needed. The company’s goal is to cycle-count items four times a year, and it couldn’t be accomplished any other way, he says.

Eagle’s suggested-order software, which buyers run, review, and transmit, also fit into the company’s DoItBest order process. "We send the order on Monday; it’s processed on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we have the products and invoice,” he says. "When the shipment arrives, we unload the truck, scan the products, and it sends the information to receiving. We push a couple buttons and see that we balanced.” Other vendors also are being set up on the system now to further these productivity gains. And they’re not done adding features, Ringle notes.

"We’re in the purchasing process for the Compass module, which will allow all of our reports, including accounts payable, accounts receivable, point of sale, inventory, and others to interact.” A basic drag-and-drop menu allows any of the information to be included in a report, making analysis easier.

All of the systems work on the Windows format, which has made training simple since the company shifted to that option about five years ago, he adds. "Previously, we had about 20 people using the system, and they knew the quirks. But we knew that as new people came in and as we expanded, we needed an approach that could be learned easily. The Windows-based system makes it really easy to train new users.”

The system is growing right along with the company, which has seen revenues rise between 10-20% every year in the decade since the first Eagle system was installed. Yet the company added only one part-time person in the back office to handle the expansion.

Owner David Stemmler appreciates that kind of productivity. "The computer system shows up every day on-time, wide awake with a good attitude and is rarely down. It’s an essential tool,” he says.

For more information on the Activant Eagle system, visit www.activant.com/products/activant-eagle/

ADVANTAGE

Loudoun Lumber Takes Advantage of Expanded Capabilities

Loudoun Lumber in Purcellville, Va., has used three software systems in its history, switching vendors when the initial suppliers failed to provide services—once after only 60 days.

Those shifts are now in the past as the company has grown and added to its system from Advantage Business Computer Systems over the past seven years.

The store has used computerized systems since 1991, says Michael Hubbard, owner and general manager. But their existing supplier faltered financially as the year 2000 approached, and it announced that it would not update to handle the Y2K bug. The company scrambled for a new system and signed up with one that made big promises but didn’t deliver.

"We were told it would do everything we already did and more,” Hubbard says. "But it wouldn’t do half of what we already did. We tried it for 60 days, and then we called up Advantage, who we’d been looking at earlier, and we said, ‘We made a mistake. How fast can you get us operational?’ In three weeks, all data had been converted and we were up and running.”

The company’s use of the system has only grown since then, adding applications as new modules are introduced and the company has new needs. "As they’ve made improvements to the system, we’ve added them to our operations,” he says.

The program offers a fully integrated business system with real-time transaction processing that automatically updates inventory and general-ledger accounts. It includes tools for inventory management and suggested orders to minimize inventory and maximize turns and margins. It also automates period-ending procedures and manages payroll functions and reporting features. Multiple locations can also be coordinated easily with the networking format.

A variety of additional modules are available, including:

  • Portable inventory tools via in-hand terminals
  • Document imaging
  • Delivery-route optimization with RoutePerfect
  • Delivery tracking with Advantage Delivery Tracking
  • Proof of delivery with RouteTrak
  • Gift-card management
  • E-mail services
  • Rental services

Hubbard has taken full advantage of the inventory-management system. "It’s really comprehensive, and integrates all of the processes: point of sale, inventory control, payroll, general ledger, and others. By working together, they ensure that purchasing and point-of-sale operations are keyed into inventory to make everything work together.” The system also coordinates general ledger and inventory sub-ledger accounts to immediately note any exceptions.

Advantage offers a turnkey system that includes hardware, software, data conversion (since most sales today are to companies with existing systems), installation, and training. Installations for a one-store operation with about $10 million in sales take about eight days, the company estimates. The dealer then receives 90 days of custom training help from the same team that installed the system and did the initial training. All training manuals also are available online for easy access by all personnel, with additional help built into the software.

Loudoun recently started using the document-management module and is more than halfway into imaging its entire document process, says Hubbard. "It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s saving us a huge amount of time already. Once we have it complete, we won’t be filing anything.” That not only will save time, he notes, but puts the complete archive of past records into an easily accessible database. "We won’t have to go pouring through boxes of files to retrieve information.”

