The plumbing supply industry and our showrooms, as well as many re-distribution businesses, are run ERP systems that are based on the IBM AS/400 or DOS. Both originated in the 1980s. We are an industry that looks to shave pennies to scale and limit our operational invest. We live by “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and so we have gone for a millennia. But, the possibility of having a knowledgable consultant in our pocket might just change the way we employ computers in all facets of business.

For this article, we will focus on your showroom and how the newly emerging artificial intelligence, AI, can help make you business better.

Concerning today’s hot AI property, GPT from OpenAi, many mature experts comment that it is at the same stage as the personal computer was at in the 1980s. That was a time when computers were typically a 16” x 5” system unit with a separate keyboard and robust monitor all weighing at over 20 pounds and were priced from $1.200 to $5,000 depending on the brand and it capabilities. And the screen looked like this:

Computer, Green, Blue

These computers took up a lot of space, were heavy, expensive and not easy to use. There was not graphic interface, there was no email and there was no Internet. If you had an operations issue the answers were in maybe in the manual. It was not easy sailing. The people that used these machines were primarily programmers, accounts and those on the financial side of the business. Sure, the early computers were fabulous machines, but they were difficult to use and were only cost effective for a specific section of the business world.

Now, let’s compare the PC journey above with how easy it was to start interacting with GPT? All the barriers that slowed down the adoption of personal computers are nowhere to be seen with GPT. It is simply, login and start asking questions.

Okay, so what does that have to do with my showroom?

From showroom to showroom, the most significant issue is finding good people. And then when a talented person is added to the showroom floor it takes them up to two years to being them up to speed. They have to learn all of the intricacies of specifying a complete, luxury bathroom, understand what vendors sell what and how to effectively use the companies system. A new to industry showroom consultant is constantly asking questions. Does this come in graphite finish? Does this company offer a thermostat in this series? Are these vales in stock? And if there is no one free to answer their questions, they have to dig through the catalogs, web sites and a new computer system. It takes a long time and a lot of perseverance and patience. But that has changed:

chat window

This is one simple example, there are many situations situations that a showroom consultant must address and today’s will not have all the answers. But, in a few short years it will be able to answer just about any question your new, average and top consultant s will ask.

I could continue to site showroom benefits and discuss advantages in marketing, inventory, competition pricing and a lot more but I think the two basic points of this article have been illustrated.

  1. AI in 2023 is a viable tool to leverage the talents of your team and help speed the development of new employees.
  2. AI is very easy to both access and use.

Since our hunter gather days, we have been creating tools to leverage our capacity to improve ourselves and artificial intelligence is just the next in that line. And this is one powerful tool.

Our industry has been slow to adopt new technology and with that formula we have remained strong and profitable. But the immediate effectiveness of this tool and the market’s obvious commitment to improvement plus today’s speed of change, this is not a time to stand on the sidelines. Please dive into this opportunity and work with your team to create the process to bring AI into your culture.

As always, if you would like to discuss this strategy in more depth, please reach out to me on LinkedIn,

This article was written with the help of GPT4, and LEX,