Companies Gain from Business Software 

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Progressive Solutions an Important Partner to Varied Forest Products Companies

Can a computer software program help a forest products company generate more sales? In a word, yes.
Progressive Solutions is a leading supplier of business software solutions to the forest products industry. Its customers, both large and small, have reaped substantial benefits from Progressive Solutions software products.
In addition to increasing sales, Progressive Solutions software enables forest products business to capture and manage information about their operations in order to improve efficiency and profitability.
The company’s premier software product is Lumber Track, now available in its seventh version. Lumber Track integrates everything from procurement to sales, inventory management and reporting. The software is quicker to install and configure, and functions have been added to enhance sales, shipping and reporting.
Progressive Solutions also supplies hand-held data collection devices specially programmed with software for inventory counts, load tallies and end tallies to speed data collection; they may be interfaced with Lumber Track. Tag Track is a stand-alone tag printing station to tag inventory at receiving or production; it prints product identification tags, including bar codes, in order to provide tracking information and also can be interfaced with Lumber Track. Other products include Fiber Track, a complete log procurement and settlement package, and bisTrack, software for building materials suppliers.
In addition to increasing sales, information technology from Progressive Solutions can help a business reduce costs, improve efficiencies and expand operations.
Progressive Solutions software products are based on more than a decade of experience with the forest products industry. The company has regular contact with a group of customers to obtain feedback on its products and remain up to date on industry trends – insights that are incorporated into successive versions of its software.
Progressive Solutions software programs are flexible and scalable; no matter what size a company, Progressive Solutions can supply solutions to meet business information management needs.
According to Progressive Solutions, Lumber Track has the largest installed base of business software in the wood products industry. More wood is shipped using Lumber Track than with any other software supplier. Shipments from its Lumber Track customers make up more than:
n 30% of the softwood produced by the top 50 softwood producers;
n 45% of the panels and oriented strand board produced by the top 20 panel-board producers; and
n 20% of the hardwood produced by the top 50 hardwood producers.
Progressive Solutions also counts mid-size and small forest products businesses among its clients. Progressive Solutions introduced the Express Track implementation process to aid smaller companies. By scaling and pre-configuring Lumber Track to the typical needs of one- and two-site primary and secondary manufacturers, Progressive Solutions can offer faster start-ups and increased affordability.
Project managers, business analysts and implementers for Progressive Solutions have learned how to manage software implementation and how to streamline the process. In addition, the company’s products incorporate the best business practices of the forest products industry’s most innovative and profitable companies.
Lumber Track is designed for businesses across the spectrum of the forest product industry, including primary manufacturers of hardwood and softwood lumber and panels, secondary manufacturers of such value-added wood products as moulding and engineered products, and lumber wholesale and distribution operations.
These businesses in the forest products industry face a number of challenges, according to Progressive Solutions. Challenges include tight margins, a changing customer base, huge inventory costs, and information management among various divisions and locations. Business software from Progressive Solutions creates profit-building opportunities, such as the ability to sell products and inventory from multiple locations.
Among the company’s customers are Townsend Lumber-Breeze Wood Group in Tillsonburg, Ontario, The Collins Companies in Portland, Ore., and the Jim C. Hamer Co. in Kenova, W.Va.
Townsend Lumber is a vertically integrated hardwood business with two sawmills and a remanufacturing plant. With its subsidiary, Kitchener Forest Products, the company produces 24 million board feet of hardwood lumber annually. Breeze Wood Forest Products manufactures quality hardwood mouldings, trim, flooring and dimensional cut stock.
Townsend needed an end-to-end system that could integrate its log yard, sawmill and manufacturing operations. The company chose Progressive Solutions’ Fiber Track to manage inventory and transactions in the log yard and Lumber Track to manage inventory and day-to-day business functions in its sawmills and manufacturing plant. Townsend also uses Progressive Solution’s hand-held data collection devices to capture real-time inventory throughout lumber production.
“The best thing is the inventory control,” André Vezina, Townsend’s group controller, said of Lumber Track. “It has increased sales because the sales people can do better searches to find product, or alternatives, while they have the customer right on the phone.”
Lumber Track streamlined a number of business functions for Townsend, according to André. For example, when previously preparing invoices, the company had to print off the bill of lading and shipping list, then enter the information into an accounting software system in order to print the invoice. “Now,” said André, “all the information is in the same system, and you just have to print the invoice when the product ships. This has cut invoicing time by at least 65 to 70 percent. What used to take us four hours each day takes us an hour.”
