Twenty years ago I walked out the front door of my dealership, my PC under my arm, and checked into a hotel across the street. I sold the family dealership, the E. H. Thompson Co., on April 1st, 1990. I was thankful to fellow Floridians Walter and Jeff Simon (General Hotel Corp and Louis Wohl) for their ambitions as the new owners and their support for the brand, the employees, and the Jacksonville customers.
The hotel room became my office: four walls, a chair, a table, a phone, a fax machine, my PC and a box of floppies. On the table was a worn and tattered dBase book. I had no job and no business plan, I just had an idea. I wanted the computer to find a refrigerator model number and to know its price, how much it weighed, and how to configure its accessories. I wanted to be able to quote jobs without hand writing specs or clipping printed specs into ‘paper dolls’. I wanted to ‘educate’ the computer with a program. I wanted to build a database. On the wall I had taped Ken Gill’s article from FEDA magazine titled ‘The Information Age’.
Computers have changed the FES workplace in many ways in the past 20 years. And my expectations about IT improvements over the years have not changed since 1990. We are only at the end of the beginning. Much of our jobs will get better, be more challenging and more efficient. Not enough information is online. Channel communication is too slow and too expensive. Foodservice design requires too much typing and drawing. Reps spend too much time collectin spec credits. Dealers can’t push quotes from AutoQuotes to their accounting systems. Manufacturers can’t get Dealer PO’s into their MRP systems. Maintaining inventory data and web catalogs costs too much and takes too much time.
Jump forward another 20 years? The FES workplace will change more by 2030 than it has since 1990. I am excited now about several immediate trends. In April, Autodesk ships AutoCAD 2011 and Revit 2011. AutoCAD supports ‘dynamic symbols’ that change geometry and content easily and efficiently. Revit 2011 elevates architectural design to a level of virtual reality. Revit designers don’t just draw lines, they move virtual bricks and mortar and dirt and drywall. Building Information Modeling (‘BIM’), the the data-centric addition to the Revit environment, integrates the symbol geometry with the engineering and the composition. A Revit building has a knowledge of itself, and can be queried for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing loads, take-offs and quantities.
We are currently working with the AutoDesk, major Revit consultants, and senior foodservice equipment designers to define a foodservice equipment data standard for Revit families. We plan to complete and publish this standard by June 2010, and to incorporate the standard in the AutoQuotes database.
Microsoft releases a new Silverlight toolset next month which will be a major boost to the AQ360 experience. By June we will have a major new version of 360, with better printing, a more Windows-friendly presence, an ‘out of browser’ option, easier communications with your local disk, and smoother scrolling.
It’s self-indulgent and mostly uncool to write about yourself. But after 20 years of newsletters it may be excusable or at least acceptably inside the bounds of propriety to do it once. Happy Birthday to us on April 1st. AutoQuotes is 20.