Friant & Associates, an Oakland, California, office furniture manufacturer, worked with its dealers to create a design and order process to increase efficiency and customer service.

Started as a one-man operation more than 25 years ago, Friant has grown to nearly 500 employees and four manufacturing, warehouse, and showroom locations. The company’s business strategy is fairly simple—create quality, affordable workspaces while ensuring customer satisfaction. Despite not having direct contact with the end customer, Friant proactively ensures both the dealer and the customer are satisfied.

“Friant sells great looking furniture but what we’re really offering is value and that translates to dealer profits and end-user savings,” said Paul Friant, CEO. To deliver excellent customer service, Friant ensures several steps are addressed throughout the customer experience, including:

Dealers must be well educated about Friant’s products and order processes.

The design process needs to be easy to use and Friant products must be easy to specify in order for the dealers to show their clients which products fit into their spaces and budgets and exactly how they will look.

Dealers need to place orders accurately. The order must be processed quickly and efficiently. This means they must know how to use the software.

Installers must have all of the product and parts— everything required—for proper and timely assembly.

All of these steps are interdependent and critical to ensuring a smooth customer experience from start to finish. Friant has deployed software tools and established a method to streamline the process.

Product flexibility

Office furniture products have evolved from private offices and cubicles, to shorter walls, benching and now open floor plans. Most customers want a hybrid solution but one where all the systems work together. For this reason, Friant designs its products to be interoperable—producing pieces that work together and have universal hardware to offer greater flexibility and options. By designing products this way, they are able to meet consumer demands and adapt to changing trends more easily as well as offer the convenience of one-stop shopping.

Because it has several product lines, with many features and finish options, Friant emphasizes product design and catalogue creation to make it inherently easier to specifythe products. Every catalog and part number is structured to eliminate confusion during specification. For example, there are separate part numbers for each option instead of building too many options into one part number. Because of this provision, communication is clearer and it’s easier to order Friant, resulting in a more accurate order.

Friant & Associates has integrated its process from order to production to delivery for maximum efficiency and customer service.

Software tools

Many of Friant’s dealers use 2020 Cap or 2020 Giza professional software to design spaces for their clients. These programs put entire product catalogs at the dealers’ fingertips to help them create instant and accurate renderings featuring Friant products, which helps clients envision exactly how their spaces will look furnished with Friant’s systems.

Friant creates electronic content catalogs for 2020 Cap and 2020 Giza with automation functionality built in. This enables efficient and accurate furniture specifications during ordering and can provide instant quotes and real-time order submission while still in the design software. Creating a drawing with Friant’s products save designer time and results in higher ordering accuracy, as well.

Building relationships

Company representatives educate dealers on how to position Friant products and train them to specify Friant products within 20-20 Cap or 20-20 Giza. This ensures dealers can provide their clients with quality designs and use electronic catalogs for more accurate online orders. Submitting orders electronically to Friant reduces manual entry and risk of human error in the translation of the order. Furthermore, Friant is diligent about monitoring orders and addressing changes immediately, if and when any issues arise.

Friant invests training time with new dealers on the front end, walking them through the process, which makes ordering with Friant as easy as and as efficient as possible. This investment results in higher levels of client satisfaction and reaps dividends for everyone down the line.

Across the board, from sales to customer service, Friant’s team prides itself on knowledge, accessibility, and speed. This combination leads to a smooth order and time-to- production process, allowing for Friant to meet the customers’ deadlines and expectations.

Streamlining the process

Recently, Friant needed to expand not only its production facilities but also implement a system that could better track orders and manage production on a larger scale.

Friant’s executive team decided to partner with 2020 to integrate 2020 Insight manufacturing operations management software into its daily operating process. Developed specifically for furniture manufacturers, 2020 Insight goes beyond traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) to deliver a comprehensive platform that connects the entire manufacturing process from sales order to installation.

“2020 Insight provides us start-to-end visibility into the ordering process and enables us to manage and scale up for large volumes of manufacturing,” said John Woodworth, purchasing manager, Friant. “We’re also able to effectively introduce new products and offer the required customization with it—all of which helps us to better serve our customers.”

Friant processes more than 500 orders per month, each with different products and parts. Each order type may have different workflows varying by lead times and purchase requirements. 2020 Insight applies business process logic rules to each stage of product, which Friant established based on its business needs. Friant can make changes as it implements continuous improvements, and can easily make modifications while 2020 Insight updates the manufacturing process automatically.

Office furniture products have evolved from private offices and cubicles to now open floor plans. Friant finds most customers want a hybrid solution so it designs its products to be interoperable.

Electronic submittals

For 2020 Insight to effectively help manage production, Friant places high importance on the quality of the content entering its systems and ensures its content catalogs are always up to date. In addition, Friant encourages dealers to submit their orders electronically via 20-20 Worksheet, which pulls all the specifications directly from the design software. If a dealer chooses not to submit it electronically, then a Friant agent will work with the dealer to get the order into the system. All files related to the order are attached to it within the system and bill of materials are automatically created along with production orders. A status history of each order is available, and notifications are sent when key points throughout the process are achieved.

“In this industry there is a lot of urgency with many same-day shipments or fast turnaround times in emergency scenarios,” said Clair Moreland-Girma, vice president of customer service, Friant. “2020 Insight allows us to address needs quickly in these circumstances and keep customers satisfied.”

Team leaders can manage customer interactions by pulling reports at any time. The system can be queried for information such as “any open orders” and help move orders along or resolve issues faster without the need of IT intervention or support. The software also helps as a sales tool. Both sales staff and management can pull reports on past customer sales history.

For example, recently when a dealer called to ask about a drawing for an order he had submitted to Friant two years prior, an agent at Friant was able to pull up the order with the attachments in a matter of seconds.

Friant has also customized 2020 with a stock checking function, allowing order entry and customer support agents to check inventory in real time—a task that used to be manual and time consuming. This has reduced the number of back orders and has freed up time for customer support to be more proactive.

Managing growth

Friant has grown by more than 20 percent annually over the past few years. With a streamlined manufacturing process in place, the company managed this growth while minimizing overhead. Since implementing 2020 Insight, Friant has opened two additional factories and is able to manage orders and inventory across all four of its facilities to maximize efficiencies and better serve dealers with rapid turnaround times.

With a strong foundation for managing the manufacturing process, Friant plans to leverage data collected to make informed decisions about how to further grow its business. With dedication and unrelenting drive, this is how Friant differentiates itself and where, as its tagline states, “design sense meets business sense.”

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