The fast response time can resolve customer-service issues and improve collections with immediate access to the scanned documents, while the use of plain-paper statements eliminates ordering time, expense, and storage of preprinted forms.

Hubbard also is working with Advantage on a system for producing suggested-order quantities on all types of products. "We don’t have enough historical data or a way to break down order quantities appropriately yet, but we’re getting there,” he says. "We also want to find a way to track the orders that don’t come through to see what we’re missing. We’re working with Advantage on [ways] to help us get more smart data out of the system.”

For more information, visit www.abcsinc.com

PROGRESSIVE SOLUTIONS

Merkley Supply Improves Efficiency, Bottom Line

After 26 years with a homegrown mainframe application, executives at Merkley Supply Ltd. in Ottawa, Ontario, decided it was time to see what efficiencies a more integrated approach could achieve.

On May 22, after several weeks of testing and training, the company went live with the BisTrack system from Progressive Solutions. The system was easy to integrate into Merkley’s existing program, provided significantly more customizing options, and has already saved the company money.

"We’re still early in the process of adopting it, but I’d estimate it’s saving us 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 points of margin already,” says Gary Milks, MIS manager. "It allows us to manage our pricing much better and avoid any mistakes that have hurt us in the past.”

The BisTrack software enhances productivity by working on Windows-based platforms to manage documents and search materials quickly, and to customize the system for each person’s needs. The program provides various modules that improve productivity throughout the company. Standard modules include:

  • Customer-relationship management
  • Dashboard and task manager
  • Quotes and sales orders
  • Counter and POS
  • Invoicing and accounts receivable
  • Purchasing and receiving
  • Inventory management
  • Truck bookings and delivery
  • Value-add processing and manufacturing
  • Kit creation and management
  • Crystal and data-cube reporting

The system has been especially helpful with the company’s multitude of customized pricing levels, Milks explains, based on its 8,000 SKUs and 2,000 customers. "Almost every homebuilder in the area buys masonry and brick products from us, and we offer custom pricing for each, based on their volume and products. We needed a complex pricing format to handle the range.”

While many software programs provide options for showing list price minus discount, Merkley’s format uses its buying price plus a custom markup. "We looked a long time to find an application that had this level of pricing detail and complexity, and this one blew me away,” he says. "It lets me just drop my pricing formats into the software quickly.”

The software also includes a log of quotations, allowing past quotes for each customer to be stored and quickly retrieved for as long as needed. And it allows the company to reserve special items, such as unusual colors of brick, for each customer. "I can print those orders and send them to the supplier six months in advance, which helps their own production people set up orders.”

Inventory management also has become easier. "We are integrating more with our suppliers so we can push them to ensure we have products on time,” he explains. When one supplier closed a plant that produced specific masonry products, he notes, customers quickly were alerted to what products weren’t available, and the company helped them reserve similar products from other suppliers.

The software also provides exception reports when margins drop below an acceptable level. The value of that feature proved itself on the first day, when President/CEO Robert Merkley turned on his customized dashboard and all of the company’s exception reports appeared. Only 25 minutes into the day, an order popped up in which the margin was too low. "We discovered the wrong pricing had been input, and we caught it immediately,” says Milks, who notes they were able to see how the mistake occurred and to ensure it didn’t recur. "It’s saved us a number of times already.”

With its Windows-based system, the programs were easy to learn, he notes. Five key people initially took a three-day training program, and they returned to train others. The company ran parallel systems for about two months to ensure everyone understood the system and to compare results. "The first week, we balanced to within 25 cents of what our mainframe had, and I realized we were on track,” he says. "After a couple more weeks, we were satisfied with the results.”

Counter people were trained in 1 1/2-hour shifts, where they posted the previous week’s transactions— already posted to the mainframe—to see the difference in approach.

The company isn’t done taking advantage of the programs, Milks notes. "It’s got so many bells and whistles that we can adapt to our own needs as we go along,” he says. "When the November slowdown comes this year, we expect to add more features.”

