By Brian Albright, Business Solutions Magazine
Product expertise and top-notch service help land a VAR an ongoing supply contract for rugged laptops.
Hardware sales aren’t always big-ticket, one-time transactions. At times, clients have unique delivery needs that require long-term relationship building and present opportunities to provide consultative services. According to Paul Zoz, president of VAR Bizco Technologies, the keys to becoming the go-to source for an ongoing hardware supply contract are product expertise and the flexibility to meet the customer’s unique needs.
Omaha-based Signal 88, a franchise-based security company, was looking for a new partner to image, store, and deliver the rugged Panasonic Toughbook CF-31 computers it uses in its patrol vehicles. When independent franchise owners join the Signal 88 network, they receive a complete set of equipment as part of the franchise, including a Nissan Xterra patrol vehicle that includes a CF-31 mounted within, loaded with Signal 88’s proprietary security management and dispatch software.
Security personnel use the vehicles and computers to perform roving vehicle patrols for clients, generate reports, and provide time-stamped GPS data about their activities. The Panasonic devices are used for scheduling, billing, and routing, as well as providing the online reports.
Because the company only ships a handful of devices each month, it had used an outsourcing partner to store, image, and deliver the units. Under that arrangement, the company was able to free up working capital because they didn’t have to purchase and store the devices. According to Tim Conahan, COO at Signal 88, the company was experiencing some service issues with its previous distributor. “We wanted to find a partner we felt was experienced and well-versed with the portable mobile laptops,” Conahan says.
Conahan says the company was set on continuing with the Panasonic units. “I spent 26 years in law enforcement, and the Panasonic laptops are used in a lot of departments,” Conahan says. “When we were looking for a device for our patrol vehicles, we didn’t have to look far. They’re the perfect tool for this application.”
Beyond Just Supplying Rugged Laptops
Conahan approached Panasonic in early 2012 for a recommendation, and the vendor pointed them to Bizco. Bizco was not only able to handle the hardware logistics for Signal 88, the company also had significant expertise with the Toughbook line. Bizco is also a Nebraska-based company, which was geographically convenient for Signal 88.
Bizco handles purchasing and shipping and manages the process of having the computers imaged at Panasonic’s configuration center. “We warehouse the product for them, provide imaging services, and make sure they get delivered to the right place at the right time,” Zoz says.
Signal 88 provides some forecasting information based on their own sales projections. Bizco uses that data to estimate how many units it will need on hand to ensure timely imaging and shipping. “We manage a just-in-time inventory process for them,” Zoz says. “It’s not a huge run rate; we may provide five to seven units per month. We still have to make sure we have that inventory here to meet demand, regardless of how many units they need.”
In addition to handling the physical delivery of the laptops, Bizco also provides technical consulting. “One of the reasons we went with Bizco was the technical knowledge the team there has about this product,” Conahan says. “That’s been a big plus for us. If we have a question, we get an answer right away, and if we need anything, they’re always right on top of it.”
Your Service Should Never Stop
Zoz says his team has worked hard to provide continued technology support and guidance, and he hopes to build on the relationship by introducing Signal 88 to Bizco’s video conferencing solutions as well. Given the open-ended nature of the relationship, the Panasonic units will inevitably go through hardware and firmware changes that could impact Signal 88’s fleet. Staying on top of that information will add value to the existing agreement.
“When you have an ongoing process like this, you have to make sure you communicate,” Zoz says. “We keep them updated on when the product lines are going to change or if there has been a refresh. Our job is to help keep them out in front of the technology so they can plan accordingly. In addition to managing the hardware, we will continue to serve as a consultative partner moving forward and find additional solutions to help improve efficiencies and productivity within their organization.”