According to Steve Pagano, Fuji's VP of field operations, BEF represents an important ingredient to Fuji's field service. He said that Fuji dispatches the BEF techs on an as-needed basis for installation and break-fix assignments. He added that with BEF as a backup, Fuji is able to maintain a more stable in-house field service force without adding or firing techs as workload shifts. "BEF is serving us well."
Is service important to BEF? In the past, the buying-refurb-sell activity represented about 75% of BEF sales with service accounting for the balance. Now, according to John Frederick, the service sector brings in about 80% of sales.
Probably the greatest service story in our business has never been told. When APS hit the market in the Spring of 1996, Wal-mart committed to have every store upgraded to handle APS on-site by the end of the year. That meant putting upgrade kits on some 1,000 Fuji minilabs. Every one of those labs was disconnected at a Wal-Mart, trucked back to Allentown, upgraded with an APS kit, trucked back to a different Wal-Mart and re-installed. According to Steve Pagano, Fuji handled the planning but BEF folks did the fulfillment-all by year's end. A huge undertaking, both logistically and technically.
That enterprise insured BEF's place in Fuji's service scheme and is now serving them well as the industry reshapes.
Taking the Initiative
Among other new initiatives as BEF beats its new path to change is the development by President Ed Brewer of a Data Collection System (DCS) package that he feels will be attractive to lab operators running multi sites. The system electronically connects every minilab site to a central headquarters location. It will allow management to track such things as paper waste, number and sizes of prints, need for paper and chemistry, peak daily production to maximize labor efficiency and perform remote diagnostics. It can also connect to the department's POS register and report detailed sales activity.
Early models of DCS, according to Ed, were somewhat bulky and cost about $2,600 per location. The newer setup involves a piece of hardware about the size of a handheld organizer to be connected to each lab and would cost management less than $1,000 per location. BEF is prepared to offer the system for a monthly fee, determined by the number of sites, or sell outright.
Ed and his engineers have been developing DCS for a number of years and Ed feels that the product was ready too early for the industry. Translation: no customers yet. However, he is prepared to take the latest version to market this summer and is optimistic. Ed is especially proud of 14 patents that he owns on DCS and feels it could be difficult for equipment vendors that may be trying to incorporate some DCS features into their labs. Translation: we'll license.
I must say it's nice to be able to report on folks that, instead of crying in their beer about what digital is doing to them, are altering their business plans to take advantage of new opportunities within the industry.
Jerry Lansky is president of MiniLab Consultants, Inc., P.O. Box 475, Colts Neck, NJ 07722. Tel: (732) 946-8484. E-mail: Jlansky@.att.net