For more information on BisTrack, visit www.progressive-solutions.com

SPRUCEWARE.NET

Seamless Document Management Boosts Productivity At Niehaus Cos.

Executives at Niehaus Cos. in Vincennes, Ind., knew they needed a new document-management system to help organize orders and improve productivity. But they also knew they’d made a number of mistakes previously when they bought computer software, and those mistakes continued to haunt them. Their purchase in April of the new SpruceWare.NET system from Spruce Computer Systems has gone a long way toward making those problems a thing of the past.

"In a nutshell, we made so many mistakes with our existing system that we took one year to look at all the applications out there,” says company owner David Niehaus. "We looked at where we thought technology was headed and where we wanted to be with the culture of the company and decided what we wanted to buy.”

In the past, he adds, the company had focused on price and software maintenance as key factors. "We realized that if the software was helping us make more money, its cost was less important. In the past, we made bad decisions by looking at price first. Then we’d try to adapt the software to fit our needs or adapt our processes to fit the software, and neither worked. SpruceWare allowed us to become more disciplined—to take advantage of their systems while retaining our existing approaches.”

The system provides an information-management tool designed with Microsoft’s .NET framework and SQL Server Relational Database Platform. These help dealers navigate and access information, manage workflows, and analyze operations. The open architecture makes it easy to adapt to processes and to import other programs already in use. The basic software package includes:

  • Point of sale
  • Special orders
  • Tallies
  • Inventory
  • Material lists and kits
  • Multiple warehouse locations
  • Accounts receivable
  • Purchasing and planning
  • Accounts payable
  • General ledger
  • Commission reporting
  • Report queries
  • Import capabilities
  • Integration with e-mail and faxes
  • Security
  • System management
  • Credit-card authorization

The system runs margin-exception reports and determines why they occur, just as other systems do, he notes. "But SpruceWare let us go one step further.” The report highlights the source of the exception in the company’s ordering documentation, and it hot-links to the specific document where the problem arose.

"It pulls up all costs and margins associated with the order so we can see the total transaction.” That allows him to see if the lost margin was offset elsewhere in the order or if it was simply overlooked. "Previously, the burden of running exception reports made the managers not do it regularly enough. Now, it’s much easier.”

All documentation also is tracked with the order to provide a detailed history, he notes. That’s a key factor with the volume of special orders they provide. "We’d get an order on a napkin from the builder and input it into our system, then throw away the napkin and have no documentation if a disagreement arose,” he explains. "Now, we scan the napkin and attach that file right to the order so everything’s together.” Voice mails also are saved as .WAV files, so even phone calls can be tracked for order confirmation.

The company also has input a variety of its special software programs, such as estimating, Excel spreadsheets, .CSV (comma-separated values), and others. "We just use the import/export Wizard on any format, and it fits with all of our applications,” he says. "We don’t need any special templates or applications...to make the programs work with the SpruceWare system.”

The Windows platform provided a key benefit, says Niehaus. "Everyone has document management, but SpruceWare built it into our system so that it works seamlessly, not as an add-on that doesn’t integrate well. From a management standpoint, things are much more visible to us now. I can manage from 5,000 feet, where before things were getting past us.”

Spruce Computer Systems has also just announced that it has moved to a larger corporate headquarters to give it more space for support and research and development.

For more information on SpruceWare.Net, visit www.spruce1.com

DQ TECHNOLOGIES

Order-Delivery Software Only First Step for Shepley

The Order-Delivery Tracking software provided by DQ Technologies has provided Shepley Wood Products in Hyannis, Mass., with a significant productivity boost. The company used that system to inspire even more tracking processes, and it expects to expand those to help their sales force in the near future.

The software offers advanced delivery-dispatch and fleet-management systems that can effectively locate, track, deploy, and optimize deliveries from the moment they are ordered until they arrive at the site. Global-positioning satellite technology combines with the flexibility of mobile-phone handsets to create real-time tracking of delivery vehicles and personnel.

