For over 50 years, Louver Shop has been a leading source for custom-measured shutters and specialty window coverings sold in-home by an independent dealer network in 22 states, Louver Shop provides in-home measuring and selection, custom manufacturing, installation, and after-sale service.
The company prides itself on quality, customer service, and some of the shortest lead times in the industry. A streamlined manufacturing workflow and sales cycle are critical, but its antiquated dealer platform and ERP system began to limit its potential.
The Legacy System
Louver shop ran its production operations for years with a custom program written in VB6, which Microsoft stopped supporting in 2008.
Louver Shops dealers submitted orders via an iPad application written by an external developer. A new version of the iPad software had to be developed and released each time pricing and production configurations were updated.
Accounting ran on Sage 300 Pro, a legacy ERP with roots in the DOS era. A major revamp was needed.
3D Imaging Solution
After customers choose from a range of options, they sign off on the order. The challenge is to visualize the finished product from a list of selected options.
TwinEngines developed a real-time modeling tool based on the Babylon.JS platform to visualize the shutters, including the louver and rail sizes, the number of panels in the opening, and the number of divider rails within the panels. They can mix and max options until they like the look of the 3D model.
The image is constructed using actual measurements for the individual component pieces. These measurements will also be used in the custom manufacturing process. Technicians can quickly identify potential issues by looking at the 3D image. For example, if a rail is sized incorrectly, a gap will appear — just like in a finished construction. This ability saves time, reduces errors, and eliminates waste.
Video of 3D Modeling Configurator
The TwinEngines Workflow Solution
TwinEngines reviewed Louver Shop’s sales cycle to build a workflow platform aligning with the sales and production process. The Louver Shop workflow included:
- Sales leads > Schedule Appointments > Measurements > Product Selection > Proposals > Manufacturing Specs > Production & Finishing > Installation > Post sales support.
The project aimed to build a paperless flow that moved each order through the process while maintaining complete integration with Business Central. Price changes could be instantaneous through the portal.
Choosing Business Central
Louver Shop chose Microsoft’s Business Central for the company’s accounting/ERP needs because of its cloud-powered technology, advanced analytics, and total cost of ownership. Most importantly, Business Central could connect to third-party apps, integrate seamlessly with other Microsoft products, and connect with apps in the Microsoft Cloud, such as Power BI.
TwinEngines developed two Web-based platforms – each connected to Business Central.
- My View – Louver Shop provides extensive marketing to develop customer leads. This CRM dealer platform organizes those leads and manages the entire sales process on a Web-based device. Dealers can reach out to leads via text, email or phone. They can review products with clients, configure measurements, select options, and visualize the finished shutters with 3D animated modeling. The system tracks follow-ups and conversions to deliver marketing metrics on leads.
While a conventional CRM could perform these functions, the cost per dealer license would be prohibitive, especially for a generic solution. TwinEngines built a targeted solution that gives dealers instant access to leads and gives management feedback on sales activity.
- Smart View – The production platform processes dealer orders in real time and prepares them for production. The myriad of options, including model, sizing, layout, add-ons, and finishes are coded into a series of QR labels that get scanned at each work center. The coded parameters guide automated drilling, cutting, fabrication, assembly, and shipping on the shop floor.
Integration with Business Central – As each order comes into the system to be reviewed by tech services, the system pushes a Deposit Invoice, Sales Order, and Production Order to Business Central for immediate visibility. When the manufactured items reach Quality Control, the production order is posted, inventory counts are updated, and the finished item is invoiced and shipped. Because each order has a myriad of configurations, the BOM and parts inventory are adjusted for each order.
After Quality Control, the inventory is updated, an invoice is generated, and the order is shipped. Because every order is unique, the TwinEngines system manages the myriad configurations that must be tracked.
Shutters appear simple, but their degree of customization is beyond the capacity for an out-of-the-box ERP system to handle.
Business Central’s tight integration with Power BI gave Louver Shop deep analytics and at-a-glance views that were not previously available. These include deep analytics into lead sources, available and allocated inventory, work in progress, backlogs, and more.
Example reports and dashboards:
TwinEngines employs a continuous improvement approach to the platform. The company is working toward a completely paperless shop floor and a more robust lead-tracking system.
“The TwinEngines system has enhanced selling uniformity throughout our organization,” explained Marcel Barth, Director of Information Technology. “By removing friction in the sales process and shortening manufacturing lead times, we can now sell to our clients the way that they want to buy. This lets us better know our client’s needs, and meet those needs to create loyalty and customers for life.”
- Microsoft Visual Studio, C#, .Net
- SQL Server
- MS Power BI
- Babylon.JS 3D engine
- MS Dynamics 365 Business Central
- Avalara Sales Tax
- HubSpot Marketing Automation
“By removing friction in the sales process and shortening manufacturing lead times, we can now sell to our clients the way that they want to buy.”