At Fairmount Tire & Rubber, the 65-year-old, family-owned wholesale-distributor likes talking with customers so much it has shunned the automated, menu-driven telephone answering system.
“One of our biggest differentiations is when we answer the phone, it’s on the first couple of rings, every single time,” says Scott Dushane, director of IT.
But while that helps build personal relationships with customers, it’s not a scalable-enough business strategy to meet Fairmount’s goals. And those goals are ambitious — like providing an Uber Eats level of a transparent order and delivery service.
“Just like you can now go to Uber Eats, order a burrito, then know the driver’s name that’s going to pick up that burrito and then hand it to you in exactly 23 minutes, we want that same experience to happen for wholesale tires,” Dushane says.
“It’s a much less sexy industry, but the genie’s out of the bottle — we need to provide the same level of service and supply chain transparency that Uber is providing.”
Making strides in service and sustainability
Fairmount Tire & Rubber primarily serves the four-state region of Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. It uses its home-grown self-service ecommerce site integrated with an online delivery management system to improve and expand its business. At the same time, it is drastically cutting out paper documents, increasing its sustainability and operating efficiency, Dushane says.
He says Fairmount is making significant strides in upgrading how it engages B2B customers online, matching buyers with the particular tire SKUs they need from a long list of options — such as the many tire brands, sizes, and applications like tread patterns for different types of weather — and providing transparency in deliveries, including same-day service.
Fairmount uses an online delivery management system that has streamlined and expedited the distributor’s delivery system and lets customers know through a GPS-based mobile app what tires are coming and when.
The delivery management system, from Descartes Systems Group, integrates through Google Cloud with Fairmount’s digital commerce platform and other technology systems and applications, including enterprise resource planning, product information management, customer relationship management and warehouse management.
Dushane says that, until recently, the most common call Fairmount’s agents received was “Where’s my tires?” But with the new system, Fairmount can replace those inbound customer service calls with outbound sales “rainmaker” calls often made by the same agent.
“This is real money,” he says.
No more shuffling paper for invoices
The old system had relied heavily on paper documents about customer orders and available delivery trucks, resulting in a difficult process for planning order fulfillment and delivery.
“For many years, it was a stack of papers on someone’s desk. And you would do the old shuffle and figure out how to route and how to build trucks,” Dushane says.
Fairmount now uses its integrated ERP, order management and delivery management systems to automatically coordinate how orders are delivered with the most efficient use of trucks and routes, he adds.
“It is an unbelievably difficult problem to route trucks throughout a city, like mathematically,” he says, adding, “Descartes comes up with sort of magical solutions that [we] never came up with for the last 30 years of running the same routes.”
As customer orders come into Fairmount’s B2B ecommerce login customer portal, at b2b.fairmounttire.com, the tire distributor’s financial software generates electronic invoices that the delivery management system allocates to delivery trucks based on their availability and capacity.
One advantage of the new system is replacing a system that used to require three sheets of paper for each invoice. When drivers make deliveries, they use mobile devices stored with order details and e-invoices to receive customers’ digital signatures and generate delivery confirmation notes.
“We totally eliminated paper,” Dushane says.
Reworking delivery routes for more service and sales
In addition, Fairmount speeds up deliveries by using its software to arrange multiple orders on the same truck in a way that makes them faster to unload at each customer’s destination.
And that has opened the door to more sales opportunities as well as greater efficiency, Dushane says.
“We have been able to start to run second and third routes because of Descartes … because we know when the drivers will be coming back and what the trucks can be filled up to — there’s no obfuscation,” he says.
“We have fixed costs,” he adds. “So let’s use those fixed costs to the best of our ability.”
This article is included in a special report covering B2B digital technology trends and a preview of the 2023 EnvisionB2B Conference & Exhibition.
Scott Dushane will speak during a panel and workshop on order management, fulfillment and delivery operations at the 2023 EnvisionB2B Conference & Exhibition.
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