County Building Supplies are a ten branch, multi-company business with outlets from Monmouth to Nuneaton. They operate in much the same way as any other independent merchants, with their own vehicle fleet for deliveries, trade counter activities and back-office sales.
What sets them apart is that they have an above average stock range (circa 19,000 lines) and their multi-company structure. County Building Supplies, an NBG member, have enjoyed better than average growth due to their progressive nature, focus on service and stock availability; but as we know, growth normally results in growing pains.
Interview with James Bradley
James Bradley (Operations Director) has enjoyed many roles in his career at County starting at the Trade Counter before moving to IT, and then Branch Manager. He recalls the story so far:
“I’ve been a long-time advocate of Information Technology within the company, as it is the only way to control the day-to-day running of the business without having to employ additional administration staff. If you are to stay in business, let alone prosper in this sector, then you need to remain lean and productive.
We bought Intact Software from Blue Rock Systems back in 2008. Once we got over the inevitable bedding-in period it had proven to be a good system and has helped us prosper. I guess that if we hadn’t grown the way we have, then we would still be using the same version today. It became obvious a few years back that we had exhausted the capabilities of the system and we needed a platform that would further improve productivity, embracing mobility and e-commerce; whilst still retaining the core attributes of the system. We had enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Blue Rock but we had a responsibility to our business and the team to ensure that we thoroughly researched the market.”
James was tasked with assessing the leading software providers to the merchant industry in the UK, a process which took 4 months towards the end of 2015. Many were invited, including Blue Rock with Intact iQ, to demonstrate to the County team and the products were scored on functionality, cost and technology.
“It was an invaluable exercise. To be fair some of the other suppliers had some really useful features which we liked and we challenged Blue Rock to offer an alternative; which they did. For me it was the modern and open nature of Intact iQ which won the day, plus the overall scoring put Blue Rock in front. This was reinforced by our opinion that they offered the best multi-company structure, which was key to us. Plus, of course, we knew the supplier well and had a good track record with them.”
The current situation
It’s now two years since Intact iQ went live at County Building Supplies. In that two years County have added further branches, meaning that the user count has reached 100 with double digit growth in turnover consecutively. James discusses what has been achieved so far.
“Was it a straightforward transition to Intact iQ? Well no, it wasn’t a walk in the park, it still required analysis and effort because, fundamentally, this is a different application. That was to be expected. Now it has settled in, we can say we are over the moon with the software.
The biggest gain for us is that we have so much more independence, we can carry out design and process changes by ourselves. Sometimes we get Blue Rock’s help and advice, but we can adapt as and when we need to, pretty much instantly. The very modern structure of the software and its industry standard database (SQL) make it much easier to create new analysis and integrate with other data sources.
Even simple things like removing a keystroke from an order entry screen saves an inordinate amount of time if you consider 100 users carrying out the same process day in, day out. Notifications within the system, which we can write and control, enable us to confront issues as and when they occur. This saves significant hours and can help avoid problems becoming worse than they ought to be.
We are continuing to expand and as a new site starts up I can carry out the setup myself, quick and simple. The integral analysis means that we don’t require any third-party software for analysis as it is very comprehensive.”
“We are rapidly embracing mobility with Intact iQ’s native app, which can be adapted for different areas of the business. Our intention is to start with a field sales app, followed by an app for the drivers which will include proof of delivery. Early testing has been very positive. In addition, we have a separate project to roll out our B2B and B2C e-commerce platform, which will be firmly embedded and integrated into Intact iQ”
“What we have now is a business system without limitations, which we have used well over the last two years and will continue to do so. Day-to-day processes have become simpler through clever automation which helps us to closely monitor the business, making our overview much more transparent.
We are able to pick up on issues and rectify them far quicker than before, usually the same day rather than at the end of the month or quarter when, historically, these would come to light. We are more focused and able to drive the business into the future with new opportunities and new technologies,” concluded James.