Software providers update coffee service operators on system capabilities Growth and profitability were two of the key themes at the recent Coffee Summit presented by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, N.J. Hence, nobody was surprised when a panel of software executives presented an overview of what software can do nowadays to make OCS more profitable. The panel included representatives from four companies and was moderated by Michigan State University Prof. Michael Kasavana.
First to speak was Warren Philips, president of Validata Computer & Research Corp., who emphasized the importance of ongoing software education for operators. “It (software) has evolved from a paper-based system to the most automated, integrated system,” he said. “No matter where you are in the evolution of your business, there are strengths and weaknesses of your organization.”
“Good systems will help you knit things together on a daily basis and reinforce good habits by your employees,” he said.
Areas where software can help operate more efficiently are: route scheduling, route reporting and account profitability.
Philips noted that route mapping tools have come down in price.
The benefits of flexible route scheduling include changing stops and knowing what product needs to be replaced at what rate, he said. These benefits will save the driver time and allow him or her more time for sales.
Philips said a routing program can yield a 22 percent gain in efficiency.
A route reporting program will help monitor driver accountability. “We can give route supervisors an excellent view of what happened and what did not happen on the route,” he said.
Cliff Fisher, national sales manager for MEI’s MEI/Easitrax group, said one of the key benefits a good software should provide is shortening accounts receivable days outstanding. Others include improved accountability, greater efficiency, and enhanced employee retention.
He noted that handhelds can yield an 85 percent time savings in back office activities, including accounts receivable.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT CAN BE MEASURED
“How do you deploy and implement technology with the return on investment you must live with?” Fisher asked. He said his company focuses on performance management. They do this by providing the right mix of people and technology to measure key business metrics, understand trends and gain context, allowing users to make consistently good business decisions.
MEI’s Easitrax software solution includes handhelds for the route and the warehouse, along with portable printers, forecasting tools, all underpinned by training and support.
“None of this will work without a firm commitment to success, a good plan, and well educated users consistently supported,” he said.
Laurin Miller, national account manager at Crane Streamware, said the handheld is an indispensable tool for route delivery operations. He said his company’s system supports both route delivery and pre-sell OCS operating models. The system provides account management and order taking capabilities to the field.
The system also supports product promotion in the field, which improves sales. “You can do a much better job promoting your product when you’ve got a sales person standing in front of the person rather than on the phone,” he said.
The system will also allow an operator to view a complete sales history by customer. In addition, it can flag a sales person about customers on credit hold.
The warehouse application allows drivers to take inventory on the truck and in the warehouse.
Miller said the system integrates with Microsoft’s MapPoint routing program, and can integrate with service call tracking with email dispatch.
PRE-SELL AND ROUTE DELIVERY MODELS
Mark Kronenberg, president of CompuVend, said his company’s programs can be used for both pre-sell and route delivery models. The software also allows operators to analyze profitability by customer, by sales person and by order.