The system can integrate with in-house computer systems to automate current business processes and improve operational efficiency. It provides immediate access to every order, with detailed shipment loading and delivery-tracking statistics. The complete order lifecycle is captured, offering ways to analyze loading efficiency and production processes. The system also can be customized to current business processes to improve workflow and information collection. It also reduces data entry and manual, paperwork-intensive recordkeeping.

The process works through bar code scanning, making it easy to track each order. Maps are provided to assist with order combinations, routing, and fleet tracking. The Web option allows sales people to access delivery information for customers so they can provide delivery updates.

Shepley instituted the system in early 2006 and has been impressed with its boost to the bottom line, says Tony Shepley, president. "We don’t have precise measurements of our productivity improvements, but I can tell you that there has been a huge reduction in the number of calls to dispatch to track deliveries, making it easier for them to do their job. And allowing sales people to report on when deliveries will arrive at the site boosts customer satisfaction. It’s made us much more efficient at handling the information that’s thrown at us.”

Those capabilities are giving Shepley a chance to determine how each day is progressing much earlier than before, he notes. "I have a better feel for the number of dollars in deliveries we’ll do each day—and what a good day looks like. That lets me adjust my staffing to fit the volume of work we’ll have.”

That analysis is made easier by the organization provided by the system, he says. "Some systems give you reams of data but no way to interpret it,” he explains. "This is a pretty cool system. It’s very effective for us. As we add more report compilations, I’ll have a better handle on how well we’re doing in delivering products. But the reduction in phone calls alone around here has improved productivity. We now know what’s in the pipeline and everyone is a little more connected to the process.”

To document that further, Shepley’s drivers take digital photos of their loads after they are dropped. They photograph the invoice, and then each part of the load as well as a site shot. These are then downloaded to a stand-alone computer each night, providing a record of the full delivery. This helps not only with disagreements over whether ordered items were delivered but provides a way for drivers to show off how well they deliver their loads. "It works as a coaching tool for how we deliver—and each guy feels like he’s ‘signing’ his work.” Customers have come to accept it so well that they often can be seen hamming it up in the photos, he adds.

Setting up the delivery system worked smoothly, thanks to the company’s IT manager and one of the dispatchers. "Any system needs a champion to believe in it and push the crew through it,” he says. "DQ gets good marks from me for solving problems for us rather than making us work through them. We’ve enjoyed working with them. We’ve had no false promises.”

The system has worked so well that he expects to add the Sales Tracking program to aid with organizing sales trips. "We don’t want to serve as Big Brother overseeing sales people, but we do want to help maximize efficiency as we’re doing with our deliveries,” he explains. "Sales people can leave with their schedule of prospects and then see how they compare to their plan and determine why they aren’t getting through it.” The goal is to get the sales function as well organized and scheduled as the delivery system already has become.

 

For more information on DQ Technologies, visit www.dqtech.com

HYPHEN SOLUTIONS

Two software systems from Hyphen Solutions can aid building material dealers in their business, from running operations to working more closely with builder customers of all sizes.

SupplyPro Connect helps dealers process complex business transactions with their builder customers without having to re-key information. By automating the order-to-delivery process, dealers receive a number of benefits. These include:

  • Reduced overhead
  • Reduced errors
  • Improved communication
  • Improved delivery
  • Increased accuracy
  • Reduced order reconciliation

For builders, the process involves storing and using the dealer’s SKU numbers as part of their released orders. This improves the accuracy of information and reduces order reconciliation. Builders no longer have to worry about ordering the wrong products at the wrong time because they can rely upon the latest product information provided by the dealer.

With SupplyPro Connect, builders and dealers can automate their manual processes, reduce the cost of doing business, improve accuracy and security of information, and create great visibility and control of their processes. As a result, it accelerates decision-making, reduces costs, and improves responsiveness overall.

In addition, SupplyPro is designed to help builders work with dealers via Internet-based systems to ensure no disruptions to their scheduled projects. It allows dealers to view the builders’ schedules in real time and gain quick notification of any changes and for reliable payment through auto-voucher or invoices. The system works in conjunction with Hyphen’s BuildPro, the schedule-management system used by homebuilders across the country.

