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How a Cross-Functional ERP Can Optimize Your Building Supply Business

April 10, 2023

Building suppliers across the country face a lot of change and uncertainty. As supply chains unclog and stalled building projects accelerate back to life, suppliers have to adjust for the uptick in demand—but it’s not always clear what those adjustments should be.

There are a few reasons for this. Ongoing labor shortages continue to affect the building supply industry—an issue that may not improve anytime soon. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a decline of 4% in the lumber workforce through 2031. Pricing volatility around lumber, copper, brass, and other materials creates additional pain points. Meanwhile, 70% of homeowners say they want to use eco-friendly materials in their next renovation, so building suppliers are increasingly challenged to source or manufacture sustainable, energy-efficient materials. 

The current ups, downs, and shifts in labor, prices, products, and demand are like a big stress test that is felt most acutely in a building supplier’s business management system. If the technology can’t adequately support pricing, ordering, inventory, purchasing, logistics, warehouse management, accounting, and other critical processes, it’s much harder to keep the business running smoothly, regardless of what’s happening in the market. And chances are good there’s a competitor in the wings ready to swoop in if a trusted supplier wobbles.

With Epicor BisTrack, you can rely on a cross-functional tool that optimizes and supports every aspect of your business—helping you keep pace with demand, navigate change, and stay competitive. But first, it’s essential to recognize the challenges that come with other business management platforms and how they impact building supply businesses like yours.

1. The Pitfalls of Many Business Management Platforms

Building suppliers rely heavily on their technology and can’t run efficient operations with outdated or unscalable platforms. Yet that’s exactly what some businesses are stuck with. Here are the reasons many business management systems aren’t keeping up with the needs of building suppliers.

Support and development are limited to specific markets

Business management platforms have seen meager development in key markets in recent years. While the focus has been on building materials distribution and remanufacturers, platform providers haven’t prioritized support for retail and pro dealers—and there’s virtually no support for installed sales. Building suppliers can’t expand operations or add new service lines if the technology that manages their business can’t keep up.

Functionality isn’t well-integrated

At the same time, software providers tend to bolt on key functionality like dispatch and delivery and customer relationship management (CRM) instead of seamlessly integrating it. As a result, the information flow between these and other system functions is disconnected and difficult to view and consolidate. When teams and information end up in silos, business intelligence and analysis are far more complicated—and far less effective.

Providers focus on growth over innovation

The providers of these platforms usually base their growth on either gaining new recurring revenue through subscriptions or capitalizing on the management and automation needs of businesses in acquisition. Big-ticket opportunities like these can be a comfortable and predictable business model. Still, too much focus on them takes time and resources away from developing the modern functionality that will help solve today’s problems.

The talent shortage is limiting skilled resources

Even if the need for development is recognized, hiring software engineers who can redesign and refresh these systems is challenging. Sometimes engineers have to move to a less desirable location to do the job, or they don’t have the expertise to work on a legacy system or the platform’s underlying code base. As a result, platform upgrades just don’t happen or get shoved down the list of priorities.

Yet building suppliers are becoming increasingly aware that a comprehensive, streamlined, and modern business management platform is the only solution if they want to innovate and expand operations, retain a competitive edge, and maintain profitable, productive customer relationships.

2. The Benefits of BisTrack

Modern business management technology helps building suppliers increase their speed, agility, and intelligence. It’s able to crunch massive amounts of data—fast—so that suppliers can better understand their operations and better adapt to market changes. But the technology must also be easy to use, so the teams that rely on it aren’t struggling with unnecessarily complicated functionality. Systems that trip up and slow down employees only compound problems with labor and productivity.

Epicor BisTrack is an advanced, cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool designed specifically for the building supply industry. BisTrack improves and enhances operational efficiencies and capabilities, including point of sale (POS), back-of-house processes, inventory and warehouse management, and customer management.

BisTrack opens the door for building suppliers to enhance their performance in the markets they already serve and expand into new markets, since it can scale with changing business objectives and new influxes of data. All functionality, workflows, and processes are integrated into one system so that data sets across the business are visible, accessible, and shareable by everyone. BisTrack gives building suppliers the tools they need to overcome many of their current challenges, helping them succeed today and down the road.

3. Functionality benefits of BisTrack

Increased visibility and flexibility

Teams responsible for day-to-day business activities can see what’s happening across the business at any moment. They can make quick, mission-critical decisions with the information available to them.

