Abraham Linc earn customers’ trust with a warehouse management solution

Inventory counts!

When your customers place an order, they often don’t have time to wait for a product that is out of stock. They need it now. Having immediate access to product can impact whether or not they win a job and their reputation for reliability among their customers. Your customers need to be sure they’re placing their trust in the right business partner.

So it’s critical that customers can rely on Abraham Linc to maintain an inventory of the right quantity of the right products at the right time. Oh, and one other thing. At the right price to ensure a fair profit for both Abraham Linc and its customers.

That’s how you earn customers’ confidence.

Abraham Linc accomplishes this with the help of Dancik’s Integrated Warehouse Management System. It ensures that when customers’ orders are received, the product is available to pull and process for delivery — and in the most efficient way possible.

The difference maker

Headquartered in Bridgeport, W.Va., Abraham Linc distributes high-quality, great-value floor covering products throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including:

  • Carpet
  • Hardwood
  • Laminate
  • Sheet Vinyl, LVT and Rubber
  • Cushion and underlayment
  • Accessories.

The company’s 91,000-square-foot Bridgeport facility includes 78,000 square feet of warehouse space and a 13,000-square-foot office. Locations in Baltimore and Waynesboro, Va., have warehouses of 35,000 square feet and 20,000 square feet with room to grow, respectively. Overall, they carry roughly 5,000 SKUs.

These three locations provide fast, efficient delivery to customers in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, eastern Ohio and Kentucky, and southern New Jersey.

A long-time Dancik ERP system user, Abraham Linc implemented their IWMS about five years ago. The system paid for itself in less than two years.

“We invested significant resources to upgrade our warehouse and refine our delivery system,” said CFO Robert Marra II. “Having the ability to scan all of our products in and out — and know exactly where they are — is a tremendous benefit. We’re able to turn a greater volume of product with minimum workforce.”

Among the key tasks that the IWMS supports at Abraham Linc are:

  • Monitoring the real-time workflow and inventory at all three warehouses
  • Receiving
  • Picking
  • Staging and shipping accurately and efficiently
  • Inventory control and cycle counting by item, serial number or location
  • Automatic email notifications when adjustments are made
  • Productivity analysis of each warehouse employee
  • Barcode label generation
  • Location management

The system works in conjunction with the latest in Radio Frequency scanners and barcoding technology. When warehouse users log into an RF gun, they are assigned a work queue that indicates each product, in order, to be pulled, as well as the most efficient route to take when picking them. Managers can assign the most logical tasks for each employee.

“It’s a very intuitive system that incorporates our preferences and priorities with products’ age, weight and location to determine the route and how to stage the material in the most logical order,” noted Marra. “It really helps our warehouse staff improve their productivity and accuracy — factors our owner and management look at closely.”

The ability to gauge factors like that is one of the key features of the IWMS, according to Dancik Technical Sales Consultant Greg McClelland. “It provides management with a high level of metrics on each warehouse employee’s productivity and accuracy. The system logs everywhere they’ve been, what they’ve scanned and the time,” he said. “Users cannot override it. Just taking a minute of time off each route adds up. And equally as critical is accuracy in pulling the right product for each customer order. It can be a real incentive for a warehouse team if management chooses to tie those factors into performance bonuses or a higher pay scale.”

Using the Dancik IWMS, Abraham Linc has “had a huge impact in just a few years — not only on our bottom line but also our customer service,” Marra said.

Marra was complementary of the Dancik implementation and customer service team. “When we implemented IWMS, Dancik personnel came to our operations for about three days 2-3 days of in-house training,” he said. “In addition to group training sessions, each of our team had individual time with the Dancik trainers to ask questions, go over any concerns they had and give them confidence to use the system.

“While no one likes change, the IWMS was very well received by our staff,” Marra went on to say. “Some of our veteran employees were among those most excited about the new system. That was surprising to us, since we thought they would have the hardest time adapting to a new way of performing their tasks. We credit them, and the Dancik personnel, for handling the implementation so smoothly.”

Dancik Strategic Account Manager Steve Magann noted that with the purchase of an IWMS, customers receive three years of service. Following that period, there is a monthly fee for service. “All of our customer support is done in-house and is live,” Magann said. “Customers have direct phone numbers and emails for support — they don’t go through a switchboard. Account managers like me help escalate and track the response to customers’ service needs. It’s very much a family environment; our team knows our customers by name and provide personalized service when they need assistance.”

Marra added, “Our account manager is always available, and we deal with customer support personnel that we’ve known for years who quickly respond to our needs. Our service and support has been very good.”

“The link”

Formerly known as Preston Carpet Distributors, when Darren Abraham purchased the company in 1988 he changed its name to Abraham Linc to emphasize how seriously they take their role as the “link” between suppliers and customers.

