Times continue to change at a rapid pace for PHCP contractors. With more work to do and typically less bodies to do the work, owners and technicians at these firms are stretched thinner than ever. And in these situations one area that may suffer is inventory management.
Dayton, Ohio-based Winsupply realizes that dynamic and recently rolled out a managed inventory system designed to make life as easy as possible for its contractor customers, further cementing the national distributor’s mantra of forming partner-to-partner relationships with those it does business with.
Stock 360 is no ordinary inventory-control program. The Stock 360 name comes from the fact the program delivers a full 360-degree solution for a contractor’s inventory needs.
“We are reimagining contractors’ relationships with local Winsupply and Noland companies,” Winsupply Vice President of Sales Michael Souders tells Supply House Times. “We have great pricing and service, but we also are attacking every issue our customers face as if they are our own issue. We’re owners partnering with owners. This is a business partnership, not a typical supply house.”
So how does Stock 360 work? The web-based platform manages everything a contractor stocks (non-Winsupply-purchased products as well), thus reducing a contractor’s time spent managing inventory and inventory investment, and freeing up funds for other revenue-generating items and investments such as trucks, new employees and training.
“This platform is for a small residential service owner or a large contractor that requires inventory on a jobsite, on service trucks or at the contractor’s warehouse,” Souders says. “Let us make you more efficient and take the burden off you and let you make more money on the jobsite.”
Brian Henderson, director of managed inventory solutions at Winsupply and the main point person for the Stock 360 platform, says this new innovation is yet another way Winsupply is changing with the times.
“We are reinventing the way we play,” he says. “There are a lot of competitors out there. You need different tools or you are going to get commoditized and then you get painted into a corner. That’s not a game you can win long-term. You must have value-added services to up your game and ones that, at the end of the day, provide savings for the customers.”
Currently, Stock 360 is being implemented in many of the nearly 590 local Winsupply companies around the country. Stock 360 is set up by a trained team of local and corporate Winsupply individuals.
“We will come to the contractor and assist and train their employees on how to use Stock 360,” Souders says. “We’re solving the inventory riddle for the contractor. That’s what business owners do together.”
The benefits of the Stock 360 program, as Souders and Henderson point out, are many. The program assists in standardizing, automating and cleaning up trucks and stocking locations, can be virtually 100% customized to a particular contractor, and can be set up in the customer’s product names and SKUs (not Winsupply’s) so a contractor doesn’t have to learn a new SKU language. The system is fully automated on both the customer and Winsupply ends to eliminate keypunch errors, plus it integrates into some of the top accounting software available.
Souders says one game-changer with Stock 360 is the abovementioned ability to enter in Winsupply-purchased products, as well as non-Winsupply products.
“It’s a great advantage,” he says. “We can put in office supplies, special orders and products we may not be able to sell them. Wouldn’t all contractors like all purchases done electronically? This creates a greater efficiency for contractors. It’s one purchase-order system and everything is done electronically.”
Henderson explains minimum and maximum inventory quantities are set up for customers in Stock 360. The system then runs a restock check based off customer trends and history — essentially anticipating the need of the customer before the customer knows product needs to be replenished.
“There’s no need for an alert,” he says. “All of this happens behind the scenes. It’s an e-commerce-reactive situation from a purchasing perspective. It’s on its way before the customer even knows they need to have it. It flows into our order entry and it’s a pick, pack and ship situation from our warehouse.”
Henderson estimates Stock 360 currently generates about 75,000 transactions per week. “Everything is automated,” he says. “Nobody is at the counter having to touch product. This also frees up counter time where different day-to-day needs can be addressed.”
Keep on trucking
Henderson says in his talks with customers they tend to bring up three specific pain points, waste, proximity and cash flow, all things Stock 360 can help with, particularly when it comes to truck inventories.
“One of the different ways waste occurs is with customer inventory,” he explains. “Whether you are a plumbing contractor, or a hospital, car dealership or a manufacturing plant, there are going to be inventory problems. On the waste side, you have people taking more than they possibly need and now they have a year’s worth rolling around in the back of the truck. It’s hoarding and then it becomes damaged and potentially has to be thrown away at a loss or the product is obsolete and is lost because it’s been back there too long. Glues and adhesives have a shelf life.”
Henderson adds a service tech should be getting inventory from two main sources, his warehouse and the back of his truck.
“We’re not discouraging people to come to the Winsupply counter,” he says. “But if I’m a service contractor owner, I don’t want my techs coming to the counter all the time. If eight techs spend an hour a day at the counter, that’s one full man day. Those are billable hours instead of labor hours.”
And waste and proximity, Henderson says, feed into the cash-flow dilemma. “Overcoming waste and proximity equates to better productivity,” he notes.
Henderson, who joined Winsupply in December to work on Stock 360, notes since he’s been with the company, on average customers see a 20-30% reduction in inventory by using the platform.
“That’s significant,” he says.
Souders adds: “If you are freeing up $40,000 to $50,000 in cash that can go toward doing more advertising or adding a new truck to your fleet, wouldn’t you want to do that?”
Souders recalls one particular company that started using Stock 360 at its inception. “This company was proud of its inventory in its warehouse and on its trucks, but it was a hot mess,” he explains. “Things were in the wrong places. What the owner saw was dollars lying around when they shouldn’t be. We ripped the Band-Aid off real quick and now that company is on its way.”
And at the end of the day, Souders says it all revolves around being the best business partner for the customer. Henderson adds the scenario of the tech stopping in for donuts and conversation at the supply house is quickly going by the wayside in an ever-changing marketplace.
“The days of the product-schlepper and the donut-holer are over,” he says. “People don’t have time for that anymore.”
Souders adds: “Our customers know where to get donuts, they don’t know how to clean up their inventory and they don’t know how to get $40,000 to $50,000 in savings from that to use in a more effective way in their business.”
Henderson notes Stock 360 is helping Winsupply customers realize their fullest potential. “We’re entangling ourselves deeper with our customers,” he says. “We don’t want to have just a counter seat with the customer. We want a board seat where we are integrated in their business and helping them succeed at the highest levels possible.”
This article was originally titled “Easy to do business with” in the November 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.