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Making the switch.

Making the Switch Leon Farmer, Inc. moves to pre-sales, and finds computerization a boon.

Leon Farmer, Inc. is an Anheuser-Busch distributorship serving north Central Georgia. The company has warehouses in Athens and Gainesville which support 35 routes. These include 13 presale, 19 delivery, two draft and one telsale route.

While many Anheuser-Busch houses continue to operate peddle routes, Leon Farmer switched to pre-sales in 1987. Even when the company maintained peddle routes, computerized route-accounting systems were in use. Today, the company is a fully computerized distributor, outfitted with the Route-Commander route-accounting system from Norand. Coupled with a switch to pre-sale, these new technologies have radically altered the way that Leon Farmer does business.

According to Carolyn Dial, Leon Farmer's computer systems manager, the company made its move to pre-sale for a simple reason - "We needed to deliver the beer."

"Our sales growth was such that we weren't able to deliver beer effectively off the peddle trucks," Dial says. "Our drivers didn't always have enough beer on the truck at the end of the day for the last customers, and we just couldn't haul enough beer to certain areas on given days."

Dial says this situation has changed with the move the pre-sale. "Now," she says, "the customer is assured that what he orders he will be able to receive."

Despite the shift to pre-sale, Dial says Farmer retains flexibility on the routes. "Our delivery people still do product rotation," she says, "and they are also involved in the sales effort.

"We may pair the delivery people and the presales people together," Dial continues. "If the delivery person has a better rapport with a store manager than our salesman does, he may be able to get in a new product or more cooler space in the account."

Dial says the new system has proven effective. "The good thing about the system is you know exactly how many cases are going on the truck," she says. "The customer is assured that he is going to get the order that he requested. We run the print-outs on our computer, and if it shows he is going to have too many cases to deliver that day because a bunch of his stops purchase large amounts for displays or whatever, then arrangements can be made for additional personnel to take some of the beer off his truck and move it to somebody else, and to help out with that day's delivery.

"We are able to balance the loads," she says. "During peak periods, especially if the guy is supposed to deliver one or two 400-case deals that day, we may put it on an extra truck and send extra people to help deliver some of the beer that day."

Prior to this, Dial says, salesmen didn't know what customers needed until he got to the account. "We also have quantity discount levels on a lot of our products right now," she says, "and a lot of our customers are taking advantage of that.

"Before we went to presale," Dial says, "our drivers would get down to the last stop or two, and if they had a really busy day, there might not be enough beer on the truck for that customer to get enough quantity for discounts.

"Of course there are customers that don't place an order during a given week," she says, "or don't place a big enough order, and at the end of the week they want more beer. They may only be scheduled to be delivered to one time that week. So we try to accommodate them, when at all possible, to send the extra beer out to them."

The path towards pre-sale has been smoothed by Farmer's computerization, Dial notes. Computerized route-accounting systems have been part of Leon Farmer's business since the early '80s, she reports. "We first installed Route-Commander in 1982," Dial recalls, "when we started using the hand-held 101XL system."

Dial says the initial transition to computerized route-accounting was not without difficulties. "Our drivers were scared to death of the Route-Commanders," she recalls.

"People do not usually welcome change, and our people were very hesitant at first."

Dial reports that experience with the system has changed that attitude. "Nowadays," she says, "if a Route-Commander breaks down, for whatever reason, they usually call me on the route and they are really upset because they have to go back to manual tickets and doing things manually. They will fight you for the Route-Commander."

Dial says the Route-Commander system is now standard on all Farmer routes. "We have Route-Commander systems on all of our routes now," Dial reports, "the majority are using the 141XL. I'd say 80 percent of our presalesmen are using the 121XLs. We also use the Norand 40-column printers."

Dial says that accuracy was one of the first benefits delivered by the system. "Invoice errors decreased dramatically," Dial says, "because there are very few ways they can mess up. The only way they can do that is punch in a wrong item number and not catch it until the end of the day when they have a variance on their ending load."

Dial also relates another advantage. "They know immediately when they are short beer on their truck," she says. "Our delivery people are responsible for their beer when they take it out and when they come back, and if they are short, then they don't have to pay for it. So that has been a real nice advantage for them to be able to control and know what is going on with their truck.

"They check their loads," Dial continues, "but when you are rolling with close to 1,000 cases a day, you can make the mistake of throwing one extra case on the truck, or from the truck into an account or every now and then you can miss a case and not deliver it to an account, and come back in with an extra case of beer.

"Then they sit down with their tickets while it is still fresh in their mind," Dial says, "and go through and find out where the extra beer goes. Or, if they are short, they are able to look through their tickets and try to figure out where they left the beer and contact the account and have them verify that |Yes, instead of having 105 cases, they actually had 106 cases brought into their stock room.' It's a lot better for their control."

Dial says the system has also improved efficiency at the end of the day. "All our delivery people are responsible for taking deposits to the night drops at the bank," she says, "and unless they have some problems, they can take the Route-Commander settlement sheet and pretty much just copy it over to the deposit slip. They check out that they have the right amount of money.

