As the LBM industry grows and changes, dealers' software needs also are evolving. In addition to the abundance of software solutions available, software companies are constantly developing new applications to tackle more aspects of your business.
Dealer interest in business management software is on the rise, particularly as businesses expand and continue to add services. To manage the total business, many software companies offer integrated packages with applications for accounting, reporting, purchasing and trading partner interfaces, estimating, project management, document management, and more. Developers like Progressive Solutions, Activant, Infor, Spruce Computer Systems, and Advantage Business Computer Systems continue to expand their solutions to cover more of the yards' operations. As dealers offer more services and require more efficient ways to manage operations and track profitability, software companies have implemented or are developing additional solutions, including installed sales, project management linked with accounting, wireless access, Web-based customer service, material takeoffs, special-order returns, critical event notification, etc.
Some business management software designed for contractors, such as Industry Specific Software and Turtle Creek Software, also can be used by dealers to manage contracting-type services.
For the growing number of dealers whose customers want round-the-clock access to their accounts online, developers like Spruce, Activant, Infor, and Progressive are currently supporting or offering Web-based customer service and e-commerce capabilities. But they are focusing on meeting actual Web service demands, rather than providing lumberyards with the broadest range of functions that were anticipated during the dot-com boom. “What we've found is that there's less demand for buying products online, but there's a very high demand for products that provide customer service online, like the capability for customers ... to log on to view their account, check their balance, look up invoices, see who signed invoices, see if payments have been posted, and check invoices,” notes Rob Vomund, LBM segment marketing manger for Activant.
Single-solution software applications, such as A-Systems' accounting packages, DataBanque's contact management system, giantLEAP's POS estimating and ordering tool, and special-order inventory management software from Suncoast Software Solutions, are increasing functionality by expanding capabilities to share information with other software applications.
Estimating software in particular has evolved to speed up materials takeoffs from blueprints by automating calculations, like Esti-Mate's software and DQ Technologies' DQ2000 system. Other applications perform digital take-offs directly from CAD files, bypassing paper blueprints and digitizers, including Construction Management Software's ProEst Takeoff and Sage Software's Timberline Office ePlan Takeoff.
Several solutions are available for managing assets like fleets and yard equipment. Some are focused only on tracking location and movement in the field, like Teydo Americas' FleetOnline and DPL Group's Skyhawk, giving the fleet operator greater oversight and control of vehicles. Others offer maintenance and cost-of-operation management, such as BEB Fleet Source Group/Priority Tools' Equipment Management Program. For delivery truck scheduling and dispatching, programs like DQ Technologies' Order Delivery Tracking and Congistics Corp.'s ControlBoard, update dispatch plans and delivery status in real-time organization-wide from the dispatcher's desktop. DQ's system can link to a GPS unit that maps routes.
No matter the task or department, management and scheduling solutions of all kinds are focusing on delivering critical information so dealers can make intelligent decisions, better manage their business and inventory, and provide enhanced customer service.