Seamless Connections for Dealers - A Closer Look
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SECTION: A Closer Look

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Seamless Connections for Dealers

By Joanne Costin

Article Date: 03-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


Power, productivity and profit, not to mention familiarity – with Microsoft at its foundation, Tectura/XAPT is ready with integrated software solutions.


While Tectura or XAPT may not be household names, nearly everyone who uses a computer knows Microsoft as a leading provider of software solutions like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Windows, to name a few.
 
There’s something comfortable and familiar about the daily Microsoft serenade we hear when we turn on our computers, and Tectura, in partnership with XAPT, is banking on this familiarity to make inroads with construction equipment dealers in need of a heavy equipment software solution. The two companies have partnered globally to deliver a total business management solution designed and developed specifically for equipment dealers.
 
Using Microsoft’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution as a jumping off point, Tectura/XAPT creates industry-specific functionality using Microsoft protocols and tools for a wide range of businesses. Having served construction equipment dealerships in Europe and Asia for the last seven years, the company has its sights set on growing the business in North America. For the past three years, they have been incubating, training and developing their product for dealers in this market. Their first system went live in February 2010, with rave reviews from Kelly Tractor, and sister company Pantropic Power, a Caterpillar dealership based in Miami, Fla. Tectura/XAPT is now ready to show other dealers how their system can improve productivity and profitability.
 
Tectura and XAPT are Microsoft gold certified partners. This designation is awarded to those companies that are at the top 2 percent of Microsoft partners as measured by customer satisfaction and revenue.
 
“Customer service is a very important part of this industry,” said Chris Kohart, Tectura global product manager for heavy equipment. “It is great to have the best software, which I believe we do,” said Kohart; “however if you can’t keep your commitments it kind of dilutes it.” He adds that the company offers 24/7 global support.
 
The solution is centered on connecting and synchronizing a wide range of day-to-day business activities that have historically occurred in isolation of core business applications. “Assisting dealers in becoming more nimble and profitable is at the core of our mission,” said Kohart. As a former vice president of a dealership, Kohart has a very good understanding of dealer needs.
 
Using one system instead of multiple systems enables the dealer to eliminate a myriad of redundant tasks that occur in a typical dealership and also reduces the opportunity for errors. “Disparate system environments serve to inhibit true real-time collaboration, and that is at the heart of what constrains organizations,” explained Kohart.
 
Nick Kelly, co-dealer principal of Kelly Tractor, recognized that their system was holding them back. “There were a number of areas where we wanted to improve our processes but the product we were on, the technology, didn’t allow us to change as quickly as we wanted to change,” he said.
 
Because the software works within the Microsoft Dynamics program itself, industry-specific applications are seamless and easy to use. “A user can’t tell what is basic Microsoft functionality and what is something we have specifically designed for a heavy equipment dealer,” said Kohart. We have developed a wide range of industry-specific applications including rental, service, parts, equipment management, equipment sales and project management (for dealers that do any large-scale fabrication).
 
Kohart believes investing in ERP offers benefits, particularly after downsizing. He believes that as dealers start to return to some sense of normalcy, ERP will allow them to grow the business without adding to the body count right away, because they are inherently more efficient.
 
The other advantage to implementing a system now, while dealers are not operating at full capacity, is that management can devote its full attention to implementing a new system and training their employees. Kohart believes that companies who invest now will be able to service the demand and be ahead of the curve instead of trying to catch up after business starts to improve. The system is also easily scalable.
 
To demonstrate the ROI of the software, Tectura/XAPT has developed a tool to map the labor and costs associated with specific tasks and functions and compare them against the Microsoft Dynamics solution. For example, under the old system it might take two hours to extract a branch level rental utilization report – and the dealer has six locations and runs the report monthly. That’s 144 man hours per year to generate a report. At a cost of $25 per hour, the annual cost is $3,600. Under the new system, the report is automatically generated. Multiply hundreds of different activities like this, and Kohart believes an ERP is cost effective, even in today’s market.
 
Working with one of the most recognized names in office software provides Tectura/XAPT with a strong starting point and one of its key advantages. Another advantage: Microsoft spends nearly a billion dollars annually on R&D.
 
“We felt that this was really the best of both worlds,” said Kelly. “You have the Microsoft core, which is advancing at an aggressive pace, yet you have the customization developed by XAPT that really addresses all of our specific industry needs. It was really a strong combination.”
 
Familiarity is certainly on their side, as well. Implementing a system with the same look and feel of other Microsoft office products will translate into less training time and greater usage of the system, Kohart believes.
 
He says the system will also bring positive changes to the IT department. Implementation frees the staff to become more productive and customer focused. Before the Tectura/XAPT system is implemented, a dealer might have 16 programs and 11 vendors to support, compared to a new system with eight operating programs and two vendors (Microsoft and Tectura/XAPT).
 
Integration is critical. Other products interface very well with the Microsoft platform, a fact that Kelly Tractor viewed as a key differentiator. In fact, the company is already looking at software products that interface with transportation companies, with GPS tracking products and phone systems. “Having a product that integrates with existing products (such as Microsoft Office) is a big advantage already,” said Kelly.
 
Tectura/XAPT works with dealers to specify the proper size infrastructure to support the system. The software is currently sold as a base price plus a per-user license fee. A software-as-a-service product is in the works. Kohart says hardware is really the only area where dealers have expressed concern about the system, so they work with buyers to educate them about how Microsoft hardware differs from IBM technology.
 
“At the end of the day, a dealer can expect to see fewer servers and less complexity in their computer room,” said Kohart. “And that translates into lower operating costs.” While the initial implementation of the software for Kelly Tractor and Pantropic Power took 15 months, Kohart says that depending on the size and complexity of the system conversion, implementation of the new ERP will take between three and 12 months.
 
Kelly is excited about the software’s ability to deliver instant information across the organization. “Technicians are out on their job, and they have GPS locating where the machine is,” he said. “When they find the machine and diagnose the issue, they are wirelessly connected to our parts system. They can order the parts. For those that aren’t available they can back order with Caterpillar. They can look at service manuals online, or view a parts catalog to see what they need. They have all the tools right there without having to interact with other departments.”
 
Thanks to Tectura/XAPT and Microsoft, the connections are seamless. And now that their first North American ERP solution for equipment dealers is up and running, there’s nothing holding anyone back.

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