On the morning of Thursday, April 2, several members of NetSuite’s Professional Services team awoke to an email thread about Bedford Industries’ desire to launch an ecommerce site on a very short timeline. In a matter of days in late March Bedford, a manufacturer of twist ties, elastic bands and labels, had designed and started making face shields for healthcare workers and first responders in need of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus outbreak. Bedford also already produced a flexible nose wire piece used in face masks.
The Worthington, Minn.-based company manufactures a product called ElastiTag, a large rubber band with a label used on food products and bottles. Bedford’s R&D group designed a larger version of that band to fit around someone’s head, and already had the materials to make the shield itself. Soon, it was churning out up to 100,000 face shields per day. As soon as word spread that Bedford had face shields and a key component for masks, hospitals and others looking for PPE overwhelmed its sales staff with calls.
That’s what led Bedford President Jay Milbrandt to call up NetSuite account executive Kevin Gallagher and sales director Brian Aronson around 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1.
“When he called us he just said, ‘Look, I realize this is last minute, I realize we’re not even set up with our ERP yet, I realize all of this is something that would be a tall order, but we really need to have an ecommerce solution,’” Gallagher said. “So we started polling the teams internally that night.”
Bedford’s ERP implementation had just kicked off. The company didn’t plan to go live until October. It had planned to add ecommerce as part of a phase two project, but that timeline suddenly changed, and Gallagher told Milbrandt he would find a way to make it happen.
Thursday morning, NetSuite sales and services employees had a call with the customer to figure out if this project was feasible.
“Given the context that they were still implementing ERP, my first thought was ‘OK, there’s no way we can do this,’” said Emi Bazzani, SuiteSuccess for Commerce delivery lead. “But when we were in that meeting and they said they only needed two products to be exposed, we thought ‘OK, it looks doable.’ When we saw the willingness of the ERP team to adjust everything they were doing to make it happen, it became a real possibility.”
Collaboration between ERP, ecommerce teams critical
Launching an ecommerce site in a matter of days required a “tag-team effort” between ERP and ecommerce services, said Annie Coogan, the NetSuite ERP lead. On Friday, Coogan started setting up basic ERP functions, creating matrix items for the three products Bedford wanted to sell online (500-count box of nose wires, 100-count box of face shields, 500-count box of face shields) and an auto-billing workflow that allowed online orders to flow through the financial system. She also started working on integrations with FedEx for shipping and Solupay for payment processing. Meanwhile, a colleague built a chart of accounts.
Although the ERP team sought the fastest solutions, it had to be careful not to do anything that would interfere with the full implementation down the road.
Late Friday, Bedford officially received a license for SuiteCommerce, NetSuite’s ecommerce solution, and Senior Consultant Amber Rodriguez got to work setting up the online store. Bazzani and Kristen Morales, consulting senior practice director for commerce, did their best to think ahead and eliminate any barriers before they were even on Rodriguez’s radar.
“I think Amber’s knowledge of what was possible, what would save time, how we could set things up, combined with Bedford’s flexibility to not have everything under the sun for this initial setup, was the recipe [for success],” Morales said.
After the two consultants put in some time over the weekend, most of the work was done by Monday. Coogan and Rodriguez tested the site at each step, making sure everything worked as expected, and met with Bedford frequently – sometimes multiple times per day – to ensure it had constant visibility into the project.
Getting the payment processor set up was the final step. Solupay, understanding the gravity of the project, completed the underwriting in one day, a process that typically takes weeks.
“I think everybody felt like this was our chance to make a difference in some small way and help this company who’s trying to do the right thing and help people,” Morales said.
NetSuite staffers also had to quickly train Bedford employees on the system. Even with an accelerated SuiteSuccess for SuiteCommerce implementation, a company has about 30 days to get comfortable with the system. Coogan and Rodriguez squeezed that training into a few days, and the Bedford team caught on quickly.
Bedford’s site an instant success, opens new possibilities
On April 9, exactly a week after that first conversation with the services team, Bedford’s ecommerce site went live. Within 45 minutes, the business received its first online order.
“We were all jumping up and down when the first order came in,” Coogan said. “I think we were all refreshing like maniacs until the first one came in.”
Forty orders came in during the first 24 hours, and the site has processed more than 850 orders in two months without issue.
Bedford already served major medical institutions and hospitals in the area surrounding its Minnesota headquarters. But the online store helped the manufacturer reach smaller medical practices, dental offices, good Samaritans sewing homemade masks and anyone else who needed PPE.
“Some of us have wanted to develop an ecommerce for several years, but that method of direct sales and fulfillment is a very different model than our traditional B2B distributor model,” Bedford’s Milbrandt said. “This early ecommerce site has allowed us to shatter that barrier. There is already a lot of encouraging discussion about what other products we could imagine on the web store in the future.”