its bottom line.
Richard says Summitline did need a more robust and integrated tech backbone and that its methods were becoming obsolete. “Products would come in and employees would enter the information manually,” he recalls. “We would then designate a place in the warehouse to store products. Of course, this wasn’t as efficient and accurate as an [automated system].”
Complying with the request from UPS, Richard, 51, embarked on a bold plan. Over the last four years, he has invested some $500,000 in technology integration, upgrades, and employee training. His supply chain management company handles written documents and forms for UPS and serves as a consolidation entity on behalf of the shipping giant at work centers across the country and the globe.
“Rather than customize the product to fit what we were doing, we brought ourselves up to an industry-wide standard,” says Richard.
At Summitline, which projects year-end 2007 revenues of $40 million, the investment has paid off in many ways, including the ability to win contracts with other companies. In addition to UPS, which accounts for 25% of Summitline’s business, the company now has a roster of 200-plus clients. The company also has 20 employees and is about to break ground on a new, 70,000-square-foot building.
“Once we got the technology in place, we were able to support the kinds of businesses we were contemplating working with,” says Richard. “And it enabled us to be considered for other opportunities.”
Today, the firm’s systems are totally automated within its enterprise resource planning application package, which includes software tools to handle logistics, distribution, inventory, shipping, invoicing, and accounting. Summitline employs a variety of solutions, including a bar coding system that uses radio frequency devices to receive and track products. Since the upgrades, the company has received awards for its performance as well as its ISO certification, a worldwide quality-management standard for delivery of services.
“We now have a greater degree of efficiency,” says Richard, who trains employees for nearly four months. And training is an ongoing process, because as new technologies emerge, Summitline remains eagerly poised to adapt.
Team Up with Tech
All entrepreneurs can stay competitive by investing in maximum technology utilization. Begin with these tips:
- Do your research. “Research the companies you want to work with, find out what the industry standards are in terms of technology, and keep up with upgrades,” says Richard. He attended corporate trade shows, learned about competition in his space, and worked closely with original equipment manufacturers as well as a consulting firm to ensure he invested wisely.
- Train employees. “The integrity of your operation really rests on the ability of your employees to manage technology,” says Richard. “Our employees are well-trained and cross-trained to perform a number of functions.”
- Invest in tech support. “We have an IT person who’s on board full time,” says Richard. “Prior to the overhaul, we didn’t have that. But now, if you want to be an industry player, you have to have a full-time IT person to help manage processes.”
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