UPA to roll out “middleware” to link different business softwares

UPA - The Integrity Group, has developed a product that allows distributors with different brands of software — whether Prophet 21, Eclipse, Array or others — to link together. The buying group spent more than two years developing the “middleware” making it possible and plans to release the service in October, said Gary Knorr, vice president of UPA, Sanford, Fla.

According to Knorr, the “middleware” makes it possible to extract data through an extraction piece and load it to a Web browser. “The middleware allows members to see each other's inventory anonymously and to buy and sell material back and forth,” said Knorr. “It also allows us to create an aggregated purchase order by region of the United States.”

With bonded warehouses located strategically throughout the United States and UPA members grouped into “regional integrated supply alliances” (RISAs), those RISAs will be able to buy larger quantities from manufacturers. “Most of our members are middle to small — so it's hard for them to get any kind of economies of scale,” said Knorr.

With its United Logistics network of warehouses, “we can bring that material into a regional cross dock and then we can break bulk and ship it to our members,” said Knorr. “We have the ability for the first time to create a chain of independent distributors — actually a chain — where they can buy like the big chains and they can market like the big chains”

The software, which has been in beta testing, will roll out next month as a separate company: Product Performance Group (PPG). UPA opted to spin the technology into a separate company because it eventually plans to offer this aggregation to non-UPA members. “With consolidation over the last few years, a lot of distributors have bought companies that have other software, and they have no way of linking that software together,” said Knorr.

The 24-year-old UPA's 600-plus distributor members cater to the plumbing, HVAC and electrical fields. Around 75 electrical and lighting distributor members and approximately 60 electrical manufacturers are a part of its group.

Knorr says the manufacturers like the PPG platform because they are able to cut costs in dealing with UPA distributor members and because of PPG's live vendor managed inventory (VMI) view. “It's a win for the manufacturers because they get VMI information and are able to process orders electronically for every one of our members — not just a few here and there,” said Knorr.

For more information about UPA and PPG, visit www.upaonline.com

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