Success Story

Supply America

Accuracy and speed are the backbone of their business – and their e-catalogue

Through their amalgamated network of independently-owned distributors ('members'), Supply America is the perfect solution for large national food service operators: They can provide everything but the food and beverages on the table to food-based operations in towns and cities across the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska.

For some context of their size, consider that Supply America offers nearly 500,000 items to their customers online, and an individual catalogue can feature 80,000 items. This includes not only plates, glasses, cutlery, linens, and take-out food containers, but everything needed behind the scenes from kitchen supplies and cooking equipment to food prep paraphernalia, storage solutions, janitorial and cleaning supplies as well. Then account for the diversity of their customers who are national fast food, café and restaurant chains; many businesses in the hospitality and resort industry; plus, government and corporate offices, hospitals, and educational institutions that run cafeterias for their employees.

Nearly a half million items with a one- to two-day delivery lead time for most locations in the U.S. is a promise Supply America and its member network has fulfilled for years. Not difficult to see the importance of online ordering capabilities. Nor is it a stretch to imagine their frustration with an e-catalogue that was failing to meet their changing needs. When provider support for the system was coming to an end, Supply America launched the search for a scalable, reliable and accurate solution that would be the backbone of their business.

This is Supply America's journey to e-catalogue with LBMX. Supply America

Where they were – Before the LBMX e-catalogue

Though the e-catalogue Supply America implemented in 2005 initially met their needs, it was not long before they realized their reach would soon exceed the technology's grasp. The company had grown and their needs had changed, but the software and the provider failed to move into the future with them. "Any features we wanted were going to be highly customized, which meant they were either too expensive or would take too long" explains David Levy, an IT consultant who at one time helmed IT at a distribution company in Supply America's network, but via his firm Consult Levy, was engaged as a trusted advisor to guide and inform this strategic investment.

For a decade, the company used the system without significant or proactive upgrades, and did not see any coming down the pike. "It was clear the situation would become worse instead of better," explains David. When the system was coming to "end of life," it meant Supply America would lose technical support on the old platform, such that it was.

With a product list that numbers well into the hundreds of thousands, a national network of distributors, and customers throughout the U.S. – many are big well-known brands with tens of thousands of their own locations – an inadequate online catalogue can be a significant disadvantage. Though the risk of losing customers may not be immediate, customer service levels will suffer (and likely lead to that loss anyway), the brand promise will be impacted, and growth hobbled. Also, consider how Supply America receives several hundred customer orders and processes many thousands of invoices every day. An online catalogue ordering system was a big mission-critical deal.

Supply America launched the search for a new platform that met their immediate needs, would grow with their business, and was supported by a well-established team of experts.

"This platform is critical to our operations. We wanted to make sure the partner we chose would be in this for the long haul"

Making the right choice – Why LBMX

While the number of providers offering robust online ordering solutions is small, the gaps between capabilities of the experts developing and managing them can be massive. After meeting with LBMX, and before settling on them as the new provider, David and the Supply America team carried out a thorough reference-check process. With good reason, too. Given their previous experience, Supply America wanted to make sure LBMX had expert resources and a track record of success. "This platform is critical to our operations. We wanted to make sure the partner we chose would be in this for the long haul," explains David.

Talent noted and a history of successes confirmed, he adds that LBMX's interest also helped them stand out from the small crowd. "They showed a genuine enthusiasm to learn about the issues we faced, and understand why some of the functions they could deliver needed to be added or changed."

The biggest checkmark in the win column for LBMX came by way of their commitment to the entrepreneurial space. Though the company typically focuses on buying groups, and Supply America is a selling group, the spirit of the business model remains the same: independent entrepreneurs coming together for a competitive edge – the sole focus of LBMX since its inception in 2000. "Serving the independent isn't part of their business, it is their business," says David, "and that went a long way in building our confidence that they truly understood our model and could meet our needs – proactively and specifically – now and down the road."

Supply America

The Solution

"We already had a very robust business-to-business ordering tool, and partnering with Supply America allowed us to enhance it as a selling tool for national accounts," said Steve Seguin, Vice President of Products for LBMX.

The result was an e-catalogue rich with essential product details and functionalities. For instance, displayed pricing is customer-specific and makes for an improved user experience. Purchase orders are automatically and rapidly routed to the member associated with each customer location, and if they are unable to fill the entire single order, remaining items are sent to another member (or members, if necessary) and without losing any order data along the way. LBMX also developed "punch-out" capabilities with selected procurement systems to seamlessly integrate Supply America product ordering with the customer's business processes.

Building on the network/group model, the e-catalogue platform is branded to Supply America and seamlessly integrates with their Web site. For the customer, that means they see a single unified face – as it should be for companies who have a deep commitment to customer service. For the individual regional member, it means they can service large national customers.

Vital to retaining a national account is accurate pricing. However, ensuring every individual member invoice reflects agreed-upon pricing can be a challenge, and with large numbers of members and customers, mistakes can creep in. The online ordering solution solves this by routing customer invoices through the LBMX Solution Centre.

Steve makes a point to distill any discussion of the solution's technical capabilities to its essence: "What's important is orders are placed easily, filled quickly, and invoiced correctly, regardless of the customer's location."

"Processing orders correctly and swiftly is critical to us, our brand, our members, and our customers."

Where they are now – After e-catalogue with LBMX

"Uninterrupted" is how David describes Supply America's current state with the LBMX online ordering solution since it was implemented in November 2015. While that may seem like faint praise, the very opposite is true. Recall the volume of orders and invoices the system handles daily: hundreds of one, many thousands of the other. The fact that the LBMX e-catalogue solution was implemented and running without interrupting a moment of business for Supply America or their customers is a big achievement.

Except for a few who had to incorporate new user names into their daily routines, David noted customers' experiences with the new catalogue has been "neutral," another seemingly less-than-ideal state. But when a major change in backend technology is switched on, business-as-usual is precisely what a company wants.

To sharpen neutral, note Supply America's two essential requirements of the system are accuracy and speed. As a demonstration of their importance, consider order deadlines, with which most members in the network operate. If a customer places an online catalogue order before a deadline, they rightfully expect product to arrive within the promised one- to two-day window. The LBMX system automatically and accurately routes the purchase order to the correct member (again, sometimes several for a single order). Says David, "Processing orders correctly and swiftly is critical to us, our brand, our members, and our customers."

David notes Supply America realizes additional benefits by working with LBMX. First, system administration is no longer a line item in their budget, and that has a positive impact on the bottom line. Now, LBMX's team of experts manage the platform, freeing up Supply America resources to focus on other important matters. Second, an aligned dedication to service. Since the system went live, any necessary tweaks have been implemented or are in development. A far cry from the days where improvements were resigned as too expensive, complex or lengthy to be worth doing.

Where they will go – The future with e-catalogue by LBMX

For Supply America, LBMX's solution means they can continue to pursue the larger, more complex customers requiring national buys. Because the system can accurately and reliably direct the order and the invoice to the correct local distributor no matter where in the U.S. they are, "large national companies can see Supply America as a highly viable product supplier," says David.

His sentiments are echoed by Steve who adds that a national account ordering program like LBMX's allows groups to focus on increasing revenue via additional sales, making the technology a tremendous opportunity for the members as well.

Wherever they take their business, Supply America is operating with an e-catalogue that gives them the features, speed and reliability they need to carry out their brand promise with customers across the country. More than that, in the team at LBMX they have found a collaborative technology partner and trusted business advisor who understands and is equally committed to the independent entrepreneur.

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