Predator Group | Distributor Case Study

Situation

Predator Group, Blue Link client
Predator Group is a distributor of high-end pool cues located in Jacksonville, FL whose products are used by top-ranked billiard professionals across the United States. The company’s three product lines, which include Predator Cues, Poison Billiards and Uni-Loc joints, require a complex and robust distribution system in order to ensure customer demand is met and their products continue to meet the level of quality the company is so well-known for.

Although Predator Group is currently solely a distributor of pool cues, the company also previously manufactured cues in-house. Because of this, they relied on a software system that was manufacturing-specific in order to meet their needs. In 2006, however, the company began to outsource manufacturing to China. By 2008 they had completely ceased all in-house manufacturing operations, yet continued to use the same system as before. As a result, Predator Group found it difficult to handle their distribution needs, and therefore decided to implement a more effective solution. After searching for a new system, Predator Group transitioned to Blue Link in March of 2013.

Challenge

Predator Group’s distribution process is a complex one. Cues are made using anywhere from five to up to 30 different parts. These parts include shafts, specially designed joints and screws and weight cartridges. Cues use types of wood like burl, maple and ebony, and many feature carbon fiber reinforcement to improve performance.

The company’s 250 customers, which are wholesalers who sell Predator Group cues to retailers nationwide, place orders via the company’s sales department. Staff must then identify which components are required to make these cues and create the appropriate purchase orders for them. These purchase orders are sent to the various suppliers Predator Group works with, who ship the requested items back to Predator Group to be stored. Staff pull the necessary items for each customer purchase order and ship them to China, where they’re manufactured into the cues themselves. The finished cues are then shipped back to Predator Group to be sent to the customers who ordered them.

All of these steps are complex and time consuming, requiring careful attention to detail. Predator Group’s previous system lacked the automation capabilities needed to execute these processes efficiently. Instead, staff had to track all customer orders, purchase orders, inventory and shipping information manually, via spreadsheet. Since nothing was updated automatically, staff had to spend hours each week painstakingly entering new information into these spreadsheets in order to stay on top of everything. This made reordering cue components particularly challenging.

“We found that we were always running out of components for our products,” says David Morrison, an accounting assistant at Predator Group with extensive knowledge of both the old and new systems. “Suppliers would come back to us and tell us they were out of something, so we’d have to go and order parts from other suppliers, and things would get delayed.”

Predator Group’s previous system was also on-premises, which made it very difficult for their three employees in China to log in and work on the system. The on-premises system also presented a challenge for members of the sales department, who frequently travel and thus were unable to easily log into the system to view essential data and make changes when they needed to.

When it came time to search for new systems, Predator Group knew that their biggest requirements were that the software be hosted in the cloud, enabling remote access, and that it have excellent automation, reordering and and reporting capabilities so they would be able to track and manage their data more efficiently.

Solution

Predator Group was impressed by Blue Link’s capabilities from the very start. “Blue Link took our breath away,” Morrison says. “They listened to what we wanted and presented a good demo to us. It seemed like Blue Link would be very customizable, which it is. The system is very simple and to the point.”

Before Predator Group transitioned to the new system, Blue Link created a trial version for employees to test out in order to see which features they would be using the most so the system could be modified according to their needs. When the time came to implement the system, members of Blue Link staff arrived at Predator Group facility and spent two weeks training employees and transferring all of Predator Group’s data into the system.

In the time since implementation, Predator Group has seen immense improvements to nearly all areas of company operations. Once customer orders are entered into the system, Blue Link is able to automatically assess which components need to be ordered and generate purchase orders. The system’s Inventory Reorder screen also alerts Predator Group staff when inventory levels are low so more components can be ordered. This helps ensure that the company never runs out of stock and is able to meet their high customer demand.

“It takes all the guesswork out of everything,” Morrison says. “It does what our staff used to spend hours and hours doing, and does it with the click of a button.”

Blue Link’s Inventory Back Order Fill Screen is another beneficial asset to Predator Group. The screen alerts staff to which customer orders should be filled first based on when the orders were placed, which saves the staff and logistics team a minimum of 10 hours per week and allows them to focus on more essential activities. “The sales team can focus their efforts more on selling and getting on the phones with customers instead of having to deal with working in the system,” Morrison explains.

Blue Link’s sales order review screen is also extremely beneficial for Predator Group, as it allows staff to view the completion percentage of all orders so incomplete orders aren’t pulled before they’re ready. The screen also allows staff to pre-authorize customer credit cards so that all payments are guaranteed to go through as soon as the order is shipped to China to be manufactured. “It tells you everything you need to know about the order so the guys in the back can say, ‘okay, this order has got the green light, let’s pull it,’” Morrison says.

The new system has helped Predator Group improve their relationship with customers. Once orders have been shipped to China, customers are automatically emailed their invoice, packing slip and tracking number. This keeps them up to date on the status of their order and alerts them to what it will include when it arrives. It also saves Predator Group staff the hassle of having to manually send out invoices each month. “In the old system, it would take us a couple hours per day to process invoices,” Morrison says. “Now it only takes about 10 minutes at the end of the day. We also have the system set up to automatically email out invoices to customers on the fourth of each month, so that’s one less thing we have to worry about.”

Blue Link’s strong reporting capabilities have also proven incredibly useful. Predator Group’s CFO uses the system to automatically calculate financials at the end of the month. All data can be exported into Microsoft Word or Excel, making it easy for the company to provide this information to customers or board members. Additionally, since Blue Link is cloud-based, Predator Group employees can log into the system anywhere they have Internet access, ensuring that they never skip a beat if they’re traveling or out of the office. “It allows our China employees to be more involved and our sales team to be more involved when they’re on the road,” Morrison says. “This helps alleviate the workload in the office.”

Blue Link is currently working to modify the system even further to help Predator Group improve company operations. One example is creating a special screen that will link customer orders to purchase orders, which will allow Predator Group to let customers know where the items required to assemble their cues are, how long it will take to manufacture them and when they will be shipped.

Predator Group estimates that Blue Link will save them a minimum of $12,000 per year simply in terms of how much less it costs to run the system as compared to the old software they were using. As the company continues to save countless hours as a result of Blue Link’s automation capabilities and the future modifications to the system that are planned, Predator Group expects to see additional cost savings in the tens of thousands of dollars. “It’s leaps and bounds from where we were, like going from a typewriter to a computer,” Morrison says. “Blue Link has moved us into the 21st century.”

Case study provided courtesy of Software Advice, a trusted resource for wholesale and distribution ERP software buyers. Read the original case study here.