Single User System for Startup Business
The purpose of this exercise is to design a single user system, to solve the needs of a startup business.The business I chose is a service oriented, automotive oil change company.This system will need to satisfy the business needs of a small company, including database queries, inventory management, customer tracking, form generating, accounting, and many other functions.
This must be accomplished in an easy to use, simple, single user format.
This system should be a point of sale system utilizing separate databases. One for customer tracking used to notify previous customers via postcard printouts. In addition, these should be sent after a three-month period from their last service. There could be coupons issued as well. Accounting and inventory information, such as daily, weekly, monthly, etc. sales, current inventory needs, cost of inventory, profit margins, employee records, sales tax, etc. should also be stored. Another, dynamic database would hold manufacture specifications. This would provide real-time query access for make/model vehicle specifications for referencing filter part numbers as well as other technical information. This would need to be updated as manufacturers change specifications.
This system should contain redundant features as it is business critical, providing dual, mirrored disk drives, as well as an efficient backup device. This would reduce down time due to drive failure. The need for this amount of safety lies in the necessity of maintaining fast, uninterrupted service.
There would need to be two printers. One, a dot matrix for printing customer receipts, as well as a hard copy for business purposes. The second printer would be for the service personnel. This would print out the work orders with specific information, such as the make and model of the vehicle as well as the filter numbers and quantity of oil needed. This printer would be located in the service area.
This system should be capable of printing and displaying timely accounting reports including sales figures and current inventory quantities. These should be available on screen (a color VGA monitor would be required), as well as in printed form.
All this must be extremely user friendly. With very little training required. The projected employee skill and pay level is expected to be entry level minimum wage.
When researching a business solution to fit this need, one company was mentioned in most interviews and research. Auto Dataa was highly recommended by the independent area shops that provide this service. Auto Dataa provides a complete software system specifically engineered for this market. This package is called POS-I-LUBEa. This is a all-encompassing point of sale software package that provides complete support of an automotive service company. This system provides comparative accounting reports, real-time inventory management, work order creation, reliable specification information via a secured connection, employee time-clock accounting functions, full cash register functions and professionally printed receipts, as well as a complete service history for each of your customers.
This system will provide the ability to check inventory levels anytime. Supply payroll information with their time card feature. Generate accounting reports ranging from comparative sales figures from one period to another, period financial reports, profit margins, inventory costs, personnel costs, withholdings, sales tax figures, essentially all the accounting information necessary to successfully run the business. This is in conjunction to the real-time product specification query function and work orders.
The time that is saved by the vehicle specification query, which previously had to be done through hard copy cross-reference, looking up make, model, engine, options, etc., now can be used to assure that you have a timely customer turnaround time, as this is all done automatically through this menu driven system. The customer history database can be queried to provide essential data for mass mailings and coupons. These are all time saving functions that work to improve customer satisfaction, while maintaining a strong presence in the marketplace.
POS-I-LUBEa utilizes a Fox Pro database for it’s customer history and tracking, as well as its accounting data. For the vehicle specification database, POS-I-LUBEa uses a licensed Check Chart subscribed database available through a secured connection. This is where the monthly fee ($250.00) comes into play. Recommended hard drive size is 1GB by the manufacturer Auto Dataa.
This menu driven package is designed to be mouse driven, with no typing required, offering less opportunity for mistakes. This also make the system very user friendly with very little training required.
This all-inclusive package offers greater reliability than many other products available in the marketplace. The STAR Pro VII @ $ 1847.00, and the Shopman Standard Version 3.0 @ $299.00 are alternatives. While the STAR Pro VII offers much of the inventory, report generating and accounting functions of the POS-I-LUBEa system it does not offer the database query functions to reference vehicle specifications. The budget priced Shopman Standard Version 3.0 only offers the repair orders and invoices. This reliability of the POS-I-LUBEa system is due partly to the fact that it is all inclusive and not pieced together from non-compatible software.
The initial cost of this software is under $2,000.00, with a small annual fee for real-time database queries ($250.00). The hardware is user supplied and can fluctuate in cost depending on the specifications desired by the user.
For the requirements that I desired, Della provided the best solution for the money. I decided on the Workstation 410 with the following features.
Dual 9.1GB SCSI, Ultra2/Wide LVD (7200rpm) hard drives
The dual hard drives add a redundancy that is essential when your business is so reliant on such a system in case of failure on one drive. The Zip drive is for maintaining current backups and off-site storage for disaster recovery. Total cost of Della system is $94.00 per month on their business lease plan. This fully meets, and/or exceeds the system specifications required by Auto Dataa (see operations manual). I chose the lease program as it offers a service agreement throughout the extent of the lease, as well as the option to periodically upgrade due to the moderate terms of the lease (3 years).
In addition to this, there are the required periphrials, as follows.
Okidata Microline 321 Turbo parallel printer @ $451.91
Star Micronics SP322C Printer @ $379.00
3COM 56Kb Internal Modem @ $95.00
Symantec PCanyWhere v9.0 @ 169.95
Indiana Metal Cash Drawer @ $315.00
The dot matrix printer is for the creation of the customer billing record and receipt, while the other printer produces the employee work order in the service area with all the vehicle specifications.
As required by Auto Dataa, all software must be installed and tested by their technicians at their facility at an additional cost of $100. Shipping is not included and runs approximately $25.00.
In addition to these costs, there are also the costs of printer cables, forms, multi-jack surge and phone line protector, or small UPC system with active system protection. This is figured into the cost as a miscellaneous expense of $400.00. The initial total cost to this system is under $4,200.00. With a monthly expense of $345.00 plus costs of forms, backup tapes, printer maintenance, etc. Overall, this is a very cost effective solution that can be written off as a tax deduction as a cost of doing business. The initial startup expense is very low due to the leasing program offered by Della.
All systems testing should be completed when system is completely installed, less the inventory information, as preliminary testing has been done at the time of the software installation. This testing should consist of entering vehicle specifications while cross- referencing returned data with a known, reliable source, verifying printouts to both the service area as well as the customer billing form. Upon successful completion of testing, all inventory information must be inputted into the database, along with cost figures. After the inventory data has been inputted, more testing will be required in order to test the inventory tracking procedures and cost analysis.
When the system is tested and proven, the training of employees may commence. Auto Dataa provides, at an additional cost, remote training, although with this menu driven system this is not usually necessary. The employees will be prompted for the information required in the service process. The accounting information is available for management and will require additional training. This will be the final step in the implementation process.
Maintenance should consist of no more than servicing the printers and running the backups.
This is the most complete as well as cost effective solution I have found, utilizing off the shelf hardware and materials at an affordable cost. The hardware is common, providing easy replacement in case of failure. This is important in such a service-oriented, time-based company. For more user information, please see the accompanying user’s manual.