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Charting a Business Remodel

One of the most basic building materials, wood, is prized for its workability, strength-to-weight ratio, insulation properties, beauty, and sustainability. For nearly two centuries, ETT Fine Woods has created a legacy of superior quality hardwood products, supplied to customers in all four corners of the U.S. When the company needed to modernize its inventory management, it turned to a long-trusted partner, Epicor.

A few years ago, ETT Fine Woods set out to transform its manual operations from a system that prohibited salespeople from seeing what products were in stock and where to a modern digital process. James Brown, Chief Financial Officer at ETT Fine Woods, explained, “It was like moving from a chisel and stone operation to a fully automated inventory system.”

One ETT site, Thompson Mahogany, was using Epicor LumberTrack when purchased in 2009. That positive experience gave ETT Fine Woods’ management the confidence to partner with Epicor for its inventory management journey.

Extending a Proven Approach

A manufacturer of a broad range of top-quality products, including exotic hardwood lumber, American hardwoods, marine teak decking and plywood, architectural moldings, tropical hardwood siding, and wood decking, ETT Fine Woods had seen the benefits of Epicor LumberTrack at one site and wanted to leverage the promise of Epicor technology further to improve the other businesses.

Brown recalled, “For the other 60% of the business, we had been using an 800-line Excel spreadsheet to manage inventory. It provided total footage, but we couldn’t see individual size counts, and it was a snapshot of a moving target.

Cloud First

The first step was to move Epicor LumberTrack software from on-premises to the cloud. “Migrating to the cloud was driven by the need for easy access to data,” Brown remarked. “Now, no matter where we are, we can access Epicor and have the inventory information we need at our fingertips, from laptops and mobile devices.”

Next, ETT Fine Woods engaged with CPA Elliott Davis and the Epicor Professional Services Team to reimagine the product coding structure to simplify and standardize across the business, and to launch Epicor LumberTrack at the other divisions. “The Epicor Professional Services team was instrumental in ensuring we hit key milestones and keeping the project on track for the target go-live,” Brown acknowledged.

A Higher Grade

The difference was stark and immediate. Brown shared, “With Epicor LumberTrack, the entire company is using the same inventory management solution, and we all have real-time visibility that empowers us to be more responsive to our customer needs.”

Previously, when a customer called, the salesperson would either call another location or go out to the yard themselves to check product availability—a manual, often days-long effort. Today, sales accesses inventory wherever they are, provides a price and creates the sales order. Then, the yard team, equipped with handheld devices, pulls the bundle ticket number, moves it to shipping, and sends it on its way. “We have gone from a customer response turnaround time of three to four days to same day,” Brown highlighted.

With Epicor LumberTrack, the entire company is using the same inventory management solution, and we have real-time visibility that empowers us to be more responsive to customer needs.

“And we are able to see when the product is due to arrive. For instance, if wood shipping from Africa is on the water, we know exactly what product it is and when it is scheduled to arrive, enabling our sales teams to start selling it.”

Additionally, because everyone is working with the same product coding structure, confusion, errors, and frustration in inventory understanding have been eliminated; everyone in the company has ready access to accurate inventory data.

Stacking Up Wins

As a result of the automation initiative, salespeople are freed from physically tracking down inventory to contacting more customers and investing extra time in developing them. Brown observed, “They have moved from a notepad and landline to mobile devices connected to all the information they need. It’s made every hour of their day much more efficient and productive.”

Epicor LumberTrack also gives management fast access to information through the ability to easily run reports. Brown elaborated, “If our majority owner calls to ask what the decking inventory value is, it’s a simple task to pull a report and get the exact figure.”

Furthermore, Brown has slashed month-end inventory close-out from taking a week to just a single day.

He imparted, “Our inventory is as close to real-time as it is possible to be, and I know for a fact that our auditors love it because we can tell them exactly what the inventory levels are and where the inventory is by location. Epicor LumberTrack has made a huge difference in how we manage inventory.”

Dedicated to Sustainability

Committed to responsible forest stewardship, ETT Fine Woods follows standard operating procedures that track lumber origin and legal harvesting.

“Epicor has helped future-proof the business. The access and visibility that we have achieved are vital to our continued growth and success. I know there are other software options, but Epicor LumberTrack is the leader in solutions for the lumber industry. Having a partner that understands our unique business is critical to optimizing efficiencies and productivity.”

Epicor has helped future-proof the business. The access and visibility that we have achieved are vital to our continued growth and success. I know there are other software options, but Epicor LumberTrack is the leader in solutions for the lumber industry. Having a partner that understands our unique business is critical to optimizing efficiencies and productivity.

Brown said that Epicor LumberTrack reinforces the company’s desire to use wood resources carefully by improving inventory accuracy. As an example, if a job requires a five-and-three-quarter inches finish, ETT Fine Woods can pull the right-sized boards to minimize waste.

Furthermore, Brown pointed out that Epicor also advances the sustainability of the company itself, saying, “Epicor has helped future-proof the business. The access and visibility that we have achieved is vital to our continued growth and success. I know there are other software options, but Epicor LumberTrack is the leader in solutions for the lumber industry. Having a partner that understands our unique business is critical to optimizing efficiencies and productivity.”

Sowing Future Gains

Next up for Brown is to move the business onto Epicor Kinetic, allowing the company to eliminate a weekly data drop of AR into the Sage accounting software. He emphasized, “With this move, we’ll have consolidated everything on the Epicor platform.”

Brown concluded, “The true professionalism of the Epicor team and their dedication to making sure things are done right creates success.”

Company Facts

Challenges

  • Lack of inventory visibility and accuracy
  • Hindered access to inventory data
  • Time-consuming, inefficient manual processes due to outdated inventory management system

Benefits

  • Real-time inventory access and visibility
  • Slashed customer response time by more than 155%
  • Enhanced decision-making data
  • Condensed month-end close from one week to one day

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