Posted on

Technology: Cloud-based software helps flooring retailers stay mobile

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lindsay Baillie

 

In keeping with the growing computing demands of small and large businesses alike, technology companies are developing a host of cloud-based software programs and systems. The primary goal is to provide their customers with improved data sharing and security, better user access, easy upgrades and software fixes.

While there are multiple differences between a cloud-based system and an in-house program, one of the most significant is the fact that a cloud-based system is not housed within a customer’s desktop computer. This allows the user to access specific programs anywhere as long as he or she has Internet or browser access. What’s more, because cloud-systems do not require direct changes to a user’s desktop, updates and software fixes are more easily implemented and can often be customized for each user.

Following are some of the industry’s top cloud-based software systems and their recent program updates:

American Business Software
ABS offers FloorPro, a cloud-based software that often looks different for each customer. According to Joseph Flannick, ABS president, the software consists of 400 to 500 programs depending on how it is configured for a specific customer. In addition to a customized system, updates—which are delivered through the cloud—are also specific to a user and dependent on his or her needs.

A key feature of the system is its versatility. “Not everyone gets the same thing at the same time,” Flannick explained. “Across the course of a year there are generally 150-200 new updates and a lot of stuff are things people have requested. Our software is developed for cloud-based operation, so it works extremely fast in a cloud-based environment.”

Comp-U-Floor
Comp-U-Floor has offered its ERP software as a cloud-based option for more than 10 years. The company currently has thousands of users accessing its cloud services from the U.S. and Canada.

“Our Comp-U-Floor ERP software has been redeveloped under a web and mobile platform,” said Mark Wiltgen, sales and marketing manager. “What this means to our clients is the software is no longer based on a Microsoft Windows platform, which limits the type of devices that are used to access the software. Users can now access the Comp-U-Floor ERP software on any device with an Internet connection and web browser. This allows users to be completely mobile and still have access to the software.”

FloorSoft
FloorSoft’s cloud-based software for measuring and estimating was developed in 1998. Since then the program has grown to include more than 1,500 users in 46 states and Canada.

“When we started our program we didn’t really have a development partner,” said John Petrel, president. “Now that we have a product we found users have a lot of ideas and they’re willing to tell us how to make it better.”

According to Petrel, the company collects suggestions and puts them on an issue list. Then every two weeks FloorSoft has a meeting and reviews all of the issues and suggestions. These ideas are then put into production. “Once we deliver them to production we put out a notification to all users and we acknowledge the person or persons who had the idea,” Petrel explained.

What’s more, the company has developed a system to assist users who might have to use the program in areas without Internet access.

“Even though we are cloud based, when you are in the field measuring you don’t have to have Internet connection,” Petrel explained. “Before you go out into the field to measure, you contact the cloud and the system takes all of the information about the job and downloads it to the client. Later, when you reconnect, you can bring the data back to the cloud so anyone on the team can access the data.”

Measure Square
Measure Square currently offers cloud-based software through its popular FloorLink CRM system. Recent enhancements have improved efficiencies for users across the system.

“In our most recent update of the FloorLink CRM, we have added a dashboard function that makes it easier for administrators to keep track of various aspects of the sales and installation process,” said Darienne Jordan, office coordinator and marketing manager. “As well, we have added a job funnel to keep track of job progress with all installers and estimators. This updated version is designed to make it easier to keep track of and follow up with customer management for those utilizing our software.”

One of the biggest benefits to using cloud-based software is the ability to see and share projects amongst a group of users. “This makes for more effective management of projects and saves time when having to access product databases or needing to make changes to a takeoff for an existing project,” Jordan noted.

NivBen
NivBen’s Premium Flooring Estimator 2040 is a cloud-based software program that can be used for residential projects and new commercial buildings. The software includes other programs such as proposals/samples, schedule measure request forms, a roll manager and an instruction manual to help streamline processes.

“Bidding on projects big or small can affect the bottom line if not done right,” said Dennis Benton, president. “The use of computers has helped me and my company fix ‘miss measures’ or math mistakes. You are able to estimate showing master cuts and fills with all seams showing. Proposals can be made much faster because all quantities are transferable over to the invoice.”

