What, Me Worry?
Although the economy is slow, bar code printer vendors do not seem worried about drastic downturns in sales.
Much like Alfred E. Neuman (for those of you old enough to remember Mad Magazine), bar code vendors are taking a what-me-worry attitude toward the economy. OK, they may be worried a little. But, for the most part, they seem to be unaffected by the current economy.
I recently spoke with the IT (information technology) managers at Boeing, General Motors, and Procter & Gamble. The consensus was that plans to incorporate automatic data capture technology are still intact. Some programs have been slightly delayed due to decreased staffing, but the orders are not being cancelled.
The Biggest Challenge
Vic Barczyk, VP sales and marketing, Cognitive (Golden, CO), told me the biggest challenge for vendors and VARs is to convince IT managers they can still proceed with bar code plans without hurting their budgets. "The problems that created the need for a bar code system still exist," said Barczyk. "In tough times, the problems may even be amplified. Decreased staffing produces an even greater need for efficiency. Pushing IT orders out will only make matters worse."
Continuing, Barczyk stated, "Customers often think they need a high-performance printer. Zebra Technologies (Vernon Hills, IL) has done a terrific job of branding. However, not every customer needs a high-performance printer. We are trying to show customers they can purchase less expensive printers, solve their bar code needs, and still leave their budgets intact. Maybe they will have to replace a printer in four years rather than seven. The economy may be in better shape when that time comes."
Supply Chain, A Driving Force...
More than any other application, supply chain tracking has renewed the interest in AIDC (automatic identification and data capture) technology. "Everybody has focused on supply chain tracking and inventory reduction," said Ralph Gabai, senior VP of sales and marketing for Printronix (Irvine, CA). "The supply chain has many links: raw material suppliers, manufacturers, transportation carriers, warehouses. It has been the key driver for AIDC sales for the past three years and continues to drive sales going forward.
"Many businesses are reducing staff sizes due to the slow economy, but cuts in capital spending have not been as severe. The bar code printer replacement market is off a bit. In this sector, businesses are repairing and refurbishing printers, rather than buying new units. However, new (IT) programs are not being cut. There's still a market for bar code printers, but making sales will be a little more difficult than in the past. VARs must be consultants rather than box movers."
Expand The Partnership
Vendors and VARs have always had somewhat of a partner relationship...some better than others. Now, more than ever, it is critical that vendors play a part in helping VARs with sales. If closing a sale requires vendor help, then the vendor better be sending someone on the road with the VAR. If VARs need engineering help to evaluate customer needs and prepare a solution, vendors should offer their services.
VARs must constantly evaluate supply chain needs, in all its links. At the same time, they must keep the lines of communication open with their vendors. Remember, although you may not need to worry about sales, you still cannot take a lackadaisical approach toward addressing the market.Questions about this article? E-mail the author at Editor@corrypub.com.