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If you, or someone close to you, has ever worked in the trades or in supply, you’ll recognize this story as a powerful comment on the current state of technology adoption in the industry.

Every trade has their version of the “contractor iPad”. If you’re an electrician it might be the torn flap off a box of Marrette’s, for welders, it’s a paint marker and anything close at hand, and if you’re a carpenter it’s a cut-off piece of scrap lumber. Sometimes it’s instructions, sometimes it’s their lunch order but most of the time, it’s their “grocery list”. All the things they’ve run out of over the course of their shift or realized they need to get their job done. And like any grocery list, at some point someone has to go to the store.

This happens any number of ways in the field, but our favourite is when a contractor uses their “iPad” to make an order. Take a picture of that scrap of lumber with the pencil markings on it and text it to “your guy” or better yet, give it to your apprentice to drive to your nearest order desk and help them interpret it. If you work for a company that’s big enough to have a “purchaser”, whether that’s the owner’s spouse or someone trained for the job, the same rules apply, and they have to play interpreter before sending out a req to their connections. And more often than not, it looks something like this:

Hey so and so, can you source this for me…” 

  • Drill Press (large floor model)
  • Drill Press (large bench)
  • Oxy Acetylene Torch
  • Pedestal Grinder
  • Large bench vices
  • Come a longs ½, ¾, 1 ton
  • Seal Picks
  • 2 Grinders
  • 2 Die Grinders
  • 4 C-Clamps
  • 2 Vice Grips
  • Hammers, Chain Grips, Pin Bars, Drift Pins
  • Javelin Pipe Stands. V heads and rollers

On a good day, an email like this shows up in order desk’s inbox at least a couple of times. The range of requests can be staggering, from mundane items like the above to the outlandish like (true story) freezers full of popsicles or (an even better true story) a guard dog!

If you haven’t worked the job, you may say to yourself, “what’s the big deal? Isn’t it their job to source products and make recommendations to their customers?” You’d be right, to a certain extent.

In that context, a good order desk person is there not only for their order taking and customer service skills, but to be a source of knowledge to their customers.

“I need to weld a piece of old, dirty steel to this new replacement piece.” <> “Try this type of filler metal.”

“I need to drill 100 holes on the outside of a metal cylinder and be accurate.” <> “Have you ever used a mag drill before?”

“I need to cut a 14” square hole in a piece of corrugated sheet metal 80m in the air and there’s no power supply.” <> “Have you seen this new battery powered circ saw and these carbide tipped blades?”

These are the types of helpful knowledge tidbits that order desks should be doling out.

Order desk staff are some of the most helpful, yet least appreciated, hardest working, creative, and resourceful people in our industry – and we think it’s about time someone made their lives easier, because we were them at one point! The grocery list is a massive waste of their time and talents, but it happens so often because the “contractor iPad” isn’t a real iPad! But what if it could be?

What if there was one place that a contractor, or their purchaser, could go to that had all the products they were looking for on any basic “grocery” list? That answered all of their basic questions while making their favourite order desk more efficient and effective.

That place is ClearSource.

“Do you carry ‘X-type product’?” becomes, “Here’s our full offering with all of their spec sheets, parts manuals and operating videos, as well as links to any accessories or associated parts you may need.”

All the desk’s questions that need answered can be dealt with as well. Do you want your products shipped, do you have a preferred courier company, what’s your courier account, etc.? How do you want to pay, credit card, on your account, would you like to start an account? All these questions are handled through the intuitive request for quotation and automated check-out processes.

Currently all of this is handled through phone calls, countertop conversations, and oh so many, MANY emails.

With ClearSource order desks save themselves and their customers hours a day.

Let’s give them those hours back so they can help that customer with the unique welding challenge they were struggling with, work on that technical bid package for your next Tier One account…and track down a K-9 security company.