April 3, 2006 – No gain without growing pain

Like most enterprisewide systems implementations, a project to modernize an Alabama powersports dealer has encountered some bumps on the program’s 12-month road as employees adapt to new software.
Jasper, Ala.-based S&W powersports is the site of the Turning Technology into Sales & Profits project, a collaborative effort by five companies to introduce technology and best practices into an established dealership.
Among the first steps taken in the project was the implementation by MIC Systems and Software of Brainstorm, a business management system.
“I couldn’t believe an $8-million powersports dealer could survive without a business management system,” said Neil Frame, general manager for MIC Systems.
“Walking in the front door, my first thought was, ‘How are we going to convince these people, with their 16,000-square-foot showroom and booming parts counter, that they need to change the way they do business?’”
MIC Systems installed a full system support package — Parts Inventory Control, Point of Sale Invoicing, Repair Order Billing, Accounting General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Sales Inventory Control and SalesMaster Prospect Control System.
MIC Systems mostly has focused on the parts department, building a link between the new business system and the existing PartSmart electronic parts lookup software. The intent of the new system is for parts employees to find a part, retrieve it, update their inventory levels, print and invoice the customer, and move on to the next customer, all with a few clicks of a mouse. The entire process is geared toward saving time and creating a more efficient ordering and inventory of stocks.
MIC Systems spent a week installing the system and providing training, but the new system is having some kinks, said Jason Jones, S&W’s shipping and receiving manager.
One significant problem Jones and his colleague Bo Gunter have run into is the company’s parts were not inventoried correctly by S&W, meaning instead of using a barcode scanning system they’re forced to find parts numbers for each transaction. As a result of this and other bugs, Jones said it’s taking much longer to produce invoices for each customer. That figures to change, Gunter said, as more parts numbers are correctly entered into the new system.
“If they (MIC Systems) worked with us more, I think it would be great,” Jones said. “At the moment, it’s making things worse than it was.”
The parts department also has been hit by the loss of the parts counter manager, who quit and left with many of the department’s policies and procedures in her head. So the parts department now has two people who are trying to learn the new system and keep up with customers. “We’re wide open,” Jones said of customer traffic.
Since they’ve been so busy, Jones and Gunter said they’ve only sporadically used the MIC Systems support hotline.
Frame said MIC Systems will provide additional online training, both for parts and the accounting departments. That additional training will be welcomed by Rachel Wilhite, S&W’s general manager.
“We really haven’t been trained as much as I would have liked,” she said, adding that she sees many potential positives with the system. With more training, she said the new system “would be the next best thing since sliced bread.”
S&W’s accounting department previously used QuickBooks to manage overall transactions, while unit sales were tracked in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
MIC System’s Frame said based on a cursory look at the accounting department, he thinks he can help in two ways.
“One, we can help them better track activity,” he said, “and two, we’ll work with Jim Jr. (Wilson, the dealership president) to get a better handle on processing warranty claims — a lot of them are falling through the cracks. In both areas, I think we can add dollars to the bottom line almost immediately.”

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