“Information Technology” is not going away, whether or not we want IT to. Truth is, I thought by now we would be bearing witness to more winners than losers, and the roofing industry would be taking advantage of all kinds of new efficiencies in the processing of our business. There is still much potential, but I’m moving the calendar back a few years from my original expectations.
Look back at our “Dot-Com” supplement from last year (Roofing Contractor, June 2000). Several of the sites listed or mentioned no longer exist. A few more have gone nowhere. When they first began to emerge, manufacturers touting “virtual reality” programs to aid in the presentation of roofing products seemed a sure bet to replace paper literature and those expensive, heavy, granule-dropping, mess-up-the-inside-of-your-truck shingle sample boards. Hasn’t happened.
Now the IT guys want us to get excited about the “wireless revolution” that seems to be on top of us. Wake me up when you get to the good part — like when we can actually see it doing something for a roofing contractor besides siphoning off attention from the real problems of the day.
Nonetheless, I continue to recommend that you stay in tune with emerging technologies. Allow me to point to some success stories you may wish to check out. Last month we introduced you to b2broofingnetwork.com. It is conceptually one of the most well rounded dot-coms in the roofing industry. Our own roofingcontractor.com has been rolled out in its fourth generation, and is more interactive and useful than ever. Byte by byte, the Internet should begin to deliver real-world solutions to roofing contractors.
Other initiatives that take advantage of the Internet are also coming into focus. Check out BuildNet as it develops supply chain solutions that seek to make the material ordering process easier. NetClerk continues to build its base of local operations nationwide. This unique service does the dirty work of obtaining construction permits, saving contractors untold time and money.
Roofing contractors who specialize in new construction may be among the first to take advantage of real-world solutions, as sophisticated builders and general contractors move their business processes online. Roofing contractor Chris Howe of Howe Contracting, Kennesaw, Ga., cites the scheduling system utilized by Atlanta-based builder Colony Homes with saving his firm considerable time and money. Colony provides a computerized schedule that shows a week's worth of work, or Howe can go to the Colony Website for a two-week schedule. Gone are the days of waiting around for a call, as well as the time the builder spent calling or faxing orders to subs.
No one IT initiative is going to cure all the ills in our business. Nearly any roofing contractor will tell you IT won’t do a thing for the number one problem of finding, training and keeping good help. If, however, IT makes some of the small but necessary business process issues go away, at least you may pick up more time to deal with those more pressing issues.