Like many dealers, Weyerhaeuser Distribution implements a number of technologies and systems designed to make life easier for our customers. But I’ve found that we’ve gained our own efficiency rewards in the process, both on an individual and a company-wide basis.

One example is Estima, a takeoff program for the home’s structural frame that we introduced about 18 months ago to provide takeoff services for dealer customers and to move dealers doing takeoffs manually to an automated in-house process.

In my region, the implementation of Estima brought the benefits for my customers that an automated system is expected to—fewer errors and more efficient load building. But we also began to see unexpected time and financial savings ourselves.

Prior to Estima, Weyerhaeuser Distribution’s technical and design support was very analysis-based. For each project, we modeled the entire structure, even if all that was needed was a material list. The 3-D modeling is a free service we continue to provide, but it just isn’t needed for every project.

Rather than a full rendering, we can now provide the customer with a material list and a list of assumptions for confirmation from the builder—in about half the time our previous process took and with relief for our fixed operational budget.

At the dealer level, automated takeoff programs, whether Estima or others, bring similar efficiencies—better accuracy for builder customers along with time savings and fewer errors on the back end. What’s less obvious is the capability to provide customers with even more personalized service by making sure clients understand that what they’re getting is more than just a count of sticks.

Programs like these have built-in analysis and retention tools, allowing users to keep profiles of customers and analyze their preferences for products, brands, order of materials—for example, how they like to frame corners—and make adjustments accordingly. The programs reduce the time the builder needs to spend going over materials and help the dealer better serve him by more intimately understanding his needs.

Not only does this level of detail allow you to provide clients with exactly what they want, how and when they want it, the analysis provided by takeoff programs can help guide your inventory. For instance, if your system indicates a builder prefers a premium line of OSB flooring but your yard only supplies the commodity line, perhaps it’s time to evaluate the potential ROI of adding a new product to your inventory, based on the value of the customer’s volume and loyalty. In fact, responding to customers’ needs can be just as valuable to long-term retention as on-time deliveries.

Note that these efficiencies can only be achieved if a dealer’s back-end operations are in order. Communicating value-added benefits of takeoff programs—or any other technology—is crucial. Your company, staff, and customers will quickly reap the mutually beneficial rewards.