For more information on either SupplyPro or SupplyPro Connect, visit www.hyphensolutions.com

DMSi MOBILE SOLUTIONS

DMSi software recently added functionality to the Mobile Solutions features for its Agility warehouse bar code-scanning system. Mobile Inventory Move & Adjust, the latest Mobile Solutions feature, is designed to improve warehouse efficiency and accuracy. The Windows-based solution was created specifically to meet the core business needs of building material distributors.

With Mobile Inventory Move & Adjust, warehouse personnel can update the Agility software with wireless RF scanners as they move material throughout the warehouse and yard. This provides pickers and office staff with accurate information on where materials are physically stored, minimizing the wasted time that comes with the search process required in a staff-updated paper environment.

By allowing the warehouse to track movement as it is performed, operations can create efficiency in material movement. In situations with damaged material and incorrect inventory counts, Agility Inventory Adjustments updates warehouse inventory in real time without the hassle of freezing inventory. With a solid cycle-counting routine, companies can eliminate full physical inventories.

Mobile Solutions also can introduce warehouse personnel to bar code technology in a cost-effective manner. With Mobile Solutions’ features for picking, receiving, tag-verification, end-tally, and physical inventory, Agility customers receive new and existing benefits for a real-time bar code-enabled warehouse.

The Agility software is a Windows-based solution designed specifically for building material dealers to interface with a variety of their suppliers. From the manufacturer’s system, companies can configure, quote, and transmit orders. The interfaces intuitively transfer information directly into Agility, giving companies access to all order information in their business-management system.

To learn more about Agility and Mobile Solutions, visit www.dmsi.com

DEACOM INTEGRATED ACCOUNTING AND ERP

The Integrated Accounting and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software System from Deacom Inc. allows dealers to consolidate and streamline their operations. It includes:

Labor tracking. The Shop Floor Data Collection system gathers payroll and job-costing data electronically from the shop floor. The real-time system allows dealers to monitor attendance and performance and track hours for different work centers and operations.

Order entry. The system can be custom-configured to provide built-in sales analysis, reporting, and commission calculation. It can support an infinite number of ship-to locations for each account and calculates available-to-sell quantities automatically during order entry.

Accounting. Posting can be done to the real-time system automatically, producing a variety of custom-financial statements. Financial reports can drill down to transactional detail from summary views.

Production. Actual job costs can be calculated, factoring in materials, labor, machine costs, purchases, and overhead. Bottlenecks can be determined based on the loading of work centers.

Point of Sale. Cash register applications are designed for rapid checkouts. They are integrated with the central system for inventory and pricing control.

Inventory. The program can maintain multiple warehouses and track inventory individually or together. It also maintains perpetual inventory costing for all items based on the desired accounting system.

Purchasing. Items can be purchased from multiple vendors with predefined pricing and by using internal SKU or vendor part numbers. The system also offers built-in purchasing-analysis and reporting tools.

To learn more about Deacom, visit www.deacom.net

EDGENET’s GUIDED SELLING

To compete today, dealers’ selling teams need technology to produce fast, accurate quotes and complete orders. The Edgenet "guided selling” software creates the ultimate order desk for dealers. It combines all millwork systems and paper processes into one industry-standard quoting and ordering platform. The format allows dealers to sell both custom and stock windows, doors, and millwork.

The Dealer Solution system’s single platform saves training time and integrates seamlessly to back-end systems and electronic-order submission forms. It includes blueprint takeoff, SKU or stock-item selling, and pricing flexibility.

The system can sort blueprints by room or elevation to organize all fenestration needs, supplying accurate quotes for all customers. It allows "click-the-picture” ordering for both highly customized and off-the-shelf products.

The Dealer Solution provides one-point seamless integration into the dealer’s existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, eliminating the need to re-key orders. It also automatically checks online for supplier catalog changes and updates the system each time the dealer connects to the Internet. This ensures orders are created from the latest information available to customers.

