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The Software Challenge

Hear from 10 MHEDA members who know the software struggle, including some who’ve found the solution.

In today’s material handling business environment, a software program is like a company’s invisible backbone—organizing data, maintaining company financials, keeping up with customer information and helping everyday operations run smoothly and seamlessly, all while remaining perpetually behind the scenes. And when it comes to software, one size does not fit all.
For some MHEDA members, the perfect software with which to run their businesses is like the elusive holy grail; seemingly non-existent and nearly impossible to find. While some have opted to make do with a system that is mostly compatible with their businesses, accepting weaknesses and adapting accordingly, others are still on the hunt for the ultimate software solution.
Eric Larson, President, Cass Hudson Company If you want a robust, complete integrated package, you have to devote the time and learn how to use it.”
Eric Larson, President Cass Hudson Company (Elkhart, IN)

Some members, however, rave about their systems, and many have stayed loyal to the same software companies for decades. Customized solutions, too, have proven successful for several members, as they allow the business owner to mix and match that just-right combination of features.

Either way, there’s no doubt that software plays a colossal role in daily operations. Whether you’ve struck the perfect balance with your operating system, or you’re still on the hunt, read on to learn from your fellow MHEDA members’ software struggles and successes.

David Shank, President, Deluxe Systems Inc. “With Goldmine, I can go back to look at a customer’s purchase history in just seconds. That streamlines our operations.”
David Shank, President Deluxe Systems Inc. of Florida (Tampa, FL)

New Solutions
At Cass Hudson Company (Elkhart, IN), an enterprise system keeps daily operations on track. Commerce Center by Activant manages accounting, quotes, inventory, production orders and cost-tracking from vendors. In 2006, Cass Hudson transitioned to Windows-based Commerce Center from another enterprise system, Proven Path, a Unix-based software developed by a local vendor. “We needed something more robust,” says President Eric Larson. “We were looking for a package that integrated all our basic functions.” Commerce Center is an “extremely powerful” system that can develop quotes, calculate costs with freight included, and then input the quote into the system or e-mail it to a customer. However, because of Commerce Center’s many functions, Larson notes that transitioning to the system was difficult for employees. “We’re still learning how to best use the system.”

Randy Matthews, President, Preferred Material Handling “We update our system frequently in order to keep up with the many changes in our business.”
Randy Matthews, President Preferred
Material Handling
(Oklahoma City, OK)

Glen Cochran, president, Ohio Lift Truck (Walton Hills, OH), keeps things simple with his software preference: QuickBooks and programs in the Microsoft Office suite. Citing the programs’ “user-friendliness” as their biggest selling point, Cochran initiated the software when he bought the business in March 2008. “Everyone’s familiar with Microsoft Office, which made it easy to implement, and QuickBooks was my accountant’s preference.” Spreadsheets created on Microsoft Excel manage inventory, Outlook keeps track of e-mails and customer communication, and QuickBooks maintains company financials. Each program, says Cochran, makes business faster and more efficient. “All employees are networked into the system, allowing us to communicate internally. The programs are simple and easy to learn, and they work very well for what we need.”

John Foley, President, Binghamton Material Handling
“MAS 90 is strong enough to support multiple users accessing the same record at the same time. Not all accounting programs can do that.”
John Foley, President Binghamton
Material Handling
(Binghamton, NY)

Brad Emerson, president of E-distribution (Richardson, TX), has relied on AccuBuild, a construction accounting software, since purchasing the system nearly two years ago. As a subcontractor to many general contractors, Emerson has found AccuBuild to be compatible with his business. With the ability to perform accounting, do project management, create purchase orders and construction billings in compliance with the Architects Institute of America, AccuBuild generates all the reports necessary for E-distribution’s sales tracking. Emerson chose the software after his company’s sales volume increased. Previously, the company used a combination of Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks contractor’s edition. Although adjusting to the software took employees close to six months, Emerson admits the learning curve was worth it. “For a subcontracting company like ours, the software saves a lot of time and hassle.”

Customized Success
By customizing a software program in 2000, Preferred Material Handling (Oklahoma City, OK) created a system with all the necessary functions and “no excess,” says President Randy Matthews. After researching off-the-shelf systems, Matthews determined that creating a custom solution would be the most cost-effective option. “Back in 2000, there weren’t as many choices out there, and we didn’t want to end up paying for a system with features we didn’t need.” The customized system’s capabilities include inventory control, order tracking, scheduling and accounting—all in real time. “These things are important to us,” says Matthews, who notes that the system is updated by the software developers several times a year. “The IT support staff come out and tweak a few things, make it faster and make it better for what we need. A customized program allows us to do that.”

Greg Wait, President, Fredon Handling Developing a long-term relationship with the software company has allowed us to tailor the program to our needs.” Greg Wait, President
Fredon Handling
(Jackson, MI)

When Greg Wait, president, Fredon Handling (Jackson, MI), wanted a new software system in 1995, he didn’t have to look far. Wait chose DA Books, a customized solution developed by a Jackson-based company, and has been pleased with the program ever since. The accounting software manages in- ventory and sales data, and performs sales reports and complex analytics. According to Wait, having the software developers close by has provided his company with a unique advantage. “When we want to change or modify features, the service staff can come right over and make the changes. It’s allowed us to create a personalized software over the years that really suits our needs.” Wait also praises DA Books’ flexibility and user-friendly interface. “All the financial data and records are at our fingertips.” According to Wait, the software is updated “seamlessly” several times a year, and bugs are corrected immediately. “We’re lucky to have a great relationship with the developers.”

