The flooring industry has usually lagged behind other major industries when it comes to adopting new operational technology. However, that gap is closing, say software executives, acknowledging that flooring dealers today are more likely to embrace new technology than shun it.
“Ten years ago we were miles behind the other industries but that is changing,” said Chad Ogden, president of QFloors, one of the leading software solution providers. “We are getting a lot closer today.”
With a bevy of new enterprise software products and mobile applications on the market, retailers have the tools necessary to be more efficient and, ultimately, profitable.
Below is a rundown of some new software introductions.
CDMS version 10.00 offers complete integration into CCA Global Partners’ Revelation Gateway, according to Cathy Welsh, operations manager at CDMS, allowing users to update their CCA Global Partners product and price information in CDMS. “We have added all the product specification information to the software as well, including all of the warranty information, fiber brand, product quality rating, manufacturing method, shade variations, Janka hardness rating, locking type and so on,” she said. All sales personnel can now view this information from within the CDMS software.
CDMS version 10.00 also contains Sales Referral Tracker, which allows customers to inform the dealers where they saw the advertisement (i.e., local newspaper, radio, Internet). The Sales Referral Tracker system lets users set up as many codes as they wish. “The system will help you deter- mine which advertising methods are paying off and which are not,” Welsh said.
CDMS Version 10.00 also contains a large modification to CDMS B2B. “We are now storing all the product information for the hard surface products besides just the style, color and pricing information, such as associated SKUs, URL information and so on,” she said. “We will be storing any and all information that the B2B suppliers are capable of sending.”
In January, Dancik introduced Navigator ERP, new software that replaces a traditional menu system with a drag-and-drop customizable dashboard. Users can build their own workspace with most-used applications, coupled with a set of mini applications that allow flooring dealers to check details, including stock, prices and orders.
The product is designed to reduce internal training costs for users “who were born into a point-and-click” world, said Mitch Dancik, president. Dancik noted that new and simplified workflows were created for applications whenever possible. “For example, in accounts payable you can enter, edit and post vendor invoices all from one screen,” he said.
“Navigator will allow Dancik to offer a new level of flexibility that many of our customers have asked for. You will be able to embed the URLs of Dancik programs and call them from your company websites,” Dancik said. Navigator technology can be used on smart phones, mobile devices and web sites.
New in 2011 is FloorEstimate Pro 2011, a web-based layout estimating enterprise offering.
The web version enables collaboration among field estimators, office managers and sales reps to share diagram and estimating data.
The product supports multiple store and office locations and is suited for multi-family contractors, multi-store retailers and commercial contractors, according to Steven Wang, chief developer and founder. “Technological advantage is always important, especially during these tough times. Well-established companies are taking this time to deploy software solutions to streamline take-off estimating.”
Wang noted that several leading contractors, including Redi Carpet and Star Floors, are
already using the product. Brian Caress, vice president of Redi Carpet, said the company has found the FloorEstimate Pro to be “extremely helpful in managing estimates and diagrams of our cross-state, multi-family flooring operations, especially over the web.”
Tim Magnuson, CEO of Kashmoo, said the company is beta testing a new high-speed version of its Flooring-Soft.com product. “This new version runs five times faster and users participating in the test immediately notice the faster speed,” he said. The product is planned for a May release. The company is also beta-testing new versions of a standard system for multi-family dealers, as well as a new system for distributors and importers.
FlooringSoft.com also has a new dashboard display that features a list of prospects and customers, along with quotes, contracts, purchase orders and work orders on one screen. Users can type into the free- form search box (like Google) to find all related information about a customer, job and work order. If the user moves the mouse over a record, Flooring Soft.com pops up a “Quick View” of the record.
Michael Street, operations manager of Hammonds Wood Floors in San Antonio, said the FlooringSoft.com product has been a huge benefit. “For the first time we have the ability to see everything that affects our costs and margins, and that protects our bottom line,” he said. “The result is better productivity for the company, better installation quality for our customers and better pay for our best installers.”
In 2010, Laurel Creek Software introduced version 2.0 of its professional tile visualization software: Precision Tile Pro. Since then, the company has drawn rave reviews from customers, according to president Phil Rittenhouse.
“The first day we put PTP to work in our store we were able to recoup our investment in the software with that first sale alone,” said Stuart Nelson, vice president of sales and marketing at Doma Kitchen & Bath Showroom, Bridgeport, Pa.
Tile visualization software allows tile retailers and installers to show a customer how a complete tile layout will look. Modifications to tile size, color and layout can be made with a few clicks of the mouse.
“Using visualization soft- ware greatly simplifies the buying decision for customers and helps close sales more quickly, thus creating a win-win for consumers and retailers,” Rittenhouse said. “With the economic slowdown, more and more tile professionals are looking for any competitive advantage they can get to help win customers over. Tile visualization software is helping them do that and we expect the trend toward more sophisticated tile visualization technologies to continue.”
Pacific Solutions’ management systems are iPad and iPhone native, with the entire system touch-screen and portable. Showroom reps can select products, build a quote, accept a signature and close the deal. Users can also change orders on the jobsite, manage work orders and installation schedules, verify materials and check cash receipts and bank deposits. “Anything you can do at a work- station can now be done on an iPad or iPhone with Wi-Fi or cell signal,” said Don Kilbourne, vice president.
Kilbourne said reducing overhead could mean the difference in survival or extinction for a dealer; as such, FloorManager and JobRunner are built with FileMaker from Apple and “capitalize on efficiencies that have skyrocketed Apple’s market dominance.” Paperless by original design and built in Apple software, Pacific Solutions’ product cuts administration costs significantly, Kilbourne said.
FloorManager and JobRunner use Windows or Mac Unix servers, Windows or Mac work-stations. “Mac Unix server is much faster and more stable than Windows Server, and yet, amazingly is about half the cost,” Kilbourne said. “Cloud-based service is another option, but with Mac servers about half the cost of Windows servers, most clients choose to have their data, sales history and management software within their own total control, especially since it’s cheaper than Cloud or Windows server options.”
The latest advance in QFloors’ B2B initiative is the ability to look up stock at every manufacturer’s warehouse without having to go to your browser, type in a user ID and password. In addition, vendor invoices are received electronically, Ogden said.
Another innovation is QFloors Mobile, which allows users to access the same features and screens available on QFloors’ desktop right through to your mobile device. Ogden said by using remote connections software such as Remote Desktop or GoToMyPC, users can essentially carry out all the functions you would normally do when helping a customer finalize a sale, including checking inventory, reviewing invoices, confirming pricing and checking installation schedules or status. All this without leaving your customer.
RFMS is rolling out its Sales Floor Manager, a CRM software tool that captures important customer information and enables sales associates to manage the relationship from prospect to completed sales. “It can really measure a salesperson’s success,” said Terry Wheat, president and CEO. “How many of these ‘opportunities’ come through your door and how many of them become estimates, and how many of those become orders? This tool will allow you to track that information so that dealers can find out what the real ‘close’ rating his staff has.”
Wheat said that if a customer visits with a salesperson, the associate would not have to leave the customer to track down information such as product SKU or sample size. The information would be in hand, in real time. “We have found that the consumer really appreciates that kind of expert attention,” Wheat said. The RFMS product is scheduled for full distribution in the summer.