Another value-added selling feature is Dealer Edge, which allows SKU-based items to be added to a millwork order. Also available is Flex Pricing, which lets dealers create and maintain promotions and margin-based pricing with pinpoint control. Edgenet also offers Cadquest professional design and engineering software for quoting decks, fences, garages, post-frame buildings, and outdoor structures.

For more information, visit www.edgenet.com

LUXWOOD’s PROFESSIONAL TAKEOFFS

The latest offering from Luxwood, creators of the Luxwood Design Tools for creating decks, fences, garages, and post-frame buildings, is Professional Takeoff. This tool allows dealers to create takeoff measurements from a customer’s drawings, either with a digitizer or by importing a digital image.

Using smart objects, the program converts drawing elements to takeoff values, which in turn are linked with an estimating program or spreadsheet. It can import virtually any digital image in a range of file types, adding versatility to the process and eliminating the need for a scale, calculator, or a present-generation digitizer.

For instance, the program can calculate complex roofs quickly and easily, generating a complete parts list for rafters, trusses, valleys, hips, ridges, rakes, eaves, and sheeting. Complete floor systems are similarly generated using the floor wizard.

As with all Luxwood software programs, Professional Takeoff can be used as a stand-alone program or on a network, including Terminal Services and Citrix.

All Luxwood software will integrate with any system that can export and import a file in almost any format. Earlier this year, the company introduced Quote Generator, which dealers can use to integrate the output of multiple third-party programs into a single quote prior to sending it in whole or part to the POS.

The latest generation of Design Tools, formerly known as 20-20 Lumber Pak, has been rewritten to incorporate the latest technologies for graphics and design capabilities.

For more information, visit www.luxwood.com

SELJAX DECK ESTIMATING

Dealers don’t have to worry about their deck drafting skills with Seljax Deck Estimating and 3-D Design software. This software provides a complete three-dimensional rendering of any deck that a customer can imagine. Estimates can then be completed quickly from the design produced.

The program provides a view of every deck shape and piece of railing in three dimensions to satisfy the customer and create an accurate and precise parts list for ordering.

The design can be viewed from any angle, so customers can "walk” around the deck, zoom in close, look at different perspectives, and even go underneath to see the structure. If the customer isn’t certain of a design, changes can be made to show options or upgrade to other designs and appearances in seconds.

A variety of design elements can be included, such as pools and hot tubs, angled decking, herringbone decking, angled beams, custom-railing systems, a variety of foundation types, ramps, skirting, benches, and joist plans.

Enhanced program Wizards also increase speed and provide a more user-friendly appearance. An array of deck views can be provided, including viewing all levels and decking in Plan View. Levels also can be added or deleted on the spot to create new plan options. Deck-shape templates are provided, and levels automatically are connected with stairs. An "Undo/Remove” application allows mistakes or changes to be handled quickly. The finished drawing can be printed out just the way the customer wants.

For more information, visit www.seljax.com

PROBUILD EXPANDS BUYMETRICS

ProBuild is expanding its procurement software, BuyMetrics, with two versions for 2008. BuyMetrics Pro will be a slimmed-down version of the full-featured Enterprise version, while BuyMetrics Reporter will provide a price-reporting utility.

With BuyMetrics Pro, lumber buyers can shop their vendors using buyer-controlled online software. It provides fast and efficient price discovery and the availability for specified loads or tally. The software offers the same shopping-feature set as in the high-volume Enterprise version, but does not include several specific features of that larger version.

BuyMetrics Reporter is a daily electronic publication of market-price statistics on key commodities, compiled from actual purchase orders issued the prior day by BuyMetrics users. The BuyMetrics Reporter price-reporting utility allows buyers who do not use BuyMetrics to process their purchase orders and subscribe to the daily BuyMetrics Reporter publication.

BuyMetrics services are secure, hosted web applications, so there is no software to install or maintain.

For more information, visit www.buymetrics.com

WOODWARE ADDS GRAPHICAL MODULES

WoodWare Systems has expanded and updated its Version 6 relational database system for managing door shops and millwork operations with added graphical modules.

The Configured Order Entry system allows point-and-click selection of pictures and options for door units, window units, and other products, making millwork easier to produce.

