Mark Chirgwin, head of operations for BENDER, explained some of the welcomed challenges faced when initially implementing DDI System at their company, saying “Back in the mid 1990s the main challenge was training employees on the new system. It had huge enhancements over the system we were using — things like inventory management, POS system, much more advanced customer, product and vendor files.”
Chirgwin also credits DDI with easy access to specified contacts for vendors: “Using the CRM, we now can close sales more using the pipeline. We have one retail showroom salesperson who has increased sales by 60% and closing rate has increased by almost 20%. Importing products into the ERP system has saved hours of manual work.” On top of that, they have saved hours by picking up orders through bin locations.
Efficiency and modernity have always been in BENDER’s blood, so to speak. The company is a fourth-generation family business based in Connecticut. Since the 1920s, Sam Lewin built a foundation for success by starting New Haven Plumbing Supply, and then branching off on his own to form Lewin and Sons. That’s where Sam’s daughter, Alice, met employee Jack Bender and fell in love. In 1942 they married and after returning home from WWII, Bender started selling war surplus materials and the family business was renamed Bender Plumbing Supply in 1946.
Fast forward a few decades and their son David opened the second location in 1977, thus furthering the growth of BENDER to new horizons. As the 1980s took hold, showrooms began to get more traction thanks to homeowner interest. At that point, BENDER was located in both New Haven and Waterbury. By the early 2000s BENDER began opening showrooms in Bridgeport, Hartford, Norwalk, Wallingford and Torrington that featured plumbing, kitchen and bath cabinetry, and countertops. Some of the showrooms —Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwalk — also included new warehouses and counters, and an additional counter was opened in Stamford as well.
David Bender is the principal owner and President of the company. Mark Chirgwin, James Narduzzo, Steve Fecteau and Max Bender are also owners. Jason Sepe is the ERP Systems Manager. Nina Bender, who heads marketing for the company, said, “Being a part of a family business that has such a rich history is really something special. I get to go to work feeling proud because I know as a family we have reared a living and breathing company that continues to grow and provide meaningful employment to hundreds of Connecticut families. That’s why it is a family business — not just because generations of Benders have worked here, but because for generations, families have worked here.”
In keeping with BENDER’s success story, the partnership with DDI is only the beginning for now. There are many plans for the future in the works. Chirgwin noted, “The use of the new forecasting system DDI is ready to launch, making purchasing more accurate and freeing up time for our purchasing agents to use their industry skills, this will reduce costs and we will have more time to negotiate. In regards to the Warehouse Management System, we are really looking forward to this planning on two branches being implemented in 2016 and the other four in 2017. We feel this is really going to help having the ability to track special order items that are linked to a sales order, which will also add to the customer service.
"Then there is Quick Order, which we are planning on using to quote on the retail side of our business. No longer will employees have to hand write what a consumer wants quoted off the floor, they can simply scan it and it will automatically create a quote inside the DDI. It will also store credit applications in the vendor and customer files. The ability to store attachments will eliminate the need for file cabinets, saving time, space and money.”
As with all improvements and technological evolutions, it takes time and patience. BENDER is and has been ahead of the “game” for quite some time with their advancements. When asked about advice for other companies looking to mimic BENDER, Chirgwin noted, “The advice would be to try to increase the use of DDI every year, it is impossible to use DDI to 100% of its ability, but if you set a goal to do a couple major projects a year, it will benefit you immensely. The employees are the biggest asset for your company, but your software is your backbone.”