Alexander Lumber Company

Operating 19 retail lumber yards and 2 truss plants, Alexander Lumber—based in Aurora, Illinois—services customers in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The company used to run several disparate enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems after acquiring a number of smaller companies, but in 2010, Alexander Lumber’s owners decided to standardize operations on a single solution. In the end, they chose Epicor BisTrack with Journey Planner.


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We use BisTrack software to measure many of our company's key business initiatives, and track our progress in achieving those initiatives.

Rick Vancil, Executive Vice President | Alexander Lumber
Alexander
Company Facts
  • Location: Aurora, Illinois
  • Industry: Lumber and Building Materials
  • Sales Profile: 80-90% Pro, 10-20% Retail
  • Number of Locations: 19 retail yards and 2 truss plants
  • Website:  www.alexlbr.com

Challenges
  • Eliminate disparate software solutions and standardize operations on one system
  • Improve turnaround times and deliveries to boost the customer experience and overall operations

Solution
  • Epicor BisTrack
  • Epicor BisTrack Journey Planner
  • Epicor BisTrack Cloud
  • Epicor BisTrack Delivery

Benefits
  • Reduced inventory by $8 million
  • Increased gross margin by two points
  • Reduced truck turn times to 15 minutes and loader/driver travel distance to 0.12 miles
  • Provided a leading-edge IT platform

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Better business performance
Alexander Lumber leverages the tightly integrated BisTrack business analytics tools to evaluate and improve operations and performance. “You can’t judge what you don’t measure,” said Russ Kathrein, CEO of Alexander Lumber. “If you’re not measuring, you are making decisions based on anecdotal evidence and not concrete numbers.”

For example, sales people will often push for special treatment for what they believe to be “good customers.” However, accurate customer grading requires objective analysis of a customer’s gross profits generated, terms, payment record, orders, returns, etc. These objective metrics can frequently tell a different story about many accounts that were previously identified as “good customers.”

“We use BisTrack software to measure many of our company’s key business initiatives, and track our progress in achieving those initiatives” said Rick Vancil, executive vice president of Alexander Lumber. “For example, we can analyze our fleet maintenance costs to identify vehicles that need to be replaced. We can also compare the cost of different repairs from different mechanics. We are continuing to look for ways to drive costs down in our business by utilizing the wealth of data tracked in BisTrack.”

Dramatic turn time results

“Recently, we conducted a baseline study and determined it took us about 50 minutes to turn around a 24-foot flatbed with a detachable fork truck—with the driver and loader going 0.47 miles per turn,” added Vancil. “Using BisTrack Journey Planner software and the integration with GPS Insight, we reorganized several external activities and moved many to before the truck arrives—completing and retrieving the next shipment’s packing slips, consolidating stops, reconfiguring the truck bed and retrieving hardware, gathering paperwork from the dispatch office, and also expanding the loading area.”

“With these improvements, we’ve seen dramatic results,” said Vancil. “Our Crystal Lake yard’s turn times dropped to 15 minutes—a 70 percent reduction—and distances traveled by the loader and driver dropped to 0.12 miles—a 76 percent reduction. Throughout an average delivery day—four runs and three turns per truck— the new cuts in turn time have resulted in an additional hour per truck of available delivery time in an eight-hour day, and every fork truck and delivery truck combination now saves more than a mile.

Higher margins with less inventory 

Alexander Lumber has been able to dramatically reduce inventory with the help of BisTrack software. “In the past, our employees would walk around the lumberyard and make purchasing decisions based on what they saw,” said Kathrein. “Now, BisTrack gives our buyers a company-wide view of inventory. If one location is low on a particular item, our buyers have the option of transferring merchandise from other locations, rather than simply purchasing it. We were also able to identify product categories that had low sales rates in certain locations and removed them from future purchases. Using this approach, we were able to reduce our inventory by onequarter—or roughly $8 million.” 

Alexander also improved gross margins by improving control on special orders and by setting up margin-specific incentive structures for its outside sales people, location managers, and district managers. Margins were up two points within the first two years using BisTrack and are continuing to rise. “These business leaders earn a percentage of the profitability of the business units they run,” said Vancil. “Location managers are financially incentivized to carefully manage their inventory and make it productive. All of this information is collected and reported by BisTrack.” 

Empowering a mobile salesforce 

In the past, Alexander’s outside salespeople would have to either call or return to their office to get all of the information they needed to write quotes and sales orders. Now, the company’s salespeople can run BisTrack Cloud software on their Microsoft Surface tablets. The tablets give users full access to the rich functionality of BisTrack software. “Equipped with BisTrack Cloud on a Surface tablet, our salespeople are able to immediately respond to customer questions on product availability, pricing, and delivery status. It has proven to be a valuable sales tool,” said Vancil. 

Accelerating the “Lamborghini” 

Despite their success, Alexander executives feel there is far more they can do. “We have called BisTrack software our ‘Lamborghini’ that we drive 25 miles per hour,” said Kathrein. “BisTrack offers an almost unlimited amount of information. It has helped us lower inventory costs, improve business efficiencies, and increase margins, but I feel we have barely scratched the surface on what we can accomplish with this wonderful business solution. Once we get everyone in the company using BisTrack to its full potential, our company will be running like a finely tuned Italian sports car.”

Epicor solutions are designed around the unique operational needs of manufacturers and are available in the cloud or on premises. Customers can better manage complexity and focus on core growth activities.

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