Get Appy: The iPhone Meets the Lumber Industry

Posted by Rumin Mann
June 28th, 2010

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Packed with capabilities well beyond mere communications, iPhones are fast becoming powerful tools to help LBM dealers and manufacturers work with, market to, and better serve their customers and prospects.¬†Using specialized applications (or “apps”), iPhones can calculate job lists and lumber dimensions, hold digital product samples, and even locate and provide directions to the nearest home center-thanks to the $0.99 Home Improvement Store Finder app.

Bear Creek Lumber, Winthrop, Wa., equipped its entire sales force with iPhones, so reps can respond to customer inquiries more quickly and be constantly connected via email and the Internet. To encourage customers to work with them via iPhone, Bear Creek also developed two of its own apps:

  • LumberCalc ($0.99) permits board foot calculations, paneling coverage conversion to board feet (for patterns such as log cabin, tongue-and-groove, shiplap), and flooring calculation.
  • Board Feet Calculator (free) helps builders, architects and homeowners with calculating board footage and prices from known lumber dimensions. Enter the price per thousand board feet and they’ll get board foot price and linear foot price for that particular dimension. (Another company offers a similar app, with the same name, for $0.99.)

Rick’s Custom Fencing & Decking, Hillsboro, Or., devised The Rick’s Fence Material Calculator (free), to help customers figure out the materials they’ll need for a particular fencing project. They input their preferred fence style, materials and length, and receive a comprehensive list of required materials. Then the list can be forwarded to their local Rick’s location for a quick quote.

Other apps provide digital “product samples,” before directing consumers to the nearest retail showroom to make their purchase. With Marvin Windows & Doors’ Window Shopping (free), homeowners snap a photo of an interior exterior space that could use an upgrade, then arrange new Marvin windows and doors over the photo.

“Once a homeowner creates and saves a design idea, a Marvin dealer can bring the design to life by helping personalize windows or doors with the desired hardware, wood choices, colors, energy-efficiency ratings, and so on,” said Marvin’s John Kirchner. “A dealer-locator tool is built into the app, which makes it easy to turn a homeowner’s design dream into a reality.”

iPhone in the Tool Belt

Once homeowners and contractors decide what products they want, another group of applications can help them figure out how many. Handy-Man Sidekick ($1.99) and Home Improvement Calculator ($4.99) calculate the amount of material needed for a range of projects, including paint, wallpaper, tile, decking, fencing, concrete, gravel, mulch, brick, and flooring.

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