The programs are specially designed for companies that pre-hang doors and handle special order windows, doors, and other millwork products.

WoodWare’s system manages inventory control, purchasing, production, accounting, quoting, order entry, warehouse management, dispatch and delivery, document management, and more.

The company says its WoodWare’s Var-I-Frame Configurator allows door pre-hangers to handle their entire interior and exterior door lines with only about 4% of the records required with other approaches.

WoodWare WebConnect modules are browser-based web modules that allow customers and outside reps to get quotes, place orders, and do account inquiries online, also using the WoodWare Configured Order Entry software approach.

For more information, visit www.woodwaresystems.com

LUMBERJACK SOFTWARE’S BILL OF MATERIALS

The Lumberjack Software Bill of Materials program, from LJI Technologies Inc., helps dealers simplify the identification of components for custom millwork, pre-hung doors, or non-standard door combinations.

With the program, a separate bill of materials need not be set up for each option on each unit, which reduces the number of entries required by more than half.

Products are built from a list of selected components, alleviating the need for data entry on thousands of product combinations. The system can report on quantity on hand, quantity on order, quantity available, cost, usage, and complete product historical information. The system relieves inventory on every component part upon invoicing, ensuring up-to-date inventory records.

Fabricated items may be manufactured at the time of the order, or built for stock. Invoicing can either list the fabricated item alone, or on the item accompanied by the component breakout.

For more information, visit www.lumberjack.com

UNIQUE DATA SOLUTIONS’ LUMBERGEAR

Lumbergear Software from Unique Data Solutions provides an enterprise solution for small- to medium-sized building material dealers. The system handles complex inventory-management needs and provides a variety of other operational-management tools. These can help with purchasing, sales, order fulfillment, invoicing, shipping and receiving, lumber returns, logistics, and more.

The software modules are integrated and collaborate to effectively track and route products from the time materials are purchased from the vendor until they are delivered to the dealer’s customer. The system also features an advanced executive dashboard suite that provides managers with a real-time glance at how the company is performing.

Lumbergear can help take customer orders and relate that information to production scheduling and the warehouse. It will print bar code lumber tags, packing lists, bills of lading, and sales order forms quickly and also provide a fax or e-mail of that information to the customer.

For more information, visit www.lumbergear.com or www.udatasolutions.com

SABERIS XPRESSPOS INTEGRATES DESIGNS

XpressPOS Version 8 by Saberis integrates 20-20 Kitchen Designs, Andersen iQ, Marvin MOE, Jeld-Wen, Professional Estimating, and Luxwood Design Tools with point-of-sale software for building material dealers.

The latest version of the software, which has been in use for six years, incorporates automatic updates.

The software is a "middleware” program that allows users to control the order or quote data to be extracted from the design software and sent to the POS system. This creates savings by eliminating manual entry and resulting errors. The data is structured for invoicing, receiving, and other operations, readying the 20-20 or window and door order for importing to the user’s main system.

XpressPOS is marketed through Activant and Progressive Solutions for their respective customers and directly from Saberis for all other POS and ERP systems. Licensing for the program is based on a low-cost annual site fee per location.

For more information, visit www.saberis.com

WRIGHT EXPRESS’ UNIVERSAL FLEET CARD

Building material dealers can monitor their fleet costs and control drivers’ expenses with the Wright Express Universal Fleet Card. It creates pre-determined limits for drivers’ charges and determines how often and what kinds of products and services can be charged to it. Its reporting functions provide detailed transaction data and analysis tools to help reduce administration time and expense.

The company says that customers using the card typically save up to 15% on fuel costs through purchase controls and timely reporting on exceptions, which can eliminate unnecessary spending. The company also offers Fuel Price Mapping, which can direct vehicles to the lowest-priced fuel in the area.

There are more than four million Fleet Cards in use across the country, including those held by 8,600 building material dealers, distributors, and wholesalers. More than 90% of all retail fuel locations and 45,000 vehicle-maintenance locations accept the card, making it one of the largest commercial cards in the country.

For more information, visit www.wrightexpress.com

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