When 80% of your sales require delivery and your company motto is “We Deliver What Others Promise,” on-time, accurate delivery is a top priority. That’s the case for Poulin Lumber. The four-location dealer based in Derby, Vt., had a history of being a tech-savvy company—except for its dispatch and delivery system. That part was “100% manual, 100% paper trails,” general manager Scott Flynn says. “Although we did a great job with it, we were at the point where we knew we could not accept any more growth and keep everybody happy.”
One of Flynn’s biggest concerns was that “everybody in the company was blind to what we were doing except one person,” he says. “With our client base being 80% builder, anybody who called [about an order] needed to ask that person. … We would try to get our sales people to answer the phones, but all they could do was say, ‘Hang on, let me go ask dispatch.’”
Plus, dispatchers from the four locations operated in a vacuum. They wasted time and money on overlapped deliveries. Millions of dollars’ worth of business depended on dispatchers being able to make sense from piles of hand-written notes, filing cabinets stuffed with outdated maps, and instructions on a dry erase board.
Not anymore. In 2010, Epicor, the developer of Poulin’s ERP system, offered Flynn the opportunity to beta test its Dispatch and Delivery Management System (DDMS). Flynn was hesitant—he typically stays away from beta programs—but he saw this as a way to get in on the ground level and “get some things the way we want. It’s turned into a very robust program.”
Now, everyone in the company can instantly see the status of any order. When a phone call comes in from a customer asking about a delivery, any employee can provide the answer.
“It’s not a hidden treasure; it’s a treasure right in front of them,” Flynn says. “They can get pretty close on the status of delivery, too. Customers are just amazed.”
The dispatchers receive 75% fewer phone calls, freeing them for more important tasks such as ensuring that trucks leave the yard as close to complete and as accurate as possible. Poulin’s dispatchers also can handle more orders. “I can easily dispatch three to four times the stuff,” Flynn says. “This will take us way into the future. We’ve actually thought about doing central dispatch with one guy. It could be done.”
One key has been the integration of the DDMS program with the Trimble navigation system that Poulin uses. That allows the system to make recommendations on building loads for each truck based on the location of the deliveries. One right-click of a mouse creates turn-by-turn directions for every load; dispatchers no longer spend time searching through filing cabinets for maps. It also automatically changes the status of every load based on its location and creates an invoice for each order as soon as it’s delivered.
The system, including Trimble units for Poulin’s 17 delivery vehicles, cost about $34,000. In labor alone, Flynn says the system has cut a third of its hours in the yard and in deliveries.