In looking to replace an existing software program, André sought a system that could be used ‘out of the box’ without the need for a custom-written program, although he “wasn’t sure if that was possible.”
“It works great,” said André. “Progressive Solutions exceeded my expectations.”
The Collins Companies, with plants in Oregon, California and Pennsylvania, is a leading producer of softwood and hardwood lumber, hardboard siding and particleboard. It was the first North American forest products company to grow, manufacture and market a full line of wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, implementing sustainable practices at all its facilities.
“We’re not a particularly large company, but we make up for it with diversity of products and our commitment to sustainable practices,” said Eric Schooler, president and CEO of Collins.
Prior to implementing business software from Progressive Solutions, the company used multiple systems for inventory and sales management at its plants. The Collins Companies also lacked a company-wide accounting system. Managing credit, accounts receivable and other tasks were inefficient. In addition, it did not have the capability to retrieve historical sales and customer data that would show trends for companies and products.
The Collins Companies sought a system that could bring the entire company under one system, provide the sales data it wanted, and improve efficiency of its financial functions. The company reviewed several options and chose Lumber Track and its integrated accounting and financial software, Lumber Track Financials, from Progressive Solutions.
“Lumber Track could do more of the things we needed, more cost effectively than the other options,” said Lee Richardson, vice president of marketing and sales for the Collins Companies.
“Lumber Track has allowed us to cross-sell products,” said Eric. “The same person can sell multiple products. And we can produce the same kind of reports to analyze what we’ve been doing.”
The Collins Companies has integrated accounting and financial functions at all its locations with Lumber Track and Lumber Track Financials. “We’re definitely doing a lot more things, managing a lot more parts of our business and turning over a lot more invoices,” said Eric. “And we’re doing it with slightly fewer people.”
The Jim C. Hamer Co. produces quality hardwoods, primarily oak, poplar and maple. The company’s seven sawmills produce 70 million board feet of green lumber and 25 million board feet of kiln-dried lumber annually.
Hamer needed a software system that could track production, inventory and shipping at all its sawmills from the central sales office.
“We wanted more and better information in front of our sales people,” said Lew Baumgarner, vice president of finance for Jim C. Hamer Co. “The sales people need to have information in front of them so they can quickly determine what they have available to sell and what commitments they can make to the customer.”
The sales personnel sell products from multiple sawmills. Typically, orders involve multiple truckloads, with a portion of the order being filled at each sawmill according to the species being produced at that time.
The Jim C. Hamer Co. chose Lumber Track business software from Progressive Solutions. “It’s all there,” said Lew, from green lumber to invoicing. “It offered opportunities for order control, receivables, trucking and production planning.”
Hardwood customers are requiring more specific information about lumber width and length, noted Lew. “Sometimes they want that information faxed to them before we ship the load. Progressive Solutions worked with us to produce end tally reports, where each board is counted and its width and length is recorded. Basically, we need an analysis of the frequency distribution of widths and lengths, and the averages for the load. It’s more analytical than a package of 2x4s, eight feet long.” Lumber Track software enables the Jim C. Hamer Co. to “commit specific boards and end tallies based on an accurate knowledge of inventory on hand.”
Another challenge in the hardwood industry is the perishable nature of green lumber, which can stain rapidly after cutting, particularly in the summer. It is a challenge that can be managed with the aid of information technology. “The fact that many hardwoods are shipped green, not dried, creates an urgency for information,” said Lew. “Information has to be handled quickly, and there needs to be a fast turn on green inventory.”
Technology can increase a company’s production and administrative efficiencies. Successful primary producers traditionally invest considerably in technology to automate, optimize and speed production, sorting and handling. Investment in information technology has lagged, however. Most industries invest about 3% of revenues in information technology, according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study in 2001; however, the forest products industry invests only 1.5%.
Lumber Track provides a number of important benefits for forest products businesses, according to Progressive Solutions. These include:
n Increased sales due to improved knowledge of stock, faster sales response and administrative ability to handle more orders. (The company has two customers that reported a 20% increase in sales.)
n Reduced inventory to support the same sales volume. (One customer reduced inventory 33%.)
n Faster inventory turn-over, lower costs.
n Higher volumes with the same people or the same volume with fewer people.
n Fewer mistakes and improved customer service.
For more information, see the Progressive Solutions Web site at www.progressive-solutions.com or call the company toll-free at (877) 746-4774.