Connecticut wholesaler Bender Plumbing Supplies has learned that a customized technology solution enables it to maintain the high levels of customer service instituted by company founder Jack Bender as it continues to grow.

The wholesaler, which has been serving the HVAC/plumbing industry in Connecticut for more than 40 years, has grown from one location with five employees to three branches - in New Haven, Waterbury and Bridgeport, Conn. - with 50 employees. Now run by Jack's sons, Norman and David, Bender Plumbing Supplies offers commercial, industrial and HVAC products and operates registered Kohler showrooms.

“We outgrew our first technology solution since it did not provide enough user seats and had limited functionality for a fledgling plumbing/HVAC supply house,” said Mark Chirgwin, general manager for Bender Plumbing Supplies. “We evaluated several technology providers and selected DDi System for its easily customized solution for our dual showroom and inventory back-office integration needs.”

Bender's three branches operate independently. The wholesaler's technology solution provides a “looking glass” into the inventory of each branch, all from one screen regardless of the location, according to Chirgwin. The company's employees are able to instantly access order information and customer history from any of the three branches. Each branch has its own inventory master file. Bender's employees can download the product master file for a single product or product line and then update all that information to the other branches.

“This custom feature has enabled us to reduce an arduous process that took hours into a matter of minutes,” said Chirgwin. “The system will then print an exception report that identifies, by branch, if a copper fitting line is being sold at last year's pricing. The time and cost savings are invaluable.”

The customized technology solution serves both sides of the supply house from the showroom to the warehouse, which is important to a business such as Bender's that has both retail and wholesale operations, Chirgwin said.

Bender went live with the DDi System in 1996 and has upgraded the system over the years. For the future, the wholesaler is exploring the creation of a Web-based service desk. “Dave Bender and other employees access the system remotely, especially during off hours,” Chirgwin said. “Should they run into any issues, it would be great to have an online repository of information that provides answers to common problems.”

Bender is also looking to automate operations further by using bar coding, online ordering, and inventory checking by customers for available stock and prices.