Abraham is close to marking 30 years at the helm of the company, and according to Marra, many of the staff have been with the company for 10, 15 or 20 years — or longer. “That speaks to the culture of the company, which stems from the top down,” he said. “Our owner’s leadership style is one of the main reasons for the longevity of our staff. And having that type of environment translates into excellent customer service from everyone who touches our customers from the executive level through our drivers.

“Our goal is to enable our customers to satisfy their customers, which earns them — and us — repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals. Our customers’ success is our success. And that means we’re doing our job.”

By Mary Jo Martin
Marketing Manager

Corporate Values

Abraham Linc has built a list of corporate values that drive the way their team does business:

  • Customer Focus — Without customers, nothing else matters.
  • Accountability — Keep your word. Act with urgency. Be dependable and on time.
  • Details Driven — Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time.
  • Diversity — Respect and leverage the strength that comes from being different.
  • Continuous Education and Development — Continue to grow and learn in a changing world.
  • Collaboration — Consult with others. Value-added ideas are best.
  • Imagination — Seek a better way. Be creative. Be open to change.
  • Respect — Respect is measured in how we treat ourselves and others. No gossip.
  • Humility — We don’t have all the answers. Learn from others. Talk less, listen more.
Fortiline experiences exponential growth after converting to Mincron solution

Fortiline is one of the fastest-growing waterworks distributors in the U.S., and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

In 2016, they opened 8 new locations, and as of March 2017, they’ve averaged opening one new branch a month — Austin and Helotes, Texas, and Winter Garden, Fla. They also recently partnered with a sister company to open two branches together. Those new facilities, in Mesa and Peoria, Ariz., means that Concord, N.C.-based Fortiline now has literally expanded their footprint across the U.S.

Just 12 years ago, Fortiline had eight branches; today they have 50 — a whopping 630% increase since 2005! And there are still nine months to go in 2017.

A number of factors have been instrumental in the company’s tremendous growth, namely the hard work and dedication of the Fortiline team, an improving national economy, and the building and repair of infrastructure. As a water and sewer pipe distributor, Fortiline tapped into markets where they saw the most growth potential and capitalized on those opportunities.

It’s also worth noting that the onset of this epic expansion coincided with the company’s implementation of a new distribution management software system. Since 2006, Fortiline has been driving their business with Mincron solutions.

Director of Branch Operations Support Andy Johnson worked at the branch level for several years prior to that implementation, and described “a night and day difference” between Mincron and their previous software.

“I have been hands-on with the system since the beginning,” he said. “I relied on it for literally every area of the branch’s operations. Using the new system made it so much more efficient for everyone to do their jobs. I saw the system at work first hand, the difference it made for each user, and the overall difference it made for the branch’s performance.

Measurable benefits

Three years ago, Johnson was promoted to manage Fortiline’s support system, where he has taken a very active role in training staff to use the Mincron solution even more effectively, and exploring ways to further leverage it. Fortiline is currently running on release 12 and has already installed 12.1; they will migrate to it this summer. The system is essential for every area of their operations, including inventory, financials and even sales commissions.

“Probably the most obvious benefit we see is in inventory management,” Johnson described. “It gives us a much better way to measure and track our inventory, and to make smarter decisions for future purchasing. It provides us with detailed historical data, recommended order reports, line buys to replenish, and forecasting the right inventory quantities to maintain. It provides us with measurements for individual branches to make sure they’re in line with sales and product coming in. It’s a great tool for making quicker, more accurate purchasing choices, and really is the key to our inventory management.”

They also use WebSmart, Mincron’s B2B and B2C solution, as well as some solutions from Mincron’s partners.

“We’re proactive in moving toward more e-commerce, and want it to be a larger part of our business,” Johnson remarked. “Some of our customers, like municipalities, want to use a web portal to place their orders. In fact, some won’t even let you in the door if you don’t offer that capability.”

As Fortiline has grown, so has their software training.

“With the exponential growth of our staff, we’ve developed a formal training program, and we communicate with people every day on ways to help them use the system better,” Johnson said. “When we make an acquisition or open a new branch, we typically send two trainers for every five to ten new people. They spend two weeks at the location, which we feel is enough time to get them up and running — plus it’s a great way to establish relationships. But we’re flexible and will extend that timeframe whenever needed. We want new teams to be comfortable in performing their jobs. With the Mincron solution, people pick it up relatively quickly.”

Fortiline has experienced substantial, measurable benefits using their Mincron solutions.

“Since Fortiline implemented Mincron solutions, we’ve doubled our inventory turns from three to more than six,” Brewer noted. “It does such a good job tracking how people purchase, and what we stock and carry. We trust the system to ensure we have the right product in the right locations, and enough of it, without tying too much cash up in inventory.

“Our average days on hand have dropped from 100 to around 60, and we’ve decreased our dead stock significantly. The system helps us identify what is dead stock at one location, and then move it to another location that has a better chance of selling it. That’s one of the great features Mincron solutions provide — moving inventory around within our own company so we don’t accumulate dead stock. On top of that, our customer service levels are up.”

