By Vivian Collings
Study says only five per cent of small businesses effectively use the technology available to them to grow their business, and Heat-Line is one of them.
Heat-Line was recently featured as a success story in a Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) study, Seize the Technological Advantage. The study found that 91 per cent of small to medium-sized Canadian businesses invested in technology to help them through the COVID-19 pandemic, and only five per cent were successful with their technology use.
The study claimed that digitally advanced businesses “grow faster, are better able to adapt to a changing environment, get the financing they need, and are more likely to export [goods and services].”
Heat-Line, located in Algonquin Highlands, specializes in freeze protection systems to prevent frozen pipes. It was their new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that allowed them to be successful during a period of growth that saw an increase of demand for their services when people started moving out of cities and into rural areas at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring of 2020.
Heat-Line operations manager Matthew Roberts said, “Orders were flying in, and we used to manage our orders on Excel and enter them manually, which is a very time-consuming process. With the ERP system, when an order comes in, you click a button, and it puts the order on a big-screen TV for production to start right away. Had we not had the software, I don’t feel we would’ve been able to handle the influx of business that we did because there were too many restrictions with our previous methods.”
ERP systems manage multiple departments of a business at once by collecting information in a common database. This database is accessible on a desktop to business owners and managers.
“It’s difficult to understand the level of visibility that you don’t have into your business when you don’t have this type of system. Prior to this type of technology, something that would have taken 10 minutes before takes maybe 30 seconds now. I can now look at a single sales order to a single customer in the ERP system and I can easily see all their information in one place,” Roberts said.
Heat-Line was able to implement this technology with the help of the BDC’s advisory services. Roberts says that the implementation of an ERP system is worth it for small businesses, although the initial process can be daunting and difficult.
“You get out of it what you put into it. You have to go into the process with the mindset that it will set your business on a whole different trajectory. Don’t expect it to happen and work well if you don’t put the time and effort into it,” he said.
He also recommends a good partner and consulting service to help define what your business needs beforehand.
Heat-Line plans to continue the use of their ERP system long into the future.
“It is now the heart of our business, and we couldn’t see our company without it,” Roberts said.