Hosted VoIP Case Study
Making Connections is a Priority for All-Pro Fasteners (Cont'd)
Being able to pass information quickly back and forth between companies has shortened our response time. I think that’s a huge benefit for our customers.”
– Brian Shelton, General Manager, All-Pro Fasteners, Inc.
About All-Pro Fasteners
All-Pro Fasteners Facts
Provide IT support for a growing business and its employees
Enhanced infrastructure delivers the necessary tools and enables the collaboration between employees and customers
Increased productivity and cost efficiencies
Manufacturing and distribution
$60M in annual revenues
All-Pro Fasteners (APF) opened in1977 in Arlington, Texas, with plans to become a full-line, full-service fastener distributor. Demand for specialized products led to swift growth; the company has become a multi-faceted manufacturing center dedicated to the support of all its customers with distribution centers strategically located throughout North America. All-Pro Fasteners, All-Pro Threaded Products, the manufacturing division for APF, and sister company Lok-Mor employ 240 people and generate $60 million in annual revenues.
As All-Pro developed product lines for a range of market segments, the company grew from a single location in Texas to a national corporation with distribution centers across the U.S. With success came the associated challenges of managing a larger supply chain, staying responsive to customers and ensuring strong communication among All-Pro sales staff, inside engineering and production teams, and customers worldwide.
AT&T high-bandwidth data and voice networking provide the necessary infrastructure for All-Pro to offer the support tools and capabilities required by a growing company. AT&T Voice DNASM , a managed network-hosted VoIP solution, provides additional functionality that saves money and boosts productivity with rich features like unified messaging and “locate me” call forwarding. Now employees can focus on their jobs, easily collaborate with colleagues and stay in touch with customers.
Growing a Small Business
Fasteners are vital in every industry, holding automobile engines in place, keeping the wings on airplanes intact and making bridges safe for the millions of people who cross them every day. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the small, often invisible hardware.
You can’t put anything together without fasteners, and you can’t operate a company without telecommunications. Those things are just supposed to work.”
– Brian Shelton, General Manager, All-Pro Fasteners, Inc.
So it is not surprising that All-Pro Fasteners, which was once a small nut and bolt distribution business, has become a multi-million dollar fastener manufacturer with a worldwide clientele. “We realized we could support our customers faster and better control the quality by manufacturing the fasteners ourselves,” said All-Pro General Manager Brian Shelton. “Handling both manufacturing and distribution, along with our quality control and quick turnaround time, makes us unique.”
All-Pro supplies fasteners for a number of market segments, including the manufacturing, energy, utility, tower/pole and construction industries. “Pretty much, if it has threads on it or a hole in it, we probably make it,” said Larry Doss, All-Pro IT Director. The company’s fasteners have been used in projects as simple as traffic lights to as complex as the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the $1.3 billion Cowboy Stadium located just a few miles from All-Pro corporate headquarters.
Providing custom inventory management services minimizes customer acquisition and overhead costs and secures the lowest total inventory cost for All-Pro customers. “They don’t have to create any purchase orders or make any purchasing decisions,” Shelton said. “We just check their inventory and deliver what they need.”
As the company developed new market segments and specialized services, business operations became more complex. “Our biggest operational challenge was trying to get the structure in place to enable us to operate as efficiently as possible,” Shelton said. “We also had to change from a small business mentality, where everybody wore a lot of different hats, to a company with better defined operational areas. We needed to give people the tools and support they need to do specific jobs.”
Do it Once, Do it Right
Officials turned to technology to enhance business operations and increase productivity. “We wanted to improve reporting to help our customers better track the materials they were using,” said Shelton. “We knew early on that we had to invest in a business application that could support this growing need, so that’s been our challenge,” he said. “Before we could even begin to think about implementing new software, we had to make sure we had the proper infrastructure in place to support it.”
All-Pro’s IT team considered several options that would support the bandwidth-intense applications it planned to deploy. “We wanted to do it once and do it right,” Doss said. “Some of the other companies were still lagging behind, but AT&T immediately made the proposal to go to fiber. We wanted to build a network that was going to stand up for the next 10 years. We went with AT&T and the newer technology.”
A high-bandwidth network of AT&T DS3 and T1 service supports All-Pro’s heavy-duty applications, not only to the five buildings at the company’s corporate site, but to its 11 remote locations as well. The network supports the ERP application the company uses for purchasing, sales and inventory control, along with the priority word processing, accounting and email programs. “A lot of the information that we deal with for our customers is technical,” he said. “We exchange prints, drawings and spreadsheets. Everyone has to have access to email at all times.”