On the Hunt
Though Lift Atlanta (Decatur, GA) currently runs on a Unix-based program, President Mark Milovich is in the process of choosing a new system. “There are so many more choices on the market now than there were 12 years ago when I purchased the last system,” says Milovich. Milovich hopes to find a system that will allow technicians to access labor or parts jobs in real time on their laptops. Milovich also hopes to transition to a Windows-based program, which he believes will improve efficiency. “I’m looking for something that’s more modern, powerful enough to fit our size, but small enough that we don’t pay for functions we don’t need.” Though still searching for the right software, Milovich expects Lift Atlanta will be operating a new system within the next year.

Mark Milovich, President, Lift Atlanta “There are so many more software companies marketing to the material handling industry than there were 10 years ago. We have more choices.”
Mark Milovich
, President
Lift Atlanta
(Decatur, GA)

Like Milovich, Robert Levin, president, Material Handling Supply (Brooklawn, NJ), is looking to replace his company’s current Unix-based software. “We want something that can provide reports to managers in a clear way,” says Levin. However, the current economy has proved to be an obstacle, affecting Levin’s choice to invest in a new system; he plans to postpone the purchase for two to three years. “I’d like to wait a few years before switching, when the economy is in better shape.” In new software, Levin’s main criteria are user-friendliness and ease of use.

Carl Swanson, President, Equipco Division Phillips Corp. “This business is fast-paced, and having information available at a moment’s notice is important.”
Carl Swanson, President Equipco Division
Phillips Corp.
(Bridgeville, PA)

Loyalty Is King
An accounting program in use at Equipco Division Phillips Corp. (Bridgeville, PA) for over 25 years has worked well, says President Carl Swanson. The program is used by every department at Equipco for billing, reporting, invoicing and to view rental history. Providing real-time access to company financials is an important aspect of the DIS system, and one that Swanson believes is key to providing good customer service. “I can see a customer’s entire order history in just a few clicks, instead of having to go search for the information.” The software requires sporadic updates, which help the program to run smoothly. Swanson plans to stay with the system for the foreseeable future. “It’s just a good system. This business couldn’t run without it.”

Robert Levin, Presidentv Material Handling Supply “An easy-to-use program saves time. If employees struggle to learn the software, it ultimately hinders our ability to serve customers.”
Robert Levin
, President Material Handling Supply (Brooklawn, NJ)

Goldmine, a contact management system, is like gold to David Shank, president of Deluxe Systems Inc. of Florida (Tampa, FL). “It keeps track of all my customers, prospects, vendors—everyone I keep in touch with,” says Shank, who has been using the Goldmine software for 20 years. Recording client activity, communication history, quotations and project work are some of Goldmine’s many functions, and for Shank, the software has streamlined business and eliminated a large amount of paperwork. Synchronizing the data in Goldmine on all company computers, including laptops that the sales staff takes to customers’ locations, has increased efficiency. “Everyone has access to the wealth of information in Goldmine, and that allows us to serve customers faster and more efficiently.”

MAS 90 by Sage has managed Binghamton Material Handling’s (Binghamton, NY) accounting and purchasing for over 12 years. According to President John Foley, the company chose the system for its real-time inventory control and accounting capability, and Foley has chosen to stay with the system “because it would be too painful to switch,” he says. “Transitioning to a new system is a huge undertaking.” MAS 90 is an integrated system with “numerous strengths,” notes Foley. The multi-user capability, which allows every employee to access records at the same time, is a useful feature, and the real-time aspect makes accounting more efficient. “Without MAS 90, I’d have to hire more people to do the work it does.”

Seven Ways To Swat Spam Filters

You’ve put in the legwork and now you have a quality newsletter that’s sure to drive business, but your work doesn’t end there. Spam filters are now your nemesis, and they can block your message from ever reaching its target. These filters are ever-evolving, but by following these seven steps, you can help keep your company’s message out of junk-folder purgatory.

  1. Make sure it’s To: somebody. – Some spam filters will block a message if the user’s e-mail address isn’t in the To: field. If you’re sending out mass e-mails, invest in software that will allow each message to be individually addressed.
  2. Avoid unsolicited e-mails. – Most of the big spam filters have what is known as a “blacklist,” or a list of senders identified as spammers. It only takes a few people flagging your message as spam to earn your domain a spot on these dreaded lists. One of the quickest ways to make this happen is sending your message to people who don’t want it. Send your newsletter specifically to those who ask for it, and you’ll avoid the issue.
  3. Don’t SHOUT. – Nobody likes a loudmouth, not even spam filters. Not only is typing in all capital letters considered shouting, but spam filters see it as a surefire sign of junk.
  4. Keep it clean. – No, we’re not talking about language, although it would be wise to keep that clean too. Sloppy HTML coding will significantly increase your newsletter’s chances of getting tossed out with the garbage.
  5. Choose your words carefully. – One of the most basic ways that spam filters check messages is by scanning words. If your newsletter has too many “spam words,” then to the junk bin it goes. For a list of these words, visit www.TheMhedaJournal.org.
  6. Send the message from your own domain. – Sure, free e-mail accounts are nice, but they are also available to anybody—including spammers. The filters recognize this and are much more likely to filter a message from a free e-mail account than one from a dedicated company e-mail address. You should have DNS entries for your company’s domain as well as SPF and Sender ID records.
  7. Test your message. – Several Web sites like www.apache.spamassasin.org and www.spamcheck.sitesell.com will run your message through simulated spam filters. If the message gets caught up, the sites will tell you how to correct the problem.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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