"They come back in," she says, "and they don't do their end-of-the-day or ending load until they are back in the warehouse and warehouse personnel have verified their ending load. Then they sit down and do their settlement. When it's done, they fill out their bank deposit, prepare the money in the bags, lock it up and take it to the bank night drop.

"The whole process only takes about 15 minutes," Dial says. "Authorized warehouse personnel are always available, and because it's a presale operation, the drivers come back in with empty trucks. Since there is no beer left on the trucks, I'd say it takes 15 minutes for a driver to come in, do their ending load, do their bank deposit and prepare the money."

Dial emphasizes that drivers leave each day with the right amount of beer. "The majority of the time," she says, "every customer takes what they told the presalesman they wanted, and drivers come back in with an empty truck."

Dial describes the process. "When the drivers return with their hand-helds," she says, "they come in, do their settlement, end-of-the-day, they check up, and then they plug the hand-helds into a multiplexer. When the program is running at the end of the day, then they T-com that night or T-com first thing in the morning.

"All their sales," she notes, "everything they deliver, comes into the IBM system 36. Then we transmit back to them all the stops they are supposed to deliver to that next day. So we receive information on what they sold and we send back to them what products and quantities they are supposed to deliver and sell the next day.

"The information we get helps us control inventory better," Dial reports. "It gives us the flexibility to prepare in peak periods, particularly during our holiday seasons. It gives us tighter control over inventory. We balance our computer inventory to the warehouse inventory every single day.

"We couldn't do that as efficiently before," Dial says. "We did it, but we did not have nearly as tight control. Now, we can get a zero balance just about every day. We can account for every single case of beer. Some months we have one or two cases that we cannot account for, but the majority of the time, we can account for every single case of beer in this warehouse.

"We have set it up so that drivers call in between 10:00 and 10:30 in the morning," Dial relates. "At that point, we usually note the variances that we have and then we can double check. Every now and then, someone might load cans when they should have loaded bottles or one package instead of the other. The way things are set up, we can find the problems, adjust them, and make sure the customer gets the correct order. We have that degree of control over our inventory.

"We are now able to track our route productivity on a day-to-day basis," Dial observes, "where beforehand we ran monthly reports, or six-month and yearly reports. We are able to get a quicker lead on if there are any problems in a route," she notes, "and our customers appreciate that, because they get better service. They also appreciate the convenience of the invoices that our 40-column printer generates," Dial says. "At first, some customers were opposed to it. In fact, in the beginning we had accounts that would not accept them. We had to take manual tickets and rewrite the invoice. They just liked the old way better. They were used to it, and they knew how to read it. Now all our customers prefer the Route-Commander tickets, because they know there are no addition or multiplication errors, and they know the invoice is correct."

According to Dial, the units have made operations more efficient. "The Norand Route Commanders cut down on office time, as far as not having to key-in every account," she says. "We have a large system, and if we did not have this system, we would need a lot more personnel in the computer department, simply to be able to key-in the tickets and the load sheets. As it is, I'm the computer system manager, and I make sure the reports get out, but basically we just have two operators and data entry people here in Athens, and one in Gainesville.

If the current system were not in use, Dial says the company would require more personnel. "We'd probably need twice as many people as we have now," she says, "and the work would not be getting out as early. Our updates are done and sales reports are out usually by 11:30 every day. It is beneficial to the people who do the ordering, to the warehouse people, to the sales department, and to upper management to be able to keep a close track on what is being sold and what was delivered.

"At the end of the day," Dial relates, "because we are presale, they know exactly what is going to be delivered the next day. So they have a rough idea of what will be delivered the next day.

"The Route-Commanders cut down on time," she continues, "and without them we would not be able to process information as quickly as we do now. They cut down on errors, and that benefits everyone - in the office, in the warehouse and on the truck.

"We've been real pleased with the workings of the Norand units," Dial reports, "and we really like the new 141s. About five years ago we upgraded our pre-salesmen to 121s and then about two and a half years ago we upgraded our delivery department from 101s to 141s. The 141s are more reliable and perform better than the 121s.

"When we've had problems," Dial says, "Norand has been good about getting units fixed and back in our hands quickly. The repair turnaround has been good. It may take a week, but we have enough spares so we don't have to have the repair rushed. But we haven't needed too many repairs to begin with."

PHOTO : According to Norand, information recorded in the Norand terminal during the day is sent via telecommunications line overnight to the host computer. After information from the day's activities is uploaded, the host computer downloads information needed for the next day's delivery route.

PHOTO : Adding an automated route accounting system from Norand Corporation helped Leon Farmer & Company provide better service, according to Carolyn Dial, Leon Farmer's computer systems manager. "Invoice errors decreased dramatically," she says, "because there are very few ways they can mess up."

PHOTO : One of Leon Farmer's driver salesmen works on his end-of-the-day settlement. According to Norand, users of the Route-Commander 4000 can complete end-of-the-day settlements is about 15 minutes.
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Title Annotation:Leon Farmer Inc.'s pre-sales move
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Jan 20, 1992
Previous Article:State of the art.
Next Article:Why pre-sell fails.

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