Digital technology: framework for business growth

Matix Lumber

March 12, 2014— Winnipeg, Manitoba

Eco-friendly Honka homes withstand the harshest weather conditions, and are especially popular in northern communities.

Having quadrupled their business and grown from six to 30 employees in the two years since startup, Matix Lumber needed to find the right enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to meet their burgeoning needs for integrating business processes such as accounting, estimating, purchasing, shipping and inventory control. With a combined 45 years' experience in the lumber industry, assistant general manager Sue Matic and her father launched Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Matix Lumber in 2011. Building on their industry expertise, reputation and vision, they quickly laid the foundation for the new firm's remarkable growth.

Matic describes the company as a "pro shop" for construction contractors that sells lumber and building materials to the trades. A major contributor to its explosive expansion is the acquisition of the western Canada distribution rights to Honka solid wood homes from Finland. The homes weather harsh conditions, come in kits that can be easily assembled using mostly local labour, and are virtually maintenance-free. "We saw more than 300 people go through the show home in the first six months—it's like construction tourism," she says. "We have dedicated a full-time staff person just to showing visitors how it all works."

According to Matic, the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP) delivered by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) facilitated the selection and implementation of an ERP system that made it possible for Matix Lumber to survive and grow. "The manual systems we were using just couldn't support our needs," she says. "DTAPP helped us move forward on a timely basis to adopt the right ERP system."

Building on DTAPP support

Like most small enterprises, Matix Lumber had limited time and resources to seek out an ERP system while assembling and managing the new company. "Getting the technology right can make or break a business, and in our case it not only kept us in the game but also put us in a good competitive position," says Matic. "We pre-sell a variety of houses, commercial projects and materials, so we must absolutely provide buyers with accurate price estimates, order appropriate quantities of inventory as needed, manage what's on hand—and then ship and bill."

Working closely with NRC-IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor Laural Porth-Jones was a critical factor in helping the company make the best ERP decisions. "She knew the questions I needed to ask suppliers and others to ensure the system met our needs," adds Matic. "Laural's knowledge and experience, personal attention and steady guidance were instrumental in helping us get it right the first time."

Matic points out that thorough planning and analysis up front saves time down the road and helps ensure that the decisions made are the right ones. "We understood what digital technology could do for us, but needed guidance in identifying an ERP solution that met our specific needs," she says. "DTAPP supported us through all stages of selection and implementation, provided linkages and referrals to specialists in our field, and helped with technology deployment and staff training."

"DTAPP provided us with input and guidance at the right time in our firm's development…and that support allows us to continue climbing the growth ladder." —Sue Matic, assistant general manager, Matix Lumber

Thanks to DTAPP assistance, Matix Lumber has:

  • found an industry-specific ERP system to help manage its ongoing growth
  • streamlined operations to meet customer demand 50 percent more quickly
  • improved productivity by 30 percent
  • been able to create 10 new jobs
  • seen 25 percent revenue growth

Designing a bright future

The ERP system is now providing Matix Lumber with statistics, history, trends and other data that they can use to make informed decisions about future directions.

The company's blueprint for the future includes steady and continuous growth, using the software to its fullest capacity and implementing a point-of-sale (POS) system for customer purchases in their 17,000-square-foot retail store slated to open in spring 2014. They are also cross-training all employees on the software to maximize its capacity.

Expanding the market for Honka homes is integral to the company's future. The eco-friendly homes are already generating orders from northern Canadian communities, which are impressed by their excellent air quality, high energy efficiency, simple installation and longevity.

"DTAPP provided us with input and guidance at the right time in our firm's development," concludes Matic. "And that support allows us to continue climbing the growth ladder."

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