Ton Holten started in the ceramic tile industry driving tile-laden tractor trailers for a Dutch forwarding company, from the far reaches of two continents back to his native Holland. In the 1980s, the Holten family moved to Canada and began Tilemaster, a retail and construction industry supplier in Aurora, Ontario, where it provides a vast array of metal, stone, slate and marble tiles, as well as countertops and related products.

Early on at Tilemaster, Holten moved company accounting from paper ledgers to the computer, where Vigilant point-of-sale and inventory control software helped Holten control his business for more than 20 years. But seeing a growing demand for tile fueled by a boom in local house building and a healthy economy, Holten moved Tilemaster from its original location to another in Aurora and opened a second store in Barrie, about 25 miles away.

In 2005, Holten upgraded Tilemaster’s accounting software to Oneir Solutions, a provider of scalable Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software designed to efficiently manage key business functions through one shared information database. The new software runs on a Linux operating system. (Oneir Solutions software requires a Linux server, or at the least a Linux partition on a Windows server.)

On the Windows workstations where Tilemaster staff make entries at the sales counter, in the warehouse, and in the back office, there was little need for re-training. This included the checkout process at the point of sale, inventory functions from ordering through receiving, installation costing and accounting functions.

Oneir Solutions developed the upgraded software for growing businesses needing more capable, adaptable accounting and inventory control, and those with multiple stores or outlets. The software update includes modules that provided added capabilities to cover additional business areas and automate functions that had previously been performed manually.

By upgrading, Tilemaster was able to open and manage their new store in Barrie. In the past, the company had tried a second store but had to re-enter the invoices from the location by hand every night. With the new system, they are always online with the new store and can check stock, sales and know what is going on in both locations up to the minute.

Another reason Holten implemented the ERP system upgrade was to accommodate new storage for rapidly growing inventory in Aurora, through a new 40,000 square foot warehouse. To efficiently manage about 3,000 different kinds of tiles, Holten needed additional controls over his inventory. So Oneir developed a tile calculation option available to clerks and other users at Tilemaster’s point of sale.

When a Tilemaster customer orders tile, the clerk can access the software, which calculates the required number of pallets, boxes and individual tiles, rounded up to the nearest unit. The software also shows on each invoice the weight of the order, so the pallets of tiles shipped are not too heavy for the vehicles carrying them. The weight feature also double-checks that the amount ordered is the same as the amount shipped, providing much tighter control over valuable yet vulnerable inventory assets.

Because the people in the warehouse used to have to make their own calculations on how much tile a customer needs, Tilemaster estimates that in the past they were losing $2 to $3 on every order. The company fills 20,000 to 25,000 orders a year, so that quickly adds up.

Holten has found such success with his new software system that he also now uses its order-taking and invoicing capabilities to control costs and run Holten Impex International, the wholesale side of his business.