In the early 1970s, most distributors had some type of system to handle accounting,
such as Accounts Receivable, but inventory control was virtually always done manually
on cardboard stock record cards stored on a "Lazy Susan" in the middle of the order entry / customer service area.
Two notable exceptions were
J.J. Haines in Baltimore, MD and Empire Carpet in Teterboro, NJ.
These companies wanted to computerize more aspects of their business, including inventory control, and move to a
bigger computer system capable of handling more on-line users. At the time, this was considered "leading edge",
since there were very few ways to do this, short of purchasing a "mainframe" computer costing millions of dollars
to buy, and many more hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain each year.
In 1976, we developed our first software package for the flooring and ceramic tile industries.
We used a "minicomputer" which allowed us to produce robust, full function, on-line software, yet still making it
cost effective so that the typical distributor could afford it. From a technical standpoint, the trick was to
develop very efficient software, since we were working with considerably less (computer) power and resources.
J.J. Haines went "live" with this
new software in January 1977 and Empire Carpet went "live" later that year. The
successes of these installations lead to installing this new software at Carson, Pirie, Scott in Minneapolis, MN.
Headquartered in Chicago, IL, Carson, Pirie, Scott (or CPS) was the second largest
distributor of floor covering in the United States, behind L.D. Brinkman in Dallas, TX. The accounting software ran on
a mainframe in their Chicago headquarters. However, inventory control for the floor covering business was not computerized.
CPS was a multi-state distributor, serving a broad territory including North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and Southern Florida. CPS added new software demands, including the ability to check stock in all of
the branch locations, regardless of where they were located.
By the early 1980s, we installed systems at other leading companies, who could see the value of computerizing their
business. Among them were Butler-Johnson Corporation in San Jose, CA,
B.R. Funsten (San Francisco, CA),
Buckwold-Western (Saskatoon, SASK), and
Melmart (Toronto, ONT). By the middle 1980's, about one third of all the
floor covering sold in the United States was sold through one of the systems we installed.
As operations expanded, multi-state distributors added new software demands, including
the ability to check stock in different branch locations and on different computer systems. Generally, minicomputers
were not capable of using telephone lines to connect remote branch locations; again, this was typically done by
mainframe computers. We pioneered unique and innovative ways to accomplish these communications, using a
"multiplexing" technique. This technique dramatically reduced communications costs because point-to-point telephone
circuits were not needed between each branch.
By 1990, long before the Internet was widely used, we developed a product called
Customer On-Line Access ("COLA"), which allowed dealers to dial into a distributor's computer system to check stock
and place orders. About the same time, we also developed our Optical Disk Invoice Storage and Retrieval System,
which allows distributors to store 10 years of invoices electronically. Using advanced search capabilities, invoices
are retrieved and printed on a laser printer, without the use of a pre-printed form. New purchasing features, such
as Semi-Automated Just-In-Time Inventory purchasing, were also implemented.
In 1992, we developed a new client-server based product called FloorPro®. This
product yielded better performance and more efficiency than ever before. The PC-based workstations interacted with
the operator and accessed the server for database information. server for database information. In April 1992, this
software was installed at FlorStar Sales in Chicago, IL.
This new software was so robust that it ran on a new low cost microcomputer, an Intel 486 (at the time, a 486 was
"state of the art"). This server, with only 32 MB of memory, drove 192 devices, with over 100 active workstations
and 20 printers
In 2000, we developed a new internet-based e-commerce version of our COLA (Customer On-Line Access) software.
This software allows customers to check stock, pricing, product information and the status of existing orders and
place orders, print confirmation documents, and much more. Unlike EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), in which most
functions operate in "batch" mode at some predetermined time of day, our COLA system operates in "real time,"
updating inventory as orders are created.
In 2004, we introduced the latest version of our software, FloorPro® III ERP
(Enterprise Resource Planning). It offers an improved Graphical User Interface (GUI) with enhanced features, icons,
and tool tips. It features enhanced software support for stone, ceramic tile and blind lots. With this release,
reports can be exported to Microsoft Excel and enhanced Windows "List View" features were added for easier
"on screen" viewing. Networking support has also been enhanced, so now the software can be accessed via the internet
from anywhere in the world!
In 2006, we announced the launch of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) support.
RFID automatically identifies products in the warehouse or retail location and tracks their location and movement
with no manual intervention required. RFID even works when items are stacked and would be otherwise out of reach for
a conventional bar-coded system. It seamlessly integrates with our FloorPro® III ERP software. Coupled with other
options such as GPS (Global Positioning Systems), it can be used to fully automate inventory control from the
manufacturer to the retailer on a global scale.
In 2011, we announced the launch of our Smart Warehouse
application suite. We've integrated our smart phone app with our
FloorPro® ERP software to check things such as pricing and
availability. Based on the specific person that is using the app and
the needs of our clients, additional information such as sales,
pricing, costing and gross margin can be displayed. In addition,
inventory information such as on hand quantities, dye lots, back
orders, purchasing and reorder information may also be checked. All
of these checks are done in real time thus insuring that it's the
latest up-to-the-minute information.
Our Smart Warehouse fully supports "QR" bar codes. These bar
codes are the curious looking, square images which can be scanned with
a smart phone. This Smart Warehouse software not only reads
"QR" bar codes, but it provides the ability to print "QR" labels on an
ordinary laser printer using standard labels. This greatly reduces the
cost of labeling products in the showroom since the cost of one label
is less than one tenth of one cent (3,000 labels for about $29).
Our Smart Warehouse software has given our customers a
21st Century Showroom. Using a smart phone, our customers can scan
products in their showroom, check pricing and availability, and even
produce a quote for their customer. The information can be printed
locally on a network printer or e-mailed directly to their customer.
These tools, in conjunction with our other leading-edge solutions, are enabling the
floor covering industry to improve operations, customer service and the bottom line by harnessing the efficiencies
offered by modern technology. We have built our reputation on customizing and tailoring solutions for our customers'
specialized needs. And we have been providing these innovative and leading edge solutions to the flooring, ceramic
tile, and stone industries for 30 years.