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Distributor implements data management for more sales

Client: BlueLinx Corp. ?
In-house ?
Implement data management and product information management systems to ensure clean data and spur sales efforts. ?

The tough housing market has been a challenge for ?companies such as BlueLinx Corp., a distributor of building products with more than 11,500 customers nationwide. It means merchandising products and services ?efficiently is critical. BlueLinx was operating on legacy systems after a 2004 spin-off from parent Georgia-Pacific that had evolved from merging regional databases, resulting in some duplicate and obsolete product information. ?

The size of its product database — more than 300,000 items in stock — posed an enormous systems challenge, says Meg Hulme, director of IT application development and e-commerce at BlueLink. “I did not realize how complicated wood can be,” she jokes.?

A platform was required that could handle both transactions and catalog production, says Hulme. Because of regional differences in building trade, BlueLinx doesn’t publish a national catalog, but it had not published regional catalogs for some years before the data management overhaul. ?

STRATEGY: First, the company undertook an internal review to clean up and standardize its product descriptions. It also improved its data governance by limiting the number of people who could modify product data, leading to cleaner, more useable information. BlueLinx then implemented STEP, a master data management platform from software company Stibo Systems, as well as a print publishing tool. ?

The cleaned-up database is a single source of product information for sales transactions, as well as the information and assets for catalogs. Templates help standardize product descriptions so every product in a family and it automatically groups products of the same family together for sales.?

RESULTS: With the database implementation, BlueLinx was also able to reduce its inventory from 300,000 units to 100,000. By consolidating and standardizing product descriptions, sales people can now do a better job of selling to customers, Hulme says. “Our industry is really hurting, so being able to reduce our inventory was significantly important for us,” she added. ?

The company was also able to publish 16 regional catalogs and lay the groundwork to enter the e-commerce arena later this year.

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