Liz Irish, Curtis Lumber
Liz Irish, Curtis Lumber

Curtis Lumber soared 11 spots on the 2019 ProSales 100 list, landing in the 39th position with $210.9 million in overall revenue last year. The dealer, based in Ballston Spa, N.Y., leverages functionality from ECI Software Solutions’ Spruce system—such as point-of-sale, accounting, credit, and customer accounts, as well as purchasing, receiving, and inventory management capabilities. But, with 21 locations in Upstate New York and Vermont and nearly 100 trucks, the company needed to invest in a dispatch and delivery system to help manage deliveries. So, it made sense for Curtis Lumber to once again turn to ECI for help. Liz Irish, vice president of information systems at Curtis Lumber, spoke to ProSales editor-in-chief David Myron about the company’s latest investments in that dispatch and delivery system and how it, in conjunction with other mobile technologies, have helped Curtis manage its growth.

ProSales: From an IT perspective, what will Curtis Lumber invest in next?

Irish: Probably the next piece on the investment side is with [additional] mobile technology. Organizationally, we are very focused on what are we doing with technology and how we apply it in our day-to-day business to streamline our operations and make ourselves run more efficiently. There’s a very strong focus on how … we can make it easier for our customers to do business with us. That’s kind of our mantra and that’s where we’re driving with different solutions. We’ve invested more in [ECI Software Solutions’ Spruce] mobile solution more recently than we have in the past, because of the interest in driving that mobile technology.

The other thing we’ve done is we’ve deployed a tablet solution in our delivery vehicles. We have a delivery fleet of just under 100 vehicles. Spruce has a business partner called DQ Technologies, a delivery management application that we’ve been leveraging, that hands order information over to our operations team to pick and load and deliver our products for our customers.

ProSales: How long ago did you put tablets in the trucks?

Irish: It was just this May–June timeframe. We rolled it out to about half of our locations and we have still 12 locations that we have to roll them out to.

ProSales: What prompted the decision to purchase these tablets?

Irish: [The previous process] was just very, very manual. Our drivers had really no technology in the vehicles at all. They either knew the route or looked up the route prior to leaving the yard. Some of them would use a cellphone and see, using a map program, where they needed to go. But Google Maps isn’t going to necessarily take a commercial vehicle across the right roads. So, we invested in a commercial navigation application as part of that tablet solution as well. Our folks were really just running blind. Our dispatchers didn’t know where our vehicles were at any given time, unless they … reached out and contacted the drivers [on their cellphones]. So, this solution gives them visibility into all of that. We have geofencing capabilities, so it can send information to our customers when deliveries are made. We can capture signatures and pictures now at our jobsites. So, it’s [giving us] information that we never had before and that we certainly can benefit from going forward.

ProSales: Drivers aren’t able to place, change, or update orders on their tablets, correct? Customers would still have to contact their sales associate to do that?

Irish: Correct. That’s the way it works right now. We would hope that our driver would point the customer back in the direction of our salesperson or bring that information back with them. Right now, no, the driver can’t create an order. … However, on the other side, more of our outside sales teams that are in the field with our customers … are also [being provided with] some mobile solutions. So, they can get into Spruce on the fly at a jobsite and create an order and submit it in for delivery. That’s still fairly new and being rolled out now within certain locations.

ProSales: Is that also part of the mobile device rollout that you mentioned?

Irish: Yes. It’s a little bit of a different solution for our outside sales teams but, yes, we’re focused on putting the right tools in the right people’s hands to help support our business and to do it more effectively and efficiently.

ProSales: Which applications are you bundling into your drivers’ tablets?

Irish: Spruce is where our sales team creates the orders for our customers and where all of our point-of-sale transactions happen. When we create an order in Spruce, we can designate it to be delivered, and what happens at that point is Spruce hands that information over to the DQ Technologies software application, which is what our dispatchers use for delivery and logistical management. So that’s one application that is deployed on the tablet. This is where they can see their orders, they can do their routing, capture signatures, and take pictures. In addition, we put a commercial navigation application (SmartTruck) on those tablets, a push-to-talk application (Zello), and we are also going to deploy our voice solution. We just upgraded our voice platform (from TPX) and they have a mobile application (UCX) that we can put on those tablets so that our drivers really are just part of our voice solution going forward. We just haven’t deployed that piece yet.

ProSales: Are there any other uses of mobile technology that you recently deployed or are considering?

Irish: We have Zebra devices that have some good scanning capabilities that are right now used for the inventory management and the inventory receiving side. In some of our locations, we’d like to roll it out as a mobile point of sale, where we have some drive-through or express-yard designs, where our team is with the customer as they’re pulling product and we’re just scanning it and creating that invoice on the fly, instead of the customer going into a building saying what he/she wants to pick up, getting basically a sheet of paper, and then going out in our yard and having it pulled, or driving through the yard pulling product and then having to go inside of a building to get checked out. We do not have that deployed right now, but that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.

Those [Zebra] devices are also mobile ready so, using the UCX voice application, that can also be a phone within our locations, as well. So, it puts more functionality in the hands of our folks that are on the sales floor or aren’t necessarily at a desk every day. It has chat features, so it’s more than just voice. It takes a little while for an organization to make a change like that. We just finished deploying that in April, so there’s still some learning and some experimenting that needs to happen with that solution, but we look at it as if we’re really setting some of those foundational pieces that we can build on as the organization continues to develop.