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Seeds of Change

At first glance, a modern digital strategy and a lumber company don’t seem an obvious match. At least that’s what Anna Toloeva, Business Analyst at Hampton Lumber, thought when she discovered a job opening at the company. Further exploration uncovered the truth: the fourth-generation family-owned business is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise managing half a million acres of forestland across the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia with a robust digital strategy behind the scenes.

Since the company’s first sawmill opened more than 80 years ago, a guiding principle has been “a better way, every day.” That motto enabled the business to expand and fueled an ongoing investment in technology to facilitate growth. Toloeva explained, “We’ve partnered with Epicor LumberTrack since 2008 for ERP. Also, we have a knowledgeable and experienced in-house IT team, including application and database developers as well as my role as an analyst.”

Ten years ago, the company leveraged that IT talent to create a custom Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) process, utilizing two value-added network providers. “We had dated processes,” Toloeva revealed. “That meant a lot of patching and leaks, and the more our business grew, the more our customers were demanding electronic data sharing.” Hampton Lumber was at an inflection point.

Branching Out

Lack of scalability, too much dependence on third-party vendors, and deteriorating customer service experience prompted the Hampton Lumber team to consider a fresh EDI approach. At the Epicor Insights conference, Toloeva attended a presentation on Epicor HQXchange (HQX). “We asked ourselves, ‘Why are we applying resources to an in-house solution when a robust option (Epicor HQXchange) exists from a trusted partner, plus it has API capability to integrate with Epicor LumberTrack?’ Furthermore, it allowed us to centralize our EDI,” she recalled.

With the decision made, a smooth implementation was accelerated with hands-on training, including tracks tailored to user needs, from general overview to advanced education. Toloeva recalled, “We were incredibly well-supported throughout the onboarding period.”

Blossoming Benefits

The immediate benefit was eliminating the use of multiple vendors and creating a standardized, scalable, integrated, and and easy-to-deploy EDI solution. Furthermore, manual data entry was automated, data mapping issues were eliminated, and data accuracy skyrocketed. In particular, Toloeva highlighted the exceptional ease of data mapping and adding new customers and how Epicor HQX streamlined Hampton Lumber processes.

For instance, the solution has helped to enable hands-free invoicing. Toloeva shared, “Before Epicor, our invoicing team needed to touch every single invoice and manually push it through the EDI system. Now, the workflow is fully automated and transparent—the team just monitors transactions on the portal.”

Additionally, order entry has been transformed. Previously, Hampton Lumber received POs via EDI but was manually inputting them into the order entry system. Now, when the company receives a PO, it’s imported directly into the in-house order entry tool. “Having the ability to centralize the process and integrate with our systems facilitates automated ordering, saved us time and resources while eliminating data entry errors,” Toloeva disclosed.

In addition to the time and cost savings delivered by automated order entry and invoicing, Epicor HQX is projected to help deliver estimated cost savings of more than $2,000 per month. “We have converted four trading partners from VAN to direct connection, eliminating the kilo character usage charge and additional monthly mailbox fees,” Toloeva elaborated. “That alone will save us $25,000 annually. We are no longer supporting two vendors and associated duplicate fees.”

Before Epicor, our invoicing team needed to touch every single invoice and manually push it through the EDI system. Now, the workflow is fully automated and transparent—the team just monitors transactions on the portal.

Toloeva particularly values real-time information and visibility from the solution, helping to enable what she calls EDI process democracy: “With Epicor, we can self-solve issues if and when they arise, giving us a much greater level of autonomy.” For instance, if an issue does arise, it is identified immediately and resolved quickly, without the need to raise a trouble ticket and wait for help.

With full Epicor HQX deployment across all locations still underway, a robust set of metrics is yet to be compiled. However, the promise of superior data from the new EDI furthers Hampton Lumber’s long-standing commitment to sustainability. Improvements such as decreased processing costs, optimized logistics, and reduced paper usage are expected to be realized after deployment.

Opportunities for All

Hampton Lumber employees were not immune to the concerns the prospect of automation generated. Toloeva admitted, “There was some normal nervousness about job security, but at Hampton, we believe that just because we automate the process doesn’t mean we lose staff. Quite the opposite. We actively look for opportunities to leverage talent and knowledge more meaningfully and encourage employees to learn and grow.”

I’m grateful to the Epicor team. They are super smart, creative people who find answers. We never felt rushed, and we felt very well supported during the whole vetting process. They are awesome.

At the same time, the efficiencies delivered by Epicor HQX mean that Hampton Lumber can continue to grow without adding headcount for rote and mundane tasks.

An Evergreen Partnership

With Epicor HQX successfully deployed at Hampton Lumber headquarters, the goal is to roll out the solution to all wholesale locations. Epicor’s easy integration with other software programs eliminates one significant hurdle. “Our Idaho branch uses a different ERP system, but Epicor HQX doesn’t require a migration to Epicor LumberTrack to work,” Toloeva noted. “We have the capability to integrate different data sources without requiring other major changes. We can work with each site independently and still deliver a better customer service experience.”

She added, “I’m grateful to the Epicor team. They are super smart, creative people who find answers. We never felt rushed and were very well supported during the vetting process. They are awesome.”

Company Facts

  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Specialist Industry: Sustainable Lumber Producer that wholesales  throughout US and import/export products worldwide
  • Website: www.hamptonlumber.com

Challenges

  • Outdated, inefficient EDI system
  • Dependence on third-party vendors
  • Manual, time-consuming and error-prone processes

Benefits

  • Centralized, integrated, automated EDI
  • Dramatically accelerated productivity
  • Projected savings of more than $25K/year
  • Significantly increased sustainability goals, such as real-time inventory, optimized logistics, and reduced packaging waste

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