By Pedro Pereira, Business Solutions Magazine
Despite inroads by competing technologies such as RFID, bar code solutions are still creating new sales opportunities for VARs.
As a data collection VAR, you know that bar code technology is not going away any time soon. If anything, say vendors, the technology is becoming more versatile, creating new opportunities for VARs and integrators to get creative in addressing their clients’ bar code needs. Be it in healthcare, agriculture, retail, or shipping, bar codes remain the technology of choice for businesses to keep track of assets, merchandise — and in the case of healthcare — patients.
Business Solutions recently spoke with Raul Palacios, senior product manager of desktop products at mobile printing solutions maker Datamax-O’Neil; Dean Sanders, director of industry sales at printing solutions maker Zebra Technologies; and Paul Lehmann, senior director of product marketing at printing solutions maker Printronix, about current trends and new opportunities in the bar code industry.
Provide some examples of creative bar code applications that VARs could replicate for their customers.
Raul Palacios, senior product manager of desktop products, Datamax-O’Neil: We recently recognized a need for a printer with a longer battery life (i.e. days of battery life rather than hours) in the agricultural sector for tracking and traceability of food. The bar code labels are used to keep track of time, location, and plot number of where the harvesting is done. Previously these clients had been printing labels at the main center and had to take them out to the field. Now they put the printer in the harvesting vehicle and do the whole process
in the field.
Dean Sanders, director of industry sales, Zebra Technologies: Recently customers have used bar codes to track case history on deliveries and repairs. One company attached bar codes on the invoice that contained notes on the delivery. This helped provide line information from the warehouse to the delivery and in the end helped drive efficiencies and reduce errors.
Companies with field services technicians are finding new ways to use bar code technology to improve their business. Bar coding vending machines or home appliances with details of repair history is one example. This allows technicians to easily access information on the repair as well as warranty history, which are both extremely valuable for diagnosing an issue. In the healthcare industry, bar coding is used to accurately administer medication. Bar codes are applied to patient wristbands and medical charts and scanned before
administering medications. This ensures accurate doses and the correct medication are received by the patient, increasing patient safety and reducing medical errors.
What are some bar coding-related services that VARs can offer to yield a monthly revenue stream?
Raul Palacios, senior product manager of desktop products, Datamax-O’Neil: There is a lot of extended warranty opportunity out there, and that’s one service that is being neglected. VARs also have opportunities to come up with a technical solution. You’re doing your customer a service by being more technically competent, understanding how these devices work properly together. With the new printers, you can plug a keyboard into them. You punch in the data using the keyboard, and now you’re printing. If VARs take the time to learn how to do this, it’s a differentiator, it’s a value-added service they can provide.
Paul Lehmann, senior director of product marketing, Printronix: If you can’t offer the service technicians needed to support service contracts, going back to the manufacturer is the lowest-risk way to add recurring service revenue to your top line. Service provided by the manufacturer ensures that technicians will know the intricacies behind the product, leaving the customer satisfied.
What are some common mistakes you see bar coding VARs making? How can VARs overcome making those mistakes?
Raul Palacios, senior product manager of desktop products, Datamax-O’Neil: They need to dig a little deeper into the technology. Don’t just assume it’s a printer with a USB. Turn it on, load a driver, and see how it’s printing. There’s a lot more capability. For the VAR, it takes understanding and resources to be creative with solutions.
Dean Sanders, director of industry sales, Zebra Technologies: One of the biggest mistakes I see VARs making is using bar coding for a single application when there are several business improvements to be made to drive efficiencies with their current and new customers. One example is labeling a vending machine with a bar code that only includes information about the make or model of that machine. Now, bar codes can include that information, but also details on repair history or the warranty information.
Overall, there are new trends and new requirements forcing VARs to think outside the box to offer customers bar code technology that provides efficiency, accuracy, and business intelligence. Customers are expecting the VAR to be the trusted advisors, offering multiple solutions to assist them to improve their overall business.
Paul Lehmann, senior director of product marketing, Printronix: Simply listening to everything that goes on at a client site can really be helpful. The time spent in the work environment of our customers is so rich with information, regardless of what is spoken by the people who met us there. The most successful VARs take the time to “debrief” themselves on everything they saw at their customer’s site.
Looking past what customers are “self-prescribing” for their pain takes dedication, but can often be the most fruitful part of a sales call. We often overlook the value of dissecting this information, categorizing, and then executing the activities that will support sales behind what we see when we’re in the client’s environment.
Which verticals provide the greatest opportunity to sell bar code printers?
Raul Palacios, senior product manager of desktop products, Datamax-O’Neil: Transportation, retail, shipping, and logistics are probably the markets most set in their bar code printing needs. The agriculture and healthcare industries are markets where we’re seeing growth. For healthcare, even though these companies have been using bar codes for some time, it’s not to the fullest extent.
Dean Sanders, director of industry sales, Zebra Technologies: In field services, technicians are bar coding vending machines or home appliances with details of the repair history to help easily access information on the repair as well as the warranty history. In healthcare, bar coding is being used to accurately administer medication to help increase patient safety and reduce medical errors.
Paul Lehmann, senior director of product marketing, Printronix: The vertical markets that you’ve served in the past are the best for your future. The majority of the bar code business comes from replacing the aging installed base with a better product. Knowing the new problems of existing customers is your best bet for new printer sales.