For example, teams can scale orders up or down based on available transportation on a particular day or improve customer service by providing faster, more accurate communication around anticipated delivery times.

Improved insight and decision-making

Unlike many legacy or on-premises systems, an advanced, cloud-based ERP like BisTrack is built with business intelligence at the center, enabling real-time data collection and sharing along with robust data analysis.

Teams across departments have smart views—the ability to slice, dice, and drill down in any number of ways to get the specific insights they’re looking for. With deeper knowledge, teams can make operational decisions with more confidence and accuracy.

Enhanced efficiency and productivity

BisTrack allows teams to spend their days doing the critical work that drives productivity and growth. Instead of wasting time on inefficient technology workflows that send users down multiple paths or make them log in to other, disconnected systems, the tool enables employees to look up and track information in a single system with user-friendly screens and functionality.

Employees can do more in less time when they don’t get bogged down with clunky technology.

Greater business capacity

With smarter business intelligence and more efficient operations, building suppliers can ramp up the speed and volume of business. Teams can track and take more orders and increase the number and rate of deliveries—completing entire business transactions start to finish at a faster clip to keep up with increased customer demand.

Closer alignment with finance

When the experts in charge of the money aren’t working on an island with no idea what’s happening in the warehouse, the entire business becomes more cost-effective. With BisTrack, the finance team has a wide-angle view into operations, including where they can institute competitive pricing, increase margins, or cut costs altogether.

For example, the finance team may suggest a way to reduce freight costs by combining multiple, separate orders into a fewer number of purchases. This increase in efficiency can then positively affect other departments, like balancing the number of full-time employees required in dispatch and delivery.

Greater ease of use

Last but not least, one of the most significant operational benefits of BisTrack is how easy it is for employees to learn and use—including those without special technical skills or experience.

Whether someone is a new hire, temporary employee, or long-time experienced employee, they can learn the system quickly and integrate it into their daily activities. They don’t have to grapple with complicated software and functionality. Instead, they are free to focus on building the skills and competencies that add value to the business.

4. Business benefits of BisTrack

The overall business benefits from BisTrack as well.

Higher revenue

BisTrack enables business leaders to track inventory and purchasing more precisely, avoid over-purchasing, and lock in pricing on upcoming projects. With greater efficiencies across the business and improved labor performance, building suppliers can earn higher gross and net margins. 

Improved understanding of customers

With BisTrack, business leaders have a view into how their customers behave: what they buy, how much, and when; how satisfied they are; or if they’ve jumped ship to a competitor. Suppliers can then devise a targeted plan to reach a specific customer with personalized communications, a dedicated sales rep, or both. These efforts will improve the relationship and bump up their sales volume.

Better customer service

With information so readily available in BisTrack, business leaders can immediately determine where customer service may be inadequate and where opportunities for enhancements exist, whether at the checkout counter, online, or in the warehouse.

Identifying and anticipating customer needs and building in the little value-added extras that give them a reason to return improves customer satisfaction, loyalty, and business profitability.

5. Gain Steadier Ground with Epicor

Homeowners continue to sign off on new home improvement projects. Construction contracts are multiplying at a rapid pace. Everyone needs building materials—yesterday.

On the one hand, these are good problems to have. On the other hand, “good problems” can quickly become bad ones if you don’t have an advanced technology system that can help you smooth and scale operations and improve business performance. Continuing to use an outdated business management platform—however familiar or comfortable—doesn’t give you the modern functionality and insight you need to make necessary adjustments and give your building supply business the advantage it needs.

Investing in a cross-functional ERP like BisTrack helps you effectively address the short- and long-term issues facing the building supply industry, including labor worries, pricing volatility, and new and changing customer demands.

BisTrack provides everything from sales and financial management to dispatch and delivery to inventory and warehouse management and includes key capabilities like analytics and reporting, eCommerce, and connected data and workflows. With these tools at your fingertips, your business can keep up with today’s needs and tomorrow’s curveballs. 

With BisTrack at the center of your operations, you can give more focus and energy to the business opportunities on the horizon. Recognizing and harnessing those opportunities—and knowing BisTrack can handle them—is the solution to ensuring your building supply business is as competitive and profitable as possible.

To see what Epicor BisTrack can do for your building supply business, set up a demo today.