VAR Solves POS Problems While Watching Business Grow
Alpha Business Computing System's three-day install of an inventory and POS (point of sale) system leads to two years of continual business.
Two years ago Robert Payne, president of Alpha Business Computing Systems, Inc. (ABCS) (Dublin, OH), received a call from a coin and collectibles shop on the brink of POS (point of sale) disaster and an inventory-tracking fiasco. Allen's, Inc. (Westerville, OH) had information on only 1/3 of its 40,000 item coin inventory accessible through its current POS software. The store was growing, and its POS system and inventory-tracking software could not keep up. ABCS addressed the problem, found a solution, and installed a system that has led to new business for the VAR and an efficient POS system for the end user.
Allen's sells coins, paper currency, coin jewelry, coin holders, and collectibles. With such a wide range of items, it needed an efficient way to keep track of inventory. When ABCS entered the equation, Allen's had already identified the problem. "I didn't need to provide any statistics to the client to prove they needed to replace the current POS/inventory systems," said Payne. "The client had already decided to replace the system. It was just a matter of which system they were going to select."
Allen's current POS/inventory system consisted of outdated hardware and inventory-tracking software. With this system, when new coins came in employees at Allen's had to manually enter the information on that coin into the system; they did not have bar code scanners or labels. The fact that coins are valued by condition, year, and rarity complicated matters. There could be 50 coins from the year 1934 in the store, all of them with different prices. Entering the prices of each coin manually was time consuming, so only 1/3 of Allen's coin inventory made it into the POS software. Coin value can fluctuate frequently, so for Allen's that meant additional difficulties when it came to accessing coin value information at the POS. The combination of these coin tracking issues created efficiency and customer service problems at the POS.
Customers purchasing the other 2/3 of coins that were not accessible through the POS system had to wait while Allen's employees would manually look up the coins' dollar value in a resource book. Additionally, when a customer made a purchase, Allen's printed out an invoice slip, complete with Allen's specific store information. The invoices were printed with a dot matrix printer, not to be confused with a dot matrix receipt printer. In some instances the store would resort to handwritten receipts. These methods, along with outdated POS and inventory systems, created accounting issues as well. "The dollar value of the inventory was a real difficult issue," Payne explained. "In the vault area there were stacks and stacks of coins making it difficult to keep track of inventory and calculate the store's net worth."
The Total POS Solution
The store needed to install a new POS system to empower it with the ability to track and control inventory, while improving customer service. The store needed to identify each coin down to condition, year, mint mark, and rarity without having to do manual look-ups. "We installed a DOS version and a Windows version of Keystroke software in demo mode, so Allen's employees could evaluate two different programs along with hardware," Payne explains. "These were complete systems they could work with and enter transactions and print reports." The deciding factor between the two was the desire for a system that could be utilized by someone with no computer training.
Allen's concluded the DOS version was more of a fit for the store's employees and the needs of the store. At the initial cost of $15,000, ABCS installed a system in three days that fit Allen's needs. ABCS installed Keystroke point of sale software from Specialized Business Solutions, Inc. and Business Works accounting software from Best Software, Inc. ABCS took care of the hardware issues with APG Cash Drawer's S186-3A-CW-1816, Zebra S600 bar code printers, Z-Ultimate 3000 White TT labels, and HHP IT3800VHD hand-held bar code scanners . To remedy the receipt printer problem, SP212 receipt printers from Star Micronics (Edison, NJ) were added to the formula.
Although the system was plug and play, there was some integration involved. "Inventory values had to be imported into Keystroke, as did customer data files," said Payne. The most challenging aspect of this installation for ABCS was finding the correct bar code label to fit on the coin holders. The 1.5" by 1.5" holders for each coin needed a label with a bar code in order for the system to be a success. The POS software had to be programmed to print a label that would be small enough, but remain readable and scanable. The final measurements for the label were 1.25" by 0.25".
The Key To Success
Allen's had never integrated a receipt printer into their former system, so the installation of the receipt printers played a key role in the store's overall satisfaction with the system. "The store wanted an inexpensive printer, and it had to fit in the limited space available next to the system's hardware components," Payne explains. "Allen's just wanted a quick way to print receipts, while keeping costs down." The Star Micronics SP212 printer prints 2.5 lines per second. Since the printers were installed, paper costs are down 50%, and the time a customer waits in line has been reduced significantly.
As a result of this installation, Allen's is now able to track inventory while offering more efficient customer service, because these days information on 90% of Allen's coin inventory is now accessible through the POS software. When a customer walks in Allen's door now, the coin store is able to scan a label on just about any coin, find the price of that item, find the total quantity available in inventory, and then sell it to the customer for the right price with a sales receipt. This whole process can be completed without any manual lookups in a matter of minutes. Coin prices may change often, but with the right hardware and software, Allen's is able to keep up. In order to give a total solution, ABCS offered a service contract in which the software is supported 24/7. This contract is a factor in the continual relationship between ABCS and Allen's, Inc.
ABCS recently installed this same system in another coin shop associated with Allen's. Allen's has plans to upgrade its current system's DOS Keystroke software to the Windows version. Payne says since this installation, he has received calls from potential end users from local and out-of-state coin shops. He believes as a POS VAR he has found a new and prosperous market in the coin industry.