Technology and the supply chain
During a webcast on the topic of supply chain challenges, experts visited the role technology in managing the supply chain during the time of the pandemic, and beyond.
Titled “Maintaining the Supply Chain: What lies ahead for the industry in the wake of COVID-19” and sponsored by Epicor, the webcast featured the insights of three professionals who are very close to the issues.
• Warren Arthur is senior VP of supply chain and logistics for Cameron Ashley Building Products, with more than 30 locations around the U.S. and some 5,000 LBM customers.
“We've implemented a TMS (Transportation Management Software) system for our transportation network,” Arthur said. “We're trying to make sure that we get the best, most efficient route so when the customer needs a shipment or a product, we can get it to them quickly.”
Cameron Ashley operates its own fleet of trucks, a competitive advantage, Arthur says. And technology can provide the added benefit of an automated, efficient coordination of the supply chain.
“I just think anything that gives us information at our finger tips and allows us to make a decision [is an advantage],” he said. Ideally a manager would “only have to pick up the phone when there is an exception to the norm.”
• Greg Goodale is Riverhead Building Supply director of purchasing. Based in Riverhead, N.Y, the pro dealer operates 18 locations in Long Island and New England.
“We'll be a stronger company because of the pandemic,” Goodale said. “We've learned a lot. Technology is the key. Kudos to our IT department for setting up remote work from home situations for people that could. That was clutch. Investing in your website is big.
Goodale also described the changing habits of a “resilient” revenue source: the consumer market. “The customers are not walking into your stores like they used to,” he said. “They pick up the phone. They call you. You have to be able to pick up the phone and take the order, answer the questions. We've been hypersensitive on that, investing drastically in those types of [interactions.]”
• Stephen Sallah is president and CEO of LBM Advantage, an LBM buying group representing more than 500 members and some 1,000 locations around the country.
The buying group with offices around the country has found that the ability to work remotely has been a major advantage.
“We had built remote capability a couple of years ago for the random snow fall that leaves us home for four hours or for a day or day and a half,” Sallah said. “We never dreamed we would be using it for 30, 40, 50 or 60 days.”
If retailers don’t already have that capability for their non-sales-floor staff, he recommends that they build it and test it.
Additionally, Sallah pointed to the success of the rollout of a mobile app designed for the health of the office employees, as they returned to the office after work-from-home mandates. The app features a five-stage screening test before employees come in to work.
“It sounds simple, but that was a huge move for us to make sure everybody in the office that day didn't have one of the five issues that would keep them away,” Sallah said. “It gets people thinking and taking their temperature every day and all of that so our employees can feel safe and comfortable that everybody in the office doesn't have a fever, doesn't have cough, hasn't been in contact with a COVID patient in the last 14 days, et cetera. It’s might seem like a minor thing, but it's been huge help for us and a huge comfort for the employees in the office right now.”