Johnson added, “Literally everything from ordering to receiving product, to a customer’s first contact with us to a sale, to getting the product into their hands is done through our Mincron system. It even sets up warehouse locations for the product to be stored, and conveys those locations with the most efficient picking order to our crew when they’re pulling stock for shipment.”

It has also been crucial in working with Fortiline’s bankers and investors. “Because the system is so accurate when it comes to forecasting and tracking sales, purchasing and open orders,” Johnson explained, “we can be confident in the dollars it says we have coming down the pike — and gives us the ability to go to banks and investors and show them very a very predictable fiscal performance forecast.”

An additional benefit has been the ease of making modifications. “We’ve modified our system to pull additional data we wanted to capture,” Brewer noted. “Mincron solutions can be customized to meet any distributor’s needs — a significant advantage compared to other software providers. It’s relatively easy for customers to make modifications in house, and there are almost no limitations to what customers can do with their systems.”

A look inside Fortiline

Fortiline Waterworks is one of the largest U.S.-owned distributors of underground water, sewer and storm utility products for both the public and private sectors. They maintain an extensive inventory of various pipes, hydrants, valves, fittings, restraints, iron castings and service brass — and have other miscellaneous products readily available.

The company was founded in 1997 as Mainline Supply Co. in Asheville, N.C. Over the past 20 years, their goal has remained the same — to supply customers with quality products by reputable manufacturers at the most competitive prices. They continue to believe that specializing in doing one thing extraordinarily well is the key to superior service.

Fortiline’s customers range from small municipalities to large multi-state corporations. The company and their customers have built loyal partnerships, which keeps Fortiline motivated to continually improve their business. So despite their incredible growth, the Fortiline team remains very grounded and customer oriented. An employee once described them like this: “We have big company clout and small company attitude.”

There are five operating groups within Fortiline:

  • HDPE Fusion Group — HDPE pipe is durable, cost effective and can be used in a broad range of projects including industrial, municipal and landfill applications. The group is ready to assist customers with the growing use of HDPE products, particularly in water and wastewater applications. Fortiline is also a McElroy distributor and can sell and service McElroy’s wide range of fusion machines.

  • Municipal Group — Provides knowledge, superior service and a wide array of products to any federal, state or local agency customer. Dedicated to being the premier source of water, wastewater, storm, erosion and safety materials, metering and tools. Fortiline’s staff is extensively experienced in all facets of public procurement.

  • Storm Water Solutions Group —Offers a solution-based suite of products that meet the needs of private, commercial and municipal customer groups throughout Fortiline’s geographical coverage. Provides an array of drainage supplies, and its team investigates, understands and services customers’ drainage product needs.

  • Treatment Plant Group — A turn-key source of pipe, valve and fitting packages for water, wastewater and industrial treatment plant contractors nationwide. Each type of plant has a very specific process and must be maintained in order to protect our citizens and environment.

  • International Group — A leading international distributor of underground utility and municipal infrastructure material, Fortiline understands the complexities of the international marketplace and takes the time to fully understand each of its customers’ needs and jobs.

Last fall, Fortiline was acquired by MORSCO Inc. (the former Morrison Supply Co.), a Fort Worth-based distributor of commercial and residential plumbing products, HVAC equipment, and pipe, valves and fittings. MORSCO has 170+ locations across the U.S. doing over $1.7 billion in annual sales.

Fortiline continues to operate as a standalone company, and MORSCO waterworks operations will fall under Fortiline’s wing. Already, Fortiline management has impressed the MORSCO team with the capabilities and benefits they’ve realized using the Mincron system — particularly when it comes to efficiency, ease of use, maneuverability, and data compilation and measurement. Another benefit has been the fact that their IT department is remarkably small for a company of this size because the Mincron system requires very little ongoing maintenance and management.

Mike Swedick, who had been Fortiline’s President and CEO and now leads the MORSCO Waterworks Division, was also recently appointed President of MORSCO’s Plumbing Division.

“During Mike’s time at Fortiline, he was instrumental in the creation of a highly-functional leadership team and a formal strategic planning process,” praised Chip Hornsby, CEO of MORSCO. “He worked closely with his management team to develop a clear vision and a strong metric-driven culture, all of which resulted in explosive earnings (EBITDA) and top-line growth.”

In response to the announcement, Swedick commented, “We look forward to continuing to build our waterworks platform while collaborating with the leadership team at MORSCO to build a world-class distribution company.

“I am proud of the growth we achieved at Fortiline and I look forward to realizing similar gains within MORSCO’s Plumbing Division. We will start our journey toward success by uniting all of the individual plumbing brands within the MORSCO family under a new philosophy, ‘One MORSCO – One Vision: To be the preferred and most trusted resource for plumbing, HVAC and utility infrastructure product solutions.’”

Click here to view a video on Fortiline’s corporate philosophy.

By Mary Jo Martin
Marketing Manager