The Premium Flooring Estimator 2040 draws from the PDF layout provided by the architect all the products that are being specified for bid. These take-offs separate each product needed to be estimated and supply the user with all of the quantities for that layout.

Pacific Solutions
PacSol Cloud, the company’s browser-based system, allows users to check customer and vendor information as well as work orders via an Internet browser.

“We’ve had a cloud-based system for years because our technology runs on Apple products,” said Bob Noe Jr., president. “The downside is it only works on the IOS system, so we have started writing some modules.”

According to Noe, converting to cloud is something that takes time and requires knowledge about what platforms a company is developing for. “Converting to cloud for us is building the very best solution so when users access it through any device it rocks. To make the software really right we have to think: What does the user need to see when she looks at this program on her phone? If we were to jam every feature into the Android phone that’s on a desk platform it would be overwhelming.”

QFloors
QFloors offers two types of cloud software technology: QCloud, which has been around approximately 15 years, and QPro, a new product that was developed over the past few years.

QCloud gives users access to their complete QFloors system through servers stored on the cloud. Customers access their QFloors software through an icon on their desktop. QPro is based on web browser and mobile app innovations. This type of system is accessed via any type of device with a web browser and removes the expense of paying licensing fees to third-party companies.

“You are not required to download or install anything, and you can use whatever brand or type of device you wish as long as it has a web browser,” said Chad Ogden, CEO and president. “Once the users log in through the browser, they can then access their QFloors system and data.”

Eventually the full QFloors system will be converted to this new QPro technology, beginning with QPro POS+, which is expected to be released by the end of 2017.

RFMS
RFMS offers numerous cloud-based software and services—a web-based hosting service and several mobile applications. With the hosting service, RFMS users can access the company’s business management software using the Internet. All the software is in the cloud, which means the RFMS user no longer has to worry about system updates, hardware maintenance, backups or operating system updates.

“We also offer two distinct products that use cloud technology to streamline the way the sales process works in the flooring operation,” said Maria Cauchon, media services director. “With these two applications, a salesperson can estimate, create quotes or orders and post payments using any mobile device. RFMS Mobile allows orders and payments, product look-ups and more while in the field or in a customer’s home. The information then connects to the cloud to sync up with the database, updating the main RFMS system.”

Measure Mobile 3, another RFMS application, lets users draw rooms and apply RFMS product information to create a quick estimate. “RFMS Mobile is undergoing a soft rollout and we expect to see many features and upgrades in the next quarter,” Cauchon said.

RollMaster
RollMaster software is delivered one of two ways. The first is via a secure cloud-based server that the company hosts and protects; the other is via a user’s own installed server. Regardless of how the user chooses to set up the software, the program can be accessed from anywhere at any time with Internet access on a laptop or desktop computer. “We are moving in a very mobile-friendly direction with the software,” said Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator. “This means several browser-based and mobile phone applications can access key data from the system.”

A couple of these products include the RMMobileSales app, which allows for outside salespeople to look up customer data, product pricing and inventory availability. The RMWeb Installation Calendar app connects floor layers in the field with the scheduling and installation component of RollMaster software. The company’s new API Integration allows for non-flooring-specific business features to interact with RollMaster data. This includes features such as Testimonial Tree to gather and post online reviews, marketing integration and CRM platforms.

Surge1
Surge1 is a fully scalable, cloud-based platform designed to provide office automation for installation companies. Surge1’s product provides a complete, standalone solution that also integrates easily with existing systems.

“Our solution was designed from the ground up by installers,” said Jacob Myatt, CEO. “Our installation specialists work with our development team each day to create the best solution for office, field and warehouse.”

The company is working on several updates including its offline mobile app, which is expected to launch in the first quarter for Android and Apple products. This will allow flooring installers to see their schedules, pay sheets and measure diagrams when they travel to an area outside of cell service.

 

Posted on

Technology: 10 steps to choosing the right flooring software for your business

May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.36.50 AMA retailer’s quest for the perfect flooring software can be compared to a customer’s journey to finding the right floor. Concerns such as the type of software, the store’s traffic and the software’s maintenance are all things to consider before implementing a specific system.

