Technology advancements in equipment usually takes center stage in the construction space, but Komatsu dealer Anderson Equipment is streamlining its operations and boosting customer service with a few internal advancements.
While headquartered outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Bridgeville, the 81-year-old equipment distributor has taken a centralized approach to managing its IT needs at its Buffalo, New York, branch.
Mike Womble is the branch manager for Buffalo as well as the Rochester location and says his building serves as the technological center for the company’s database applications for all 21 of its locations across six states.
“We have our own servers,” he says. “A lot of dealers used MDS in the past as an operating system, but we have our own in-house proprietary operating system that we use.”
Womble demonstrated the effectiveness of the system in the middle of our interview at his office, taking a call and then quickly typing out a few commands in a just a few moments.
“What I just did that fast was countersign a sales agreement from a customer, then I went into my system, converted it into an order and directed our product manager to put it in,” he explains.
“This is the hub,” says John Zappia, Anderson senior network security analyst. “The rest of the locations are spokes, so to speak. And the core is downstairs here.” He explains the company previously used an old frame relay and now uses a virtual private network.
“We host the database here,” he says, “Even though this isn’t the corporate office, everything is here.” However, Zappia says the main office in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, is a backup to all the data and services in Buffalo.
“We have IReplicate virtual machine run through the local area network every night,” he explains. “The mirror is our corporate office, and everything there is ready to be turned on and refreshed nightly. Even the database is replicated.”
But, Zappia adds, the system is under limited threat. “They are otherwise turned off so they’re secure and safe,” he says. “They can’t be hacked if they’re off.”
And part of his responsibilities includes making sure the system stays safe in the virtual setting the company uses. “I design the network infrastructure and security in the virtual environment because we’re about 95 percent ‘virtualized,’ which is what gives me the ability to replicate them.”
Zappia adds the nearly all of this tech work is down without assistance from outside vendors. “Which is nice because anytime we find something that might work better,” says Womble, “we take it right to these guys and its ready to go the next day, or sometimes even that same day.
The Anderson app
An extension of Anderson’s centralized approach to technology is the mobile app it developed a few years ago. It features a customer relationship management system, access to inventory, sales reporting, trade inspection for equipment and a rental ready equipment database.
“It’s a dynamic system,” Womble says. “You can make a sales call entry, you can look up a customer and you can look up what equipment we have in inventory and see what rental equipment is ready to go. When we’re looking to take something in on trade we can fill out the form right there on the phone, snap pictures, hit send and you’re done.”
All of these technologies make Anderson employees’ jobs easier, but the ultimate goal is using them to foster better relationships with their customers for a better sales, service or rental experience.
“I had a good conversation this morning with one of my salesman about what he does and he was venting some frustrations,” Womble says. “He thinks he’s too involved in some of the administrative stuff – normal complaints we may hear from the salesmen. But I said, ‘you know what’s interesting is that you and I, we don’t live in a black and white world. You have to take it one-off time and time again.’
“It’s nice that our company, and I’d say almost all of them, have some set of processes and standard operating procedures that kind of govern the day-to-day operations,” Womble adds. “But when the rubber hits the road it comes down to who is sitting in whatever seat at that time and how it gets handled.”
“And I think that falls right in line with what we’re talking about on the technology side. I think it falls in line with customer issue resolution, customer development, even developing your relationships.”
Headquarters: Bridgeville, Pennsylvania
Locations: 21 across six states: West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine
1979: Expanded into West Virginia
1996: Purchased Rupp Rental and Sales in upstate New York
2009: Purchased R.C. Hazelton with coverage in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine
Serves as northeast parts depot for Komatsu