A century-old business engages EDI for the future
Lyons Timber Mart is a 102-year-old lumber, building material and hardware store located in Sault Ste. (Sainte) Marie in Northern Ontario. To hear David Beaumont, the second generation family owner, describe it, you can buy everything needed to build a house at Lyons – from foundation, framing and roofing on the outside, to drywall, electrical, flooring, hardware and plumbing on the inside. Need a kitchen or bathroom designed and installed? No problem. Their team can do that. Contractors and retail customers almost evenly account for 80 percent of David’s revenues, with the remaining 20 through installation sales.
Having worked in the business since his teens, David developed a certain jack-of-all-trades know-how that has served him well since taking over in 1992. (His father, Richard, was the previous owner; the namesake and founder, James Lyons, the one before him.) He expanded the DIY and retail components, added two more locations, and built their design and installation business from the ground up.
While the look and offerings of Lyons has changed under David’s leadership, so has the way it runs. Preparing for the third generation of family ownership (sons Drew, Scott, and Matthew are in the business), operations are running on a system that delivers cost efficiencies and greater visibility
It wasn’t always that way. What prompted the change was an aging ERP system that hampered the Lyons team’s technology stride, and locked them into a manual rekey-and-reconcile cycle for supplier invoices
Among David’s criteria in his search for a winning software solution was a particular feature that would save time and money, and give the team a handle on what was happening in the business so they could make well-informed decisions for the future: EDI.
This is the story of his journey to EDI with LBMX.
Where he was – Before EDI with LBMX
After running Lyons for 15 years on an acceptable if limited ERP, in 2012, David set out to implement a new one, not because he wanted to, but because the system’s limited capabilities forced the issue. Though it had yet to reach end-of life, the DOS-based platform was rapidly approaching legacy status, hadn’t seen a new functionality in years, and most importantly, didn’t allow EDI for invoices.
For David’s operations, that meant a full-time accounts payable employee dedicated to downloading and printing pdfs of an estimated 15,000 invoices per year from the buying group’s central billing repository, and rekeying them into the Lyons system. The process was hugely inefficient, and not just in time costs of managing paperwork and data entry, but also in the manual reconciliation of the inevitable human errors.
Describing the process, David sharpens the pain point: “We would enter the invoice total, not the individual items. When reconciling each one, if the total matched, great, we moved on. But if they didn’t, we had to search through pieces of paper line-by-line to find the difference, and then kick the discrepancy back to the buyer.”
Evaluating several different ERP platforms, David’s radar was high for one that was robust, flexible, and could easily handle the many parts of his well established business. Just as important, however, were EDI capabilities. He eventually settled on BisTrack, a system that could do all of these things and, as a final point in the win column, was developed by a Canadian company with an existing LBMX relationship – read: a full menu of integrated EDI capabilities.
Making the right choice – Why EDI with LBMX
A member of the Calgary, Alberta-based Timber Mart Group since 1972, David was already familiar with LBMX: they were the group’s EDI provider. That meant the nation-wide network of lumber, building material and hardware dealers were accessing business-critical documents (such as invoices) via the group’s LBMX hosted repository. In fact, LBMX was the leading EDI provider for lumber and hard goods companies in Canada.
Leveraging LBMX’s technology, Timber Mart made it easy for members with EDI capabilities to integrate supplier invoices automatically into their ERP. Those without – including Lyons – were spending time printing, rekeying, filing, and reconciling needle-in-a-haystack human errors.
Looking at that win column again, David decided it was time to take advantage of EDI integration. Clinching the decision to use LBMX was the existing relationship with BisTrack, which he noted stretched beyond harmony-in-technology. “BisTrack enjoys working with them and they know their contacts. More importantly, they found LBMX to be highly responsive.”
When you're dealing with the nitty-gritty on that kind of volume, you need good people at the other end.
Though still bruised from a previous implementation for an unrelated platform that was hobbled by unresponsive and apathetic partners (“like pushing water uphill”), the sense was this one would be different. Between BisTrack and LBMX, David would have a Canada-based team of engaged, collaborative experts, working at the heart of his business to deliver a platform that was essential to its future. His mind was at ease, and LBMX would become his EDI provider.
Knowing what he does about the Lyons operations, Jim McMillan, LBMX’s Director of Client Services and the project lead, offers: “This is a well-established, second-generation business that’s strategically expanding. Operational visibility is essential for smart decision making. That’s what Lyons has with their new ERP and the full spectrum of capabilities that EDI can deliver.”
David’s hunch about the synergies between BisTrack and LBMX proved true, describing how the 2013 project “flowed easily and naturally.” Saying that EDI invoice capabilities “turned on with the flick of a switch” isn’t downplaying the solution’s complexity. Rather, it is a testament to LBMX’s time-tested, one-to-many mapping technology at the center of EDI that allows any ERP to receive documents from any supplier, regardless of the format they are sent. “There was a small amount of handshaking that had to happen between the systems,” tells David, “but otherwise, it was smooth sailing.”
Where he is now – After EDI with LBMX
The Lyons team realized gains with LBMX’s EDI immediately after it went live in March 2013. Central billing invoices from Timber Mart, plus those direct from suppliers, were downloaded and integrated into BisTrack line-by-line, giving David full visibility into his purchasing habits and trends. Those same invoices were automatically compared against the purchase orders and receiving documents (which were still input manually, but more on that in a moment), and the system flagged errors with the buyer.
Over the coming months, that new process would considerably shrink the amount of time the accounts payable employee spent each week processing invoices – from 20 hours to five, most of them spent dealing with problems, not re-keying data.
Though Lyons’ EDI solution allows the exchange of four different documents (purchase orders, acknowledgements, advance ship notices, and invoices), for now, David’s team is only leveraging the supplier invoice option. But not for long.
Where he will go – The future with EDI by LBMX
When asked about future phases, David quickly points out, “There’s huge potential for Lyons with LBMX.” With EDI’s capabilities to integrate documents lineby-line, he describes the next goal of sending purchase orders directly to a supplier’s system and receiving an order confirmation, the quantity and dollars of which quickly compared to the original order – all of it automatic, all of it electronic, no human intervention required. This would replace his current process of emailing or faxing suppliers their POs, or even phoning them in.
That functionality will be “a big win” for one of Lyons’ four buyers when confirming purchase orders. For a three store operation offering a wide hardware selection representing thousands of different SKUs, from two distributors and hundreds of direct vendors, that’s no mean feat.
Automatically reconciled, invoice will flow through the accounts payable process more quickly and smoothly, and the only errors to creep in will originate from places such as Receiving (actual goods received recorded improperly, for instance), or if products must be returned as damaged or defective.
“I’m confident LBMX will excel there, too,” he says, referencing the number of existing relationships they have built up over years of working with lumber, building material and hardware suppliers. Technology handshakes on future phases will assuredly be firm and confident, the rollout likely smooth and seamless. “When you’re dealing with the nitty-gritty on that kind of volume, you need good people at the other end.”