With tons of enticing choices in the market, it can be difficult to find the best fit. Luckily, software companies in the flooring industry are more than willing to share tips and key questions to ask when looking for flooring software.

Following are some of their considerations and suggestions:

Make sure it’s easy to use
Ease of use and good design are two of the most important things to look for when choosing technology, according to Chad Ogden, CEO and president of QFloors. “If a software system has all the features you want but is hard to use, you won’t be able to use the included features.”

He also warns that most, if not all, software companies will say their software is easy to use, so be sure to ask a host of questions about the software including: Can you play around with the software yourself? How many mouse clicks, screens and drop downs are needed to complete everyday tasks? (The more steps, the more complicated a system can be.) Other questions to ask dealers: How long did it take to convert from their old system? How long does it takes to train new employees on the system? Were there any unexpected charges?

In terms of measuring software, Dr. Steven Wang, president of Measure Square, explained that while the software should be easy to use, “it should also be fully featured so you can measure the details. You should be able to work with a laser to measure an office or residential floor.”

Get other opinions
In addition to talking with the software manufacturers and their current customers, QFloors’ Ogden suggests seeking the advice of other industry members. “Ask fcB2B suppliers that you deal with which software works well with their systems. Ask WFCA which systems it recommends.” (WFCA recently created a technology division that specializes helping dealers in this way.)

Bob Noe Jr., president of Pacific Solutions, also stressed the importance of talking to other software users. “The ability to speak with current users about their experience with a system and the software provider is invaluable.”

Do your research
Before you jump into using one software program, make sure you have done your research—on both your business and the different programs available.

“Gather facts from all of the credible software providers,” Pacific Solutions’ Noe explained. “Don’t get tunnel vision about a single system just because your buying group or a colleague recommends it. Remember, it’s not always what a system accomplishes, it’s how elegantly it accomplishes a task that differentiates one system from another. An inefficiently designed system will increase the total cost of ownership for many years to come.”

Once you have collected enough information about each software company, begin to compare systems, features, prices, etc. Mark Wiltgen, sales and marketing manager, Comp-U-Floor, suggests retailers make a list of everything they want the software to accomplish. This will make it easier to determine which software package is the best fit.

“As the saying goes, you want to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges,” Wiltgen explained. “Too many times we see retailers choose vendor products because of the price or get a trimmed down version of the software to lower the cost. When taking this approach, the retailer will usually end up looking for new software or costly upgrades within a year, because the software has limited functionality to meet the changing requirements as the business grows or changes.”

Determine the cost/time savings
As a business owner, time and money are two very important factors. QFloors’ Ogden suggests retailers ask about any additional costs including demos, adding on features, B2B, training and maintenance fees.

Retailers should also find out whether or not a software company is interested in expanding its features. According to Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator for RollMaster, retailers should ask the following: “How expansive is the software with the fcB2B initiative? Is the software company dealing with only a few vendors and a handful of electronic files, or is it up-to-date with everything the industry has to offer and making efforts to continually update and improve? How is the software working to develop other avenues of automation, such as credit card processing, barcoding, electronic document storage, cloud-based access and data storage for 24/7 access from any Internet connected device, etc.”

While concern for immediate costs is important, retailers should also be aware of long-term costs. Comp-U-Floor’s Wiltgen explained that retailers should ask companies if the software will help them grow their business, and will it be able to accommodate that growth without significant costs or upgrades?

Remain committed
Incorporating a software system into your business requires follow through, specialists say. It is a commitment that requires constant upkeep by all members of your team. “Even the best software will not work if it is not correctly implemented— which means it starts with management and works down to each area of the operation entering data every step of the way,” Rollmaster’s Oechslin explained. “That’s when a business will truly see the benefit of a flooring software system.”

Ask for demos
One of the best ways to test if a software program is right for your business is to request a demo from the software company. “After you have narrowed it down to a few finalists, request an online or onsite presentation for all of the key people in your company,” Pacific Solutions’ Noe said. “When the majority of your staff takes ownership of the new system at the onset, it’s less likely that you will need to push or compel them to use the system down the road.”

