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The Challenge

“In the history of family businesses, the odds are less than 1% that a family-owned company will survive to 100 years, and still be owned by the same family,” the APR Supply Company 100 Years & Beyond Documentary trailer intones.

How has APR achieved this rare feat, and not only survived but thrived? Christopher Bohn, Vice President of Project Management, and IT at APR Supply Company revealed, “We have a Darwinesque approach to adaptability. While we are not bleeding edge, we are leading-edge. We view technology as a way to stay ahead of our peers and enable a sustained and robust growth rate.”

Being one of the first distributors to offer an e-commerce website in the 1990s and adopt Radio Frequency (RF) guns for inventory management in 2004 are just two prime examples. More recently, the company has launched a program enabling contractors to scan a product from the app on their smartphone and receive price and availability information, quickly place orders, and choose pick-up or delivery options. This is in addition to a YouTube training series, and a virtual site visit app to help customers troubleshoot problems and find product solutions quickly.

A Purposeful Plan

Enabling an early adopter posture is APR’s Epicor Eclipse business management system. “APR has had Epicor Eclipse for 27 years—it’s outlived almost everyone in the company. We speak the Eclipse language; our culture IS Eclipse,” Bohn shared.

While technology has changed dramatically in the almost three decades since Epicor Eclipse has been implemented at APR Supply Co., the continuous improvement of Epicor Eclipse has allowed the system to be just as relevant today as when they made the decision to implement.  What Bohn knows for sure is that Eclipse has “Given us the flexibility to anticipate, adapt, and adjust so we can grow as fast as want to.”

That growth has been impressive. In the 17 years since Bohn joined the third-generation family-run APR Supply Co., the business has expanded from 15 branches to 38 and assimilated more than seven acquisitions. Impressively, one of these acquisitions occurred during COVID-19 with the acquisition of a four-location company. Bohn described, “At the same time, while everyone else was grinding to a halt, we saw the writing on the wall and expected that our vendors would not be able to perform as they had been. We deliberately, and dramatically, increased our inventory.  In addition, in credit to APR’s ownership, our growth plans and investments continued as planned and, in some cases, were accelerated.”

APR has had Epicor Eclipse for 27 years—it’s outlived almost everyone in the company. We speak the Eclipse language; our culture IS Eclipse.

These developments accelerated the opening of a new 350,000 square foot distribution center. Bohn noted, “We had already been planning to make the move to keep up with our expansion but needed to make the move sooner to hold the additional product. The ballooning of our inventory to mitigate the impact of the pandemic resulted in APR not only gaining new customers, we also grew share of wallet from existing customers. We had product to supply when many others didn’t.”

In addition to a large number of SKUs—APR sells over 100,000 unique SKUs annually and stocks over 22,000—the company takes great pride in a 99.7% order accuracy rate, an achievement Bohn remarked, “Is directly attributable to Epicor Eclipse.”

API Integration Fuels Transformation

APR wasn’t content with just more space, leadership wanted to optimize utilization of the new facility to reap maximum benefit from it. “We implemented a new warehouse management system that included robotics. The great thing about Eclipse is the RESTful APIs, enabling us to integrate Eclipse with the robotics. Eclipse tells the robots what to do and how to do it, and the robots send data back to Eclipse when the task is complete,” Bohn divulged. “We are implementing volumetric data to predict where incoming product should go as well as how to pick more efficiently.”

Bohn highlighted that the most significant benefit of the Eclipse APIs is the Epicor API team. He elaborated, “The responsiveness, the understanding of our business processes and policies, and the energy with which fixes are tackled, has been incredible. We always have same-day response and often same-day resolution.”

Eclipse has given us the flexibility to anticipate, adapt, and adjust so we can grow as fast as we want to.

Another key Eclipse benefit is speedy, seamless on-boarding of new acquisitions. Bohn explained, “We have the integration down to a science so we can plug-in and grow. We start training the new users 30 days out, so they are ready to run on Eclipse on day one. Then, we go in the weekend prior to go-live and do a physical inventory with the RF guns so all the data gets loaded right into Eclipse. We’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what system the new company has, whether it’s homegrown or another, Eclipse allows for a smooth, consistent integration process.”

Eye on the Prize

Despite APR’s intrepid attitude toward technology, Bohn admitted, “It still feels like we are just scratching the surface of what technology can do for us.” APR is evaluating additional robotics solutions to bring product to staff instead of having employees walk the length of the huge new warehouse. He also expects to continue to evaluate and add Eclipse modules to advance APR’s industry-leading position. “I think we have used every Eclipse module that is available and I’m sure we’ll continue to try out whatever comes next,” Bohn added.

After all, the objective of investing in technology is to meet and anticipate APR customer needs. Bohn observed, “Our culture is oriented around customers, accountability, excellence and results. Eclipse supports each of those pillars, providing a strong foundation for our continued growth.”

Company Facts

  • Location: Lebanon, Pennsylvania
  • Specialist Industry: HVAC-R / Plumbing Distributor
  • Website: www.aprsupply.com

Challenges

  • Robust growth via expansion and acquisition
  • Integrating advanced warehouse management solutions
  • Active support of company culture

Benefits

  • Ensure 99.7% order accuracy
  • Power warehouse transformation
  • Seamless onboarding of new sites

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