Boosting Efficiency, Passing on the Benefits: Technology for Lumberyards and Building Material Distributors

If you’re a dealer, there’s a technological upgrade in your future, if you haven’t bought into it already.


“There’s a whole generation of people coming into managerial positions who have grown up with smartphones and tablets,” says Tom Spillane, Director of Marketing for Computer Associates. “We’re seeing their influence on…the kinds of tools LBM dealers are putting to use.”


The reasons for the sudden influx go beyond increasing comfort and familiarity: dealers are beginning to recognize the savings technology offers them, in terms of time, materials, and labor.


Katy Tomasulo for LBM Journal recently identified the ways technology is transforming the ways dealers do business.



Accessibility Anywhere

Now you don’t have to accept anything less than 24/7 access to your data, whether you’re sitting at a computer at a desk or using your tablet or smartphone. Cloud data storage makes it possible to deliver many of the benefits of newer technology in a more practical way. These are powerful benefits for your sales team.


Insightful Tracking

It’s not only sales that benefit. Telematics, GIS technology, and other advances have the potential to revolutionize lumber transportation. Imagine a device that analyzed traffic patterns to find more efficient delivery routes, or gave you perfectly precise ETAs. These devices exist and they are changing the way many dealers handle their drivers and fleets.


With benefits ranging from tracking maintenance needs, to reducing fuel costs, to isolating incidents of unsafe driving, and even reducing labor costs by tracking lost time, choosing to implement tracking and analytics technology is almost a no-brainer. “[I]t literally makes managing a fleet easier,” says Ryan Driscoll of GPS Insight.


Smarter Material Estimating

For John Maiuri of ECi Software Solutions, “[t]echnology is a tool that allows dealers to do more with fewer people and greater accuracy.” Who wouldn’t want to see those benefits in their business? But it’s not only you who will reap the rewards of adopting technology. It also could help you pass the benefits to your customers, offering differentiation from your competitors.


Some software, such as SAPPHIRE Supply, allows dealers to create highly-accurate material estimates based on a virtual 3-D model. Costs, quantities, and other data are therefore verifiable before construction. Material estimating “can open up new value-add opportunities for customers,” says Steve McFall of MiTek.


The Challenge of Implementation

Despite the obvious benefits of incorporating more technology into operations, many dealers stumble when it comes to the implementation phase.


A software solution can’t function if buy-in is weak and proper set-up and training is ignored.


Cindy McCarville of software firm DMSi says adoption has to occur from the top down: “Have a culture of management backing these decisions and understanding how [technology] makes a difference.”


Once management is on board, the whole process flows more smoothly. However, it’s a marathon, not a race. Take the time to properly install tools, to teach your staff how to use them, and implement good practices and procedures.


The challenges of implementation aren’t a reason to shy away from new technology. After all, the field is changing fast, and dealers don’t want to get left behind. As Steve McFall says, “In our increasingly competitive industry, dealers need to provide industry- leading ways of collaborating on projects to help protect their customer base and their profit margins.”


Better technology is one way to do just that.