Johnstone Supply - B&B Trade Relies on Thrive, Increasing Turns During a Rough COVID Year

With four locations throughout Southwestern Ontario, Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade is among Canada’s leaders servicing the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and sheet metal trades. The family-owned business is a member of the Johnstone Supply Cooperative, the largest HVACR wholesale distributor in the U.S., which leverages shared resources and group buying power for the benefit of its individual member businesses.

The Challenges

As an operation with multiple locations and countless HVACR contractors relying on its quick access to product lines, Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade was challenged in the area of inventory management. Their challenges included:

  • The need to consistently purchase equipment from multiple suppliers, including Goodman and A.O. Smith, to serve its four locations.

  • Being a largely seasonal business, as an HVAC wholesaler in Canada, that struggles with accurate inventory forecasting on seasonal items.

  • Excess buying, and the need to increase turns but without increasing stockouts and lost sales.

  • Too much manual time spent analyzing data to make informed inventory decisions, with buyers overriding 80% of the lines in the suggested purchase orders from their ERP system.

To tackle their various challenges, they enlisted the help of Thrive Technologies, a leading provider of demand forecasting, inventory replenishment and inventory optimization software. Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade utilizes an ERP system called Epicor Eclipse, and connected with Thrive at an Eclipse User’s Group meeting where Thrive was a featured presenter. Following a thorough demonstration, evaluation and conversation at the annual HARDI tradeshow, where Thrive is also a solutions provider, B&B Trade made the decision to implement Thrive’s software in June 2019.

The Successes

Thrive was able to seamlessly integrate with Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade’s Epicor Eclipse ERP system, and since going live with Thrive in October 2019, the benefits were clear. They include:

  • Enabling them to easily align their strategic goals with the daily purchasing process

  • Establishing realistic goals, thanks to Thrive’s goal-oriented approach with its clients

  • A much easier system to configure and ability to trust the output

  • Ability to strategically and effectively plan, including long-term planning for budgets and pre-season buying

  • Ability to finally see more than one year of sales history, with Thrive analyzing the previous three years to accurately forecast seasonal items

  • Far more robust demand calculations and algorithms, resulting in an immediate improvement in the accuracy of SKU level demand forecasts

  • A reduction in excess buying, with Thrive suggesting exactly what is needed

  • As stated by VP of Finance Adam Legg, “We have also seen our turns move from 3.5 to 3.9 in a very difficult COVID-impacted 12 months despite carrying more inventory on some major product lines to protect us against supply chain issues.”

Beyond the significant benefits to Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade’s business operations, Thrive has provided them with unmatched customer service to ensure a seamless transition and best use of the software.

"We have a person readily available to help us strategically configure the software for the best results, and fix issues in real-time when they occur. Thrive has been incredibly collaborative. We work together as a team to customize and utilize their technology based on our specific inventory concerns and issues. They are problem-solvers with great insight into our industry."

— Johnstone Supply - B&B Trade Team

Senior buyer and purchasing agent Randy Miller noted significant efficiency improvements, noting that ERP systems like Eclipse “want to buy everything, every day.” With that approach being very inefficient for receiving personnel, Thrive’s system has allowed them to establish smarter schedules for vendors and transfers which created much-needed efficiencies for warehouse staff. Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade estimates they are saving at least 5 minutes per purchase order, which translates to hours each day in time-savings.

COVID-19 Impact

Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade implemented Thrive’s system at a critical time, ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive challenges it presented for the supply chain. President Tom Boutette gives credit to Thrive for enabling them to respond accordingly despite the significant supply chain disruptions:

“We would be worse through COVID without Thrive. We expect business will be impacted for a long time from the supply chain disruptions. We are seeing the big players in our space buying six months of supply. Smaller players like us are then left scrambling to get product. The analytics Thrive and their analysts provide really help us make smart decisions in these challenging times.”

Moving forward, Johnstone Supply – B&B Trade is so confident in Thrive’s forecasts, suggested POs and transfers that they are considering automatically cutting POs without prior review – proof it’s a system with an exceptional trust factor.

To learn more about Thrive Technologies, visit them online at

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