Focus on flooring-specific programs
For Dave Dumoulin, director of sales, RFMS, finding a software program tailored for the flooring industry is key. “Our industry has many different requirements. For example, when purchasing carpet, we are purchasing by the square yard or by lineal feet. Does the software handle roll calculations? Many of the common, off-the-shelf software systems only handle the unit count of each or box. In our industry, we use a tremendous amount sub-contractor labor. Does the software handle labor properly, including installer purchases and deductions? Or does it treat labor the same as a product vendor through accounts payable?”

Choosing a flooring-specific package helps automate and control key business functions unique to the flooring industry such as sales, purchasing, inventory control, etc. It should also increase productivity by eliminating many manual tasks as well as provide ROI by helping to control costs, track job profitability, report sales trends and improve customer service, experts say.

Beware of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ program
Software that handles front and back end office functions can be broken down into three categories: off the self, flooring specific and completely custom, according to Joseph Flannick, president, American Business Software (ABS). The off-the-shelf software is the least expensive and can accomplish basic functions. However, it has its negatives. “The disadvantages [to using this software] are that these packages don’t handle the unique aspects of flooring such as run numbers, dye lots and square foot/carton conversions. It’s a one-size-fits-all environment and there is little room for customization.”

This type of software might be useful for newer companies, experts say. However, users should expect to upgrade as their company grows.

Look into integrated software
Another point to consider is whether a software program can be integrated throughout your entire business as well as with other types of software. RollMaster’s Oechslin suggests asking the following: “Will the flooring software automate every aspect of your business or will you have to rely on another software for, say, accounting or installation scheduling? If a flooring software is fully automated, will it allow for real-time job costing when you have an opportunity to correct issues, or does it give you that data after the fact, when it’s too late to correct?”

Using an integrated software program makes performing various tasks on a job site easier and can reduce human error, according to Measure Square’s Wang. “The easier your measure solution is integrated with your business management the better; that way you don’t have double entry or have to switch to other software.”

Be realistic with your expectations
After consulting with the software companies, retailers must then determine a list of realistic expectations they want a software program to meet. “It’s possible the software won’t do everything you want it to do—or if it does, it might not be done the way you want to do it,” ABS’ Flannick said. “The bottom line is software should be viewed as a tool to help you. It should not make things more complicated. If it does, it’s the wrong software for you.”

Posted on

Technology: Latest software offers add-ons, mobile solutions for dealers

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Las Vegas—Software manufacturers continue to meet the demands of retailers, commercial contractors and installers, providing programs for virtually every facet of their operations. Whether it is business management, estimating, measuring or lead-management software, these providers are tapping into browser- and cloud-based systems to make their programs easier to use and mobile.

Following is an overview of some of the new programs and apps software developers unveiled at Surfaces 2017:

Comp-U-Floor
New from Comp-U-Floor comes Web Sales Order Entry, a cloud-based system available on Android and Apple devices. According to Mark Wiltgen, sales and marketing manager, the system allows customers to use mobile applications to create sales orders and to manage their installers. Using the system, the retailer can create an order from the web at any time using a tablet; then the installers have a corresponding app that gives them their work order and list of materials, he explained.

Another benefit: Installers can also click on the homeowner’s address, which links to Google Maps and provides directions. What’s more, the system allows installers to take payments at the installation site and snap pictures that can be immediately attached to the work order or added to the database as a permanent record. Installers are also able to mark the job as installed and print an invoice.

Comp-U-Floor also highlighted its service management system at the show. As Wiltgen explained: “Service management is for retailers who have gone into the service part of the industry, so if they sold carpet but now they are into carpet cleaning, deodorizing or if they sold hardwood floors but now are also into hardwood refinishing, this is a product where their customers can go into their website and order that service.”

MeasureSquare
In order for a new program to be successful it must be easy for retailers to learn, software developers say. This mentality went into creating MeasureSquare’s new mobile solutions for measuring and estimating. “The new commercial additions have a lot of efficiency enhancements over the takeoff process,” said Steven Wang, president. “People normally spend three hours on bigger [measuring] jobs. With this new version that time is cut in half.”

The new program is powered by different technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. These technologies allow the program to automatically detect where a corner is located, what the shape of the boundary looks like—so you don’t have to trace each corner with the human eye. “The machine reads the floor plan for you,” Wang explained.

