April 29, 2014, 1:36 PM

A building materials supplier debuts a B2B mobile app

US LBM, parent company of Hines Supply and 10 other building supply brands for residential and commercial building materials, has launched its first mobile app for tracking orders and deliveries, checking invoices and browsing promotions.

Lead Photo

The Hines Supply app

US LBM Holdings LLC, which operates 10 building material distributors across the United States for residential and commercial construction, has released its first mobile app for business customers to track orders and deliveries, check invoices and browse special offers and sales events. Primarily a customer service tool—the app doesn’t facilitate transactions—it allows customers to access order information without having to call or use e-mail, says Senthil Arumugam, vice president of logistics and inventory management.

“We created the mobile app specifically for the professional remodeler, commercial and custom builder, he says. “We know and understand their business and the tools they need at their fingertips. This investment in technology is part of US LBM’s continued commitment to customer service excellence.”

The app debuted April 21 on the iPhone for US LBM’s Hines Supply division, which operates in the Chicago metro area and is based in Buffalo Gove, IL; the manufacturer will also release brand-specific versions of the app for its other supply companies in the coming months, Arumugam says. Customers can track orders and receive live updates on their deliveries based on GPS, as well as receive photo confirmation when a package or load of supplies arrives at a site. They can also message supervisors or other co-workers with order and delivery status updates via the app. Hines Supply salespeople, too, use the app to manage order, inventory and delivery data in the field.

“The groundwork for the mobile app was laid two years back when we rolled out an advanced delivery management system, which serves as the backbone for the app,” Arumugam says. US LBM hired India-based technology consultancy and development firm Wipro Ltd. to build the app, which took nine months to complete. Through surveys, interviews and focus groups with customers, the building supplies company determined which features should be included in the app, he says.

Arumugam declines to say how much the company spent on the app development, but says that Wipro beat out other vendors US LBM considered for expertise, cost and experience. “They have over 20 years of experience and have a team of over 1,600 people dedicated to just mobile applications,” he adds.

Part of the company’s motivation for building the app is that more and more clients have been accessing US LBM sites via smartphones and tablets, he says, without giving specific figures. In the first three days after the app launched, it was downloaded more than 100 times. While it’s too early to say what affect the app has had on sales, Arumugam says customers so far have had “incredible enthusiasm” for the app.

An Android version of the app is coming at the end of May. “The complexity of the various screen sizes and versions of Android in contrast to the simplicity of iPhone and iOS led us to choose iPhones first,” Arumugam says. “Our user base was also evenly split and moving towards iPhones. We wanted to focus on one platform first as we established design and functional guidelines for the app.”

Although customers cannot purchase anything via the app today, Arumugam says that isn’t ruled out as a possibility in the future.

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