One of the most enjoyable elements of our work is that we get to visit precast plants. It is always enlightening to talk to the principals about how they manage their businesses and learn what they do to continually improve. Most often we hear about time- and cost-saving practices being applied to help their companies make more money in very tight bidding environments. Last week I traveled to AJ Foss (Farmington, NH), a very innovative, family-run company with a story of a slightly different twist.
AJ Foss' market is residential. They are primarily manufacturers of septic tanks but also produce concrete steps, walls and landscaping block. The company is a second-generation family business, now owned by Jonathan and Matt Cardinal, sons of the founder. The company takes well-deserved pride in its reputation for quality work and service with residential customers. Jon, who manages the "inside of the business" has embraced technology to continually reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction. I'm grateful he has allowed me to share what I learned from the visit.
The first thing I saw was a giant screen tracking delivery trucks.
As I entered the office, I saw what looked like a NASA tracking map on the wall. Jon explained that they want to be able to tell customers exactly when they can expect their deliveries and they want real-time information to manage logistics. So, they subscribed to Verizon Connect, a fleet tracking system.
Jon uses CRM to have instant access to all customer records.
On his desk are at least two computer monitors, one always open with Salesforce.com (a Customer Relationship Management system) to access all information about each customer instantly. This saves a lot of time versus managing paper files and allows him to be more responsive when customers call. Salesforce is integrated with Ring Central (a Voice Over Internet Provider) so that, when a customer calls, their information is pulled up automatically. No need to search by name or number – it just appears on the computer screen.
VOIP telephony offers more customer value and reduces errors.
With an internet telephone service, Jon finds he can be much more customer-centric. Calls to the office that otherwise might be missed are automatically transferred to cell phones. Voice mails are immediately sent by email and therefore ensure a more timely response. And calls can be recorded. Jon has found this very helpful in ensuring order accuracy since most are received by phone.
AJ Foss is being weaned from paper.
Jon told me that this was his original cost-saving initiative because he saw that the company spent too much time managing paper files. As the "inside manager" he has a front-row view of the impact of this. Now most files are stored in file sharing services. For instance, when he wants to see a bill that was entered into the system it takes about 5 seconds versus walking over to a file cabinet, finding the folder, and then finding the right invoice. Something that was purchased 5 years ago is at his fingertips as well.
There is always more that can be done.
We met because Jon is intrigued by the potential of RFID tracking for reducing operating costs and adding more customer value. On the operating side, he sees value in tracking products that require repair and sending automatic email notifications to the person responsible. He also likes the idea of keeping a permanent record for customers of the location in which a septic tank is installed and all pertinent information about the tank. As he put it: "This would be nice for the customer that purchases it, but it will be of greater value to the third owner down the line that has no idea where it is located." (Couldn't agree more, speaking as a person who as been in that situation!)
Kudos to AJ Foss for its success in its technology transformation. More impressive, however, is the company's greater perspective that improvement is a constant process and technology applications are tools to be used in this pursuit. It appears that the future for this company will be bright under the stewardship of Jon and Matt.
If you would like to explore the potential of RFID tracking for saving your precast plant money and offering more customer value, consider joining our new Idencia 101 program. Click below to learn more.
Our mission at Idencia is to elevate the productivity of concrete manufacturers. We offer precast RFID tracking solutions that improve productivity and offer value throughout the value chain. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time.