Success Story: L&M Office Furniture
Managing Operations with DDMS
Soon after purchasing L&M Office Furniture in 2002, Cari and Gordon Marshall realized that some changes needed to be made, including an upgrade in software. The dealership had been using an accounting package rather than an industry-specific program.
“L&M had parts of MAS 90,” Cari explains. “MAS 90 was sold by ‘package,’ meaning if you purchased all the packages, you would have a complete system. The former owner only bought some of the available packages, so we ended up with strong accounting and inventory, some order entry and purchasing, but these ‘parts’ did not talk to each other.”
“What we needed was a live system, working in real-time that could manage all of the components, including the inventory. MAS 90 definitely was not a good solution.”
It became clear to the Marshalls that their company needed to reduce costs and improve efficiency if it was going to survive. That’s when the switch was made to ECi’s DDMS.
The contrast was clear to the Marshalls. “If I put an order in DDMS, it immediately relieves my inventory, ” says Cari. The difference becomes even more evident when Cari and Gordon consider their long history in the office products industry.
New Beginnings for Old Pros
Even before their purchase of L&M, the Marshalls were already familiar with the Tulsa-based dealership from their work with L&M on the manufacturing side. Both were employed with the HON Industries companies—Cari for 24 years, and her husband for 26.
Together, the husband-and-wife team has more than 60 years of combined experience in the office furniture industry, and Cari says she has learned a lot about business systems during her career.
“I knew about a lot of the different operating systems and CAD programs because part of my job was to align the manufacturer with the support that was out there to help the dealers,” she says.
The couple’s diverse experience shows in their dealership; in addition to HON, L&M represents Knoll, Kimball Office, National, Paoli and many other manufacturers. Cari says, “We are somewhat of a hybrid dealership. We go all the way from the high-end contract, down through middle-market and into used, which we also use for loaners and rentals. In our target market, it’s a mix that works really well.”
L&M is also an environmentally aware company that works with green manufacturers.
“Most of the manufactures we carry are ‘green’ — meaning they are producing environmentally-friendly products and/or using recycled components to meet the criteria for sustainability,” says Cari.
But that isn’t the only way that L&M contributes to the green movement. “We buy back used furniture from companies who are ready to upgrade, and we give them credit towards new purchase,” Cari explains. “We’re able to sell those gently used pieces to start-up groups or use them for loaners or rentals for companies whose furniture has not come in yet. We do try to keep items out of the landfill by bringing them back through our store, tuning them up and selling them on our used floor.”
L&M began using DDMS in April of 2002. Today, the software basically runs everything the company does from a transaction standpoint.
“We use it starting with quotes from our salespeople, which are done on CAP worksheets. These are imported into order entry and processed through purchasing and accounting,” says Cari. “We have a lot of product in inventory, and a lot of products shipping in, so it’s really important that the system manage those things throughout the order cycle.”
For space planning and specification, the company uses a combination of AutoCAD and CAP Studio software from 20-20 Technologies. This software handles the design and specification element while DDMS handles the business side.
“Because it imports into DDMS, it’s very easy to use,” says Cari. “All of the salespeople use CAP worksheets.”
L&M has also started taking advantage of electronic purchasing with Kimball and National through ECi’s Internet-based Private Supply Network (PSN), which is fully integrated with DDMS. While L&M has only been using the PSN recently, the company is already seeing the benefits and plans to use it with HON and Knoll when they are available in the future.
“[The PSN] helps in terms of speed and accuracy. We get the order to the vendor in seconds. It also auto-fills many of the forms for us, so that’s more time saved,” says Cari. “We were using Internet ordering before…, but now we don’t have to [enter the data] all over again on an Internet site.”
With the PSN, dealers can transmit orders directly to manufacturers without having to use third-party software, re-key data, or even log into a manufacturer Web site. Orders are transmitted directly from DDMS, saving time and labor and improving accuracy.
The PSN is only one of the advances ECi has introduced for office furniture dealers over the years. Cari has known about the company since its early days, and says that its systems have really come a long way.
“One of the things that has come with time is DDMS has evolved into a very good office furniture program. Now, it can support a variety of different models of furniture dealers, and do it well. There is a lot of flexibility in it — you don’t have to match [your business flow] up to the program, the program can pretty much adapt to the needs of an office furniture dealer,” she says.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the high level of dealer involvement in the software. Cari says, “One of the things that I really like…is that they are flexible enough to still be listening to dealer input. I’m part of the advisory council for furniture, and we very much appreciate having an opportunity to talk about things that are coming and to help set direction and priorities.”
Cari adds, “We hope ECi is around for a really long time—it’s very integral for our business. I think the things going on with ECi are good.”