PGR Builders & Timber Merchants Interview
Blue Rock Systems Ltd, Southampton
To produce a written interview for the Blue Rock Systems Ltd blog, based on an in-person interview with Joe Williams, Group Systems Manager at PGR Builders & Timbers Merchants
Their 10 branches operate throughout Essex and Surrey and stock a vast range of building materials and supplies: from bulk products like sand and decorative aggregates, blocks, bricks and lintels, to landscaping products and cladding as well as small essential items such as chemicals and tools.
Along with their sister company Connect Plumbing & Heating Supplies (who trade from their 5 depots in the Essex area), PGR went live with iQ after moving from vLine around 2 years ago.
Since then, they have become huge innovators in iQ, making changes by themselves and using ePOD, Intact Journeys, REST API to integrate with their Kick website, and SMS messaging to communicate with their customers — they haven’t stayed still!
Glen Jewell, Sales Director at Blue Rock Systems, spoke with Joe Williams, Group Systems Manager at PGR Builders & Timbers Merchants about their journey with iQ so far, and their relationship with Blue Rock.
Glen: First things first, how have the last 24 months been for PGR, and how have the challenged we’ve all faced moulded the company?
Joe: Since the first lockdown there have actually been many positives in terms of business, in what was a tragic time for most of the world. Digitalisation and automation were at the forefront of our agenda to make sure we could carry on providing the exceptional service we pride ourselves on, whilst following the guidelines of social distancing in the workplace and home working.
We have continued with our changing culture, with the help of iQ which has allowed us to run leaner and have a more focused outlook on the most important areas of our business, our customers & employees.
Glen: What remain as the current challenges in the industry?
Joe: Material shortages finally started easing at the end of 2021, but now we’ve got the soaring cost of electricity and gas which just adds to the never-ending price increases we have experienced since the pandemic began.
With energy bills increasing by as much as 54%, pressure has been put on our suppliers (due to our energy-intensive industry which manufactures concrete, steel and cement). Ultimately, the higher prices are passed on to us — this remains the biggest challenge of the year so far.
Glen: What made you choose Blue Rock over our competitors? And what is working with Blue Rock like?
Joe: The main reason we chose Blue Rock was the relationship we had already built with the team when they supplied and supported vLine for us years ago. This allowed us to start on iQ straight away with people we already had a relationship with. We know that the team are both friendly and capable which makes it very easy to work alongside them.
Glen: And what prompted the move from vLine?
Joe: The main issue was speed. We were struggling as a company with the speed of vLine in all aspects and found that we couldn’t move forward as a business without an upgrade to our software.
Glen: How has iQ changed the way your business runs?
Joe: Our business has seen more productivity, more efficiency and more visibility than we have ever had before.
This is all due to what iQ can show and highlight — which with the right people looking at it, helps resolve issues before they become problems.
Glen: Which departments have seen the most benefits so far?
Joe: All departments have seen substantial improvements along our 2-year journey. Initially, it was branch & sales staff who saw the biggest improvements; however, in the past 6 months, all other departments have been streamlined.
Glen: You’ve been one of our biggest iQ innovators — how are you finding making changes internally? What does the ability to make autonomous changes mean to PGR?
Joe: Internally, making changes and fixing issues has never been so easy. The ability to make autonomous changes to real-time business problems is a gift. We’ve made changes to iQ continuously and it has become our culture to question and improve.
Glen: Which module/feature has brought the most benefits to PGR?
Joe: I would say there are three in that category. The first is the ability to schedule tasks, reports, and anything of such nature. For a department to receive information at the time/day they wish, without any human involvement, allows our business to function 24/7.
The second area would be control desks. They provide visibility to problems and allow efficient resolutions in real time.
The third would be the Intact Access App. This app has allowed us to run paperless deliveries at the height of this pandemic, resulting in the safety of our customers and our drivers.
Glen: And what about customer service? How has iQ helped?
Joe: iQ has helped in various ways. One would be the speed we can now serve customers. The second would be the POD image capture, which then shows on the customer’s invoice. The third would be how iQ links up to our website, to provide a seamless self-service portal for our customers.
Glen: In your experience and hindsight, what words of wisdom would you give for companies embarking on an installation?
Joe: Allow for plenty of time to prepare data and screen designs. Also set out goals early on, both ambitious and achievable, as iQ has many options that can help your business develop and improve.
Glen: You never seem to stop, so what’s next for PGR?
Joe: We are an extremely proactive business, so naturally, all opportunities will be evaluated where necessary; we will continue with opening new branches, as well as a strong focus on digital and online.