Dropping ‘Old School’ Processes for ‘New School’ Technology

by | Jul 3, 2019 | Editors' Choice

published by The Wholesaler

Nebraska-based Holmes Plumbing and Heating Supply sees productivity and profitability increases with its newest ERP system.

To thrive in the plumbing and heating supply business for more than 50 years, you can’t be complacent. You must stay on top of technology and make sure you’re providing your customers with best-in-class solutions at competitive prices. That’s precisely what Holmes Plumbing and Heating Supply Co. in Kearny, Neb., has done with the help of DDI System’s Inform ERP Software. The powerful ERP suite delivers the tools Holmes needs to cater to their loyal customer base throughout central Nebraska and northern Kansas for years to come. 

Founded in 1968, Holmes Supply Co. is one of south-central Nebraska’s premier plumbing and heating wholesale distributors. Its territory covers south to the Kansas border and north to the South Dakota border. With two outside sales personnel, three delivery trucks and 15 employees, the company has managed to survive and thrive through economic ups and downs.

General Manager Jeff Johnson openly admits that he’s a bit “old-school” when it comes to how he conducts business. Though you might still see him taking meeting notes with a pen and paper, it doesn’t stop him from pushing his team to stay up-to-date on the latest technology. Johnson knows that to remain competitive, the type of technology you use can make a big difference between a good year and closing the doors.

“If you want to be successful in this business, you can’t sit back and rest on your laurels at all,” he says. “You have to be forward thinking. But you also need to put systems in place that are easy for people to use — or they won’t use it.”

(subhead) Buying Group Members Influence Change

When it came time to implement an end-to-end ERP solution, Johnson wanted a proven product with a steady customer base and experience in his businesses. He had heard plenty of technology sales pitches but sought a solution that had been tested and successful in companies similar to his own. 

As a member of several buying groups including Blue Hawk and the Luxury Products Group, and an active member of the American Supply Association, Johnson relied on input from his fellow member groups to determine the right solution for Holmes Plumbing and Heating Supply. DDI System’s reputation preceded it — with more than 50 Blue Hawk member clients and 30 LPG clients, Johnson had plenty of reference points. 

“The feedback and experiences we heard so much about from other members in our buying groups resonated with us,” Johnson notes. “At the end of the day, when we got to compiling all the research, we found that (in my opinion) the best of the best distributors were using DDI System. For that reason alone, we knew we’d be in good hands.”

To get a better look at the software and understand the system’s full capabilities, Johnson met with one of the software company’s sales experts. It didn’t take long for him to realize how much more efficiency and growth his operations could experience by implementing Inform. 

Streamlining Internal Processes

Eight years after moving to Inform ERP, Johnson and the entire team at Holmes Plumbing and Heating Supply are contributing to the positive testimonials on their experience with DDI. “Inform has been amazing for our business since the day we got it,” Johnson says. “It is everything we were told it was and more.”

Some of the most powerful features the distributor leverages include the inventory control and accounting features, which has even helped Holmes Supply to reduce labor in the accounting department and reallocate staff to other areas of focus. “There’s so much data I can tap into to run my business — such as sales reporting and analytics,” Johnson explains. “I can find everything I need to find. Even on the purchasing side, the ERP system has streamlined so much for us.”

When it comes to employee feedback on the system, Kayla Miller, accounting and IT specialist, agrees. From the ERP system’s stock transfer entry and receiving feature to projected purchase order capabilities, it has helped Holmes eliminate redundant processes and provide easy analysis of ongoing project demand, lead time and inventory counts. “We have so much more control over inventory and accounting than what we had before,” she adds.

Further advancing efficiency is the ability to create and sustain paperless workflows. Inform’s eDocs feature enables Holmes Supply to substantially reduce the amount of paper and printing required on a day-to-day basis. The paperless and file-free workflows give employees the functionality to maintain electronic records for customer, product and vendor information. 

With this capability, Holmes can email invoices, customer statements and any other communication directly to the customer. Sales and purchase orders also can be easily generated with the click of the button — improving efficiency and reducing costs associated with paper and printing supplies. 

Driving Online Sales and Future Growth

While operational efficiencies power the distributor’s growth, keeping up with the shift in buyer behavior also is a driving force for Holmes’ roadmap to success. “I know that many distributors like me may not see the value in deploying e-commerce yet,” Johnson says. “But for us, e-commerce has been an incredibly beneficial aspect of our business — both in retaining existing customers and reaching new ones.” 

DDI’s Inform eCommerce helps Holmes display product images, specs, details and pricing directly to the customer. The information presented is specific to the user searching the site, making customer re-ordering seamless. “Each month I see how we steadily increase sales through our eCommerce storefront,” Johnson says. “It’s encouraging to know we’re on the right path.”

Johnson says he’s grateful for DDI’s pursuit of continuous innovative technology, noting other ERP providers can make staying up-to-date extremely difficult. As a result, these types of businesses experience limited functionality that directly impacts the bottom line. With DDI, Johnson ensures his team takes advantage of the two to three significant upgrades each year and always runs on the latest version of the software. 

“When we update, we take a step back for a week or so to learn about those new features and where they are in the software,” he notes. 

Despite being a bit old-school, Johnson gives his company’s modern-day ERP system his stamp of approval. “I can’t imagine us ever switching away from the control and management this system provides our business,” he adds.