Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Features Software Technology
Syspro ERP instrumental in the profitable growth of rock solid supply


January 24, 2013
By Odete Passingham Syspro Canada

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When Rock Solid Supply opened for business in 2003, owner Mike Brunelle delivered countertops from the back of his Nissan Pathfinder.

Encouraged by initial success, Brunelle evolved towards a more sophisticated business model, offering high-quality, mass-produced granite countertops and bathroom cabinets. The company, headquartered in Barrie, Ont., differentiated itself by allowing its customers to mix-and-match colours of wood product with colours of granite, and by offering fixed prices with no surcharges or delivery charges. It was a winning combination – since its inception, the company has grown 30 per cent to 40 per cent per year.

Jason Treslove was hired in the spring of 2010 to function as Rock Solid’s operations manager. “I was brought on board to manage the company’s growth,” says Treslove. “Rock Solid was working to capacity and having problems with organization. When I got here, the operations were being run on QuickBooks, and they had purchased a QuickBooks inventory module called Advanced Pro. I wasn’t impressed – they’d spent over $5,000 preparing the information for Advanced Pro, and it still wasn’t working.”

With 15 years experience in Operations Management and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, Treslove had the skills to successfully implement Advance Pro. “As soon as I saw it running, I knew that we needed to upgrade to a different system. QuickBooks is great for a one-man-band, but as a business grows more complex it needs added sophistication.”
Rock Solid spent six more months operating on the old system, in order for Treslove to demonstrate its limitations to the owner.

“Change can be hard, and it was important to gain the owner’s confidence in the decision to move away from Quickbooks,” says Treslove. “I was asking him to make a leap of faith that would determine how the company operates for at least the next 10 to 15 years. We knew going into it that changing the whole operating system would keep us up at night – especially with the company experiencing rapid growth. In February, 2011, we agreed that we needed a change to remain competitive, and that the best way to ensure our future success was to replace the old system with a fully integrated ERP.”

The choice came down to Syspro ERP or Microsoft Dynamics NAV. “We compared them both, did our research, and had both companies give us demonstrations,” says Treslove. “It seemed to us that Syspro was able to offer more features and more out-of-the box functionality. That allows a business to get up-and-running quickly, for less cost and effort. With Syspro, you can essentially flip the power switch and run the business. We operated for a full year out of the box, whereas NAV would have required immediate customization.”

The system Rock Solid ultimately chose was Syspro ERP. “We appreciated the robustness of Syspro,” says Treslove. “In addition, Syspro had many specific modules I wanted, such as Landed Cost Tracking (which allows you to track shipping and estimate its arrival time), a fail safe accounting system, Sales Analysis by customer and product, as well as Inventory Management and Distribution.”

Because of Treslove’s familiarity with Syspro, the implementation went smoothly, and Rock Solid did not require outside consultants. “The accounting required some thought,” says Tresolve. “It was more involved than in QuickBooks, but once you understand how an ERP functions, solving problems becomes fairly simple. To make things even easier, Syspro has a phenomenal self-help menu.”

One of Treslove’s first priorities was to optimize the company’s inventory system. “It’s critical for us to have accurate, real-time information on our inventory,” says Treslove. “We have several hundred SKUs, and we’re always expanding that to increase customer selection. To make things more complicated, we order a lot of our product from overseas, and for some SKUs there’s a three-month lead time.”

Without proper control, inventories can become large and costly, in terms of capital, operational efficiency, and even business agility. “Inventories tend to grow with sales,” says Treslove, “but despite our own growth we’ve managed to resist that. We now keep larger quantities of fast-moving SKUs, and fewer of the slow. Whereas we used to store massive amounts of popular items, we now order smaller amounts more frequently. By dramatically increasing our inventory turns, we’ve reduced our inventory investment substantially. We’re able to do that because Syspro anticipates our inventory needs, and keeps us from ordering as a knee-jerk reaction.”

With the new inventory system, Rock Solid also enjoys much more accurate open orders. “Before Syspro our purchase orders were made by an e-mail from the owner. Now I can use Syspro to measure supplier performance – I can tell when they have open orders, and I can manage an active priority list using the inventory module.”

Syspro has also automated Rock Solid’s load planning. “We ship all over Canada,” says Treslove, “but maintain our own fleet of trucks for Ontario. Syspro allows us to break the province into zones, and plan our distribution over a two-week period. This week we’re going to Windsor, next week to Ottawa. We can accumulate on a load for two weeks, and when it’s ready to go we push a button and receive an automatically generated manifest. Syspro knows where the customers are geographically, what’s being sent to them, and the volume of the truck. It sets up our loads accordingly, and we build into the truck using the manifest. That saves on double-handling and makes everyone’s life easier. Shipping is a breeze, now, because Syspro does the entire process automatically.”

Using the same load planning information, Syspro creates packing labels for Rock Solid’s products. “In the past we used a specialized label system,” says Treslove. “Syspro wrote us a custom label program – it was inexpensive and saves us about six to eight man-hours a week.” The new labelling system has improved Rock Solid’s order accuracy considerably. “The old way,” says Treslove, “relied on a human bringing information into Excel. The system was fraught with error – we were probably making mistakes on one out of every three orders. Now, because of Syspro, our order accuracy is up to near-perfect levels.”

Syspro has also resolved a great deal of confusion around SKU numbers. “There used to be five or six SKU numbers for each item,” says Treslove. “Thanks to Syspro, everybody is now referring to the SKUs with the same information – that’s crucial, because the next step is online ordering for our customers.”

In the near future, Rock Solid plans to push its technological capabilities towards EDI (electronic data interchange). “Already, we transmit all of our documents electronically,” says Treslove. “All of our order acknowledgements and invoices are sent or faxed right out of Syspro. That’s reduced our paper consumption significantly, and lowered labour costs. Even more significantly, we make a private label line, St. Lawrence Cabinets, for Lowes – the second largest hardware store in the U.S. Lowes is very automated and computer savvy, and they’re pushing us to take the next steps. Right now we’re moving into bar-coding, and soon we’ll be matching up our systems through EDI.”

According to Treslove, Rock Solid’s investment in Syspro has been instrumental in allowing the company to grow and become increasingly profitable. “As a very rough measure of ROI,” says Treslove, “during all our recent growth we’ve only needed to add one person to our administration staff. But to me, that’s not nearly as important as the fact that Syspro lets us keep our finger directly on the pulse of the business. We no longer need to transfer information to Excel and massage it – everything we want to know about our business is at our fingertips. Syspro has given us one-hundred percent confidence in our information, from order intake to final invoicing, and everything in between.”

For more information on Rock Solid Supply, please visit: www.rocksolidsupply.com.

Odete Passingham is marketing manager for Syspro Canada.