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.07.42 AMPacific Solutions
Pacific Solutions rolled out new features designed to enhance current software capabilities. This includes a module that allows dealers to track the claims they may have filed with the mills. Another new feature, which is geared toward commercial flooring, is a bid register. According to Bob Noe Jr., president, this program helps streamline bid register processes and keeps commercial companies organized.

“If [a commercial company] doesn’t turn a bid in by next Wednesday at 10 a.m. [the potential clients] won’t accept the bid anymore, so [a company] might lose out on the whole opportunity to work with them,” he explained. “The bid register helps them keep a log of what needs to be turned in.”

QFloors
New to QFloors is its QPro Software, a browser-based system available to small and large retailers alike. This new system will eventually take the place of existing software and contains a similar layout to its predecessor, which the company believes will make it easier for existing customers to learn.

“We have completely re-written all of the code,” said Chad Ogden, president and CEO. “We did not use anything from that other system. It’s not like we’re just slapping some web pages onto what we already have, which is the strategy most people use.”

While it was originally designed for an iPad-like device, it could technically run on a phone’s browser, Ogden added. The main difference would be that a smaller device might require more scrolling. To fix that potential issue, QFloors is currently developing QPro phone applications.

Retail Lead Management
Jason Goldberg, CEO of America’s Floor Source, developed and launched RetailLeadManagement.com (RLM) to help solve a common problem retail business owners have when reviewing retail sales associates’ leads—multiple forms of documentation and inconsistencies that only complicate tracking and management.

“What [RLM] does is simplify that whole process. It’s a product we developed to manage retail leads from the point of the lead coming in to the sale. It keeps the retail sales associate organized in an easy way, and as a manager it gives you a full view into what your retail sales associates are doing.”

The user-friendly software entails a minimal amount of fields for the operator. It has a simple recall working page, making it ideal for use on mobile devices, tablets and desktops. RLM costs retailers $19 a month per user and is customizable.

As RLM continues to grow, the company hopes to introduce b2b functionality and provide ways for users to see only what is relevant to them. This addition would expand the type of users to include distributors and manufacturers. Looking ahead, Goldberg added, “We’re adding more functionality—making the customization easier for retailers to do themselves.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.07.32 AM

RFMS
New to RFMS are two new applications. Measure Order Entry offers additional capabilities that allow users to draw and quantify the product and then push all that information directly into RFMS’ core business system. This application allows installers and retailers to take photos of product and finished installations and add them to orders.

RFMS’ second new product is called Mobile Order Entry, which provides a direct link to the company’s core system. The program allows salespeople to be completely unhitched from their desks and stores and still have access to flooring information on their phones. Both the Mobile Order Entry and Measure Order Entry are cloud-based and run on tablets, desktops and mobile devices. Both products are available in the apps store.

“We have another app called Installer Pro Mobile that would allow an installer to log in from a phone to see the job,” Dave Dumoulin, director of sales, explained. “We also have other apps we are working on around client management and managing the contact.”

RollMaster
Retailers perusing the RollMaster booth had the opportunity to preview the company’s new web calendar, an addition to its main product—Business Management Software. The web-based program helps streamline most business processes including job costs and every step of the order process. It can also be viewed on any Internet connected device that is already paired with RollMaster software.

“The web calendar allows installers to pick up their jobs from the phone, navigate the job site, take notes and pictures, and it’s all integrated to the flooring company’s management system,” said Patrick Ferries, national sales manager.

Next on the horizon for RollMaster is a web store that will allow retailers to actually have a storefront on their website where their customers can pick out product. According to Ferries, it will be integrated with their inventory so customers can check out and buy product directly from the dealer’s website.

 

Posted on

New technology enhances retail flooring operations

 Volume 27/Number 21; March 3/10, 2014 

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.23.45 AMSoftware suppliers continue to introduce feature-enriched products and enhancements designed to help retailers operate faster, smarter and more efficiently—all in the name of being more profitable.

A number of players showcased their latest wares at Surfaces, where they demonstrated new features in areas such as customer relationship management (CRM), cloud processing technology, inventory and stock checking, and warehouse operations. Following is a rundown of some of the newest offerings. Continue reading New technology enhances retail flooring operations