Uploads from Customer Sites
The robust network also facilitates mobile order-taking, which benefits both All-Pro and its customers. “We use barcode scanners at customers’ facilities to take orders, and we’ve recently started transmitting data immediately from the customer’s facility,” Doss says. “That saves us a lot of time as they can transmit that data directly from the customer’s site so we can start working on filling the orders faster.”
SIM cards in the scanners enable the sales team to transmit the orders wirelessly over the AT&T network. “The faster we can get that order through our system and process it, the faster we can deliver it to the customer,” Shelton said. The solution enables All-Pro to meet customer demand for inventory management. “We’re able to monitor their usage a lot better when we have more control over what’s going on,” he added.
“Being able to pass information quickly back and forth between companies has shortened our response time. I think that’s a huge benefit for our customers,” Shelton said. “Typically our customers order all of the expensive requirements for their job and the last thing they think about is fasteners. They often need them quickly and we’re able to respond.”
All-Pro also migrated to voice over IP with AT&T Voice DNA, a network-based VoIP solution that includes advanced features and a suite of management tools. This solution has reduced long-distance costs for the company, and made it easier to stay in touch with colleagues. “Now everyone is a three-digit extension away,” Shelton said.
The company depends heavily on the “locate me” function, available with this service. Salespeople can arrange for calls to follow them when they’re out in the field, so they’re always in touch with customers. In the past, it could take hours for messages to reach sales teams in the field.
Voice DNA also enables All-Pro to easily locate colleagues. “We’ve got five buildings here; a manager could be in any building at any time,” Shelton said. “When we need to reach them, we can’t afford to run all over the campus. Being able to track employees throughout the U.S., reach anyone no matter where they are, and transfer customer and supplier calls to them has been a huge help for us.”
Rerouting calls is a snap, he added, even in an emergency. During Hurricane Ike, for instance, All-Pro was able to route calls to locations that weren’t affected by the storm. “The biggest benefit is seamless communication,” Doss said. “People are more in touch.”
For All-Pro’s customers, the biggest positive that results from the company using this VoIP service is preventing work stoppage. “We can’t have a customer run out of material,” Shelton said. “Imagine a valve company being unable to cap off a gas line because they didn’t have the correct product to build the valve. If we don’t have the correct communication from the beginning to fulfill our customers’ needs, they can’t build the valve.”
Doing More with Less
Now All-Pro Fasteners is relieved of the burden of storing and maintaining technology equipment, which represents a significant cost savings. “We don’t have to make a significant investment in equipment,” Doss said. “Because it’s a managed service, our people can to do more with less,” Shelton added. “Our IT guys can jump on the web portal and change call routing features and routing across the company right away.”
Changing phone locations is also easy. “That’s probably one of the biggest benefits,” he said. “It used to take us several hours to add, move or change a line. We sometimes had to outsource part of that, but now we’re able to make changes completely on our own within minutes using our VoIP service from AT&T.”
“I would definitely recommend the Voice DNA service because of the call quality, suite of features, and the ease of managing the system,” Doss said. “I also give the highest marks to the AT&T service technicians, who proactively alert us if there is an issue in one of our locations.”
All-Pro credits AT&T for much of the success of its vendor-managed inventory program. “We develop a relationship with customers like the partnership we have with AT&T,” Shelton said. “We try to relieve the burden in their purchasing, quality, receiving and accounting departments. AT&T is the backbone of our effort right now as far as providing the infrastructure for that pipeline back and forth to the customer.”
One additional advantage All-Pro sees in working with AT&T is the simplified billing. “AT&T offered us convergent billing, which consolidated all of our charges onto basically two bills,” Doss said. “I won a lot of brownie points with the accounting department for that.”
As to the future, All-Pro Fasteners is looking to AT&T to assist with disaster recovery and to further develop customer collaboration solutions. It’s also considering unified messaging, to get voicemail and email out to customers more quickly. “We want it to be seamless, so we’re starting to look into that direction,” Doss said. “We already have the network and servers in place to support that.”
Shelton compared the value of his company’s products with those of AT&T. “You can’t put anything together without fasteners,” he said, “And you can’t operate a company without telecommunications. Those things are just supposed to work, and that’s been great for us.”