Moving Warehouses Into Future


    GRAND RAPIDS — ROI Technology is rolling out two new programs — eWarehouse and Ship-Scan — that it says will take warehousing into the future.

    Chris Crespi, ROI’s president, says the two will improve efficiency, accuracy, mobility and real-time transaction processing in the warehouse and possibly in other areas of business.

    Crespi told the Business Journal his firm developed eWarehouse as a tool to assist one business with warehousing inventory and communications.

    He said ROI creates business strategies, which then become technology strategies and then are turned into general solutions.

    “This was an application that was developed through helping a client,” Crespi said. “We worked with them up front knowing that it was going to be a turn-key solution and something that we would open up to the marketplace. So they are pretty excited about being a part of the pilot program.

    “We provided this Web-based interface, which is actually a front-end system so it provides the client mobility and flexibility to move around the warehouse,” Crespi said. “It is also on a much smaller, lower cost platform because it works off wireless devices. It is very convenient, cost-effective and easy to use.”

    Crespi said eWarehouse could be used on a Palm Pilot, iMac or any other hand-held device to keep track of inventory and share information between devices and departments. To expand the capabilities beyond tracking warehouse inventory, he explained that eWarehouse also can be used to hold contact information, e-mail, scheduling, customer service or business financials.

    “The solution is meant to be a more efficient, time- and cost-saving way of sharing information,” said Crespi.

    “It can be used anywhere where they need to see where their inventory levels are, anything that is being captured in an enterprise system can be exposed through a Web interface and it is pretty powerful technology.”

    ROI Technology —  ROI stands for “return on investment — has developed numerous products as a result of finding cost-saving measures for certain clients. Crespi says this development method can translate to savings for the public and the original client when thanks to the shared cost of research and development.

    “We can work out an arrangement knowing what we are going to have in backside revenue from the product and we can start the deal with that,” said Crespi.

    “It is a win-win because otherwise some of these products would never hit the market. So the company can start with a little bit of funding since it is developed for them and then we can go from there. The company also stands as a good example and a good reference for others to use.”

    Often when dealing with a customized solution, he said the development and end product can be hard to visualize because it is only an idea and no one wants to be the guinea pig.

    “If someone can see something it makes it easier to comprehend. But there are no specifications, no keyboards to put your hands on to pull up a screen you need to see, so it can be a real chance,” Crespi added.

    “If a company has a problem, ROI comes out and takes a look at something that would make the business more profitable and more productive. Then we develop a solution to correct that problem and maximize efficiency and then that solution — after applied to the company — often becomes public and can be a solution for other businesses.”

    He said Ship-Scan is similar to eWarehouse in that it began as a concept for one customer. Crespi said Ship-Scan complements eWarehouse, being specific to the quality control and processing and inventory side of things, where eWarehouse can apply more broadly in accounts receivable, inventory, accounts available, customer service and accessing inventory.

    “Say an order has said, ‘I need 10 of this, two of this and six of this.’ And (Ship-Scan) goes through to the enterprise and makes sure that there are no discrepancies.” He said many firms are moving away from checking order fulfillment by hand in order to cut back on costs.

    “Quality control will still be needed,” Crespi said, “but what it (Ship-Scan) does is take a lot of the human error out of the equation.”

    He said both products were available in February but have recently begun to garner attention from several local companies from an application standpoint, with customization to follow.

    That is where Crespi sees ROI’s future.

    “It is all about information and being able to take information and do something with it and get something out of it,” he said.

    “So the main challenge for us is to develop a way to make that information as accessible and meaningful so it can be used. And this is just one way that we have been able to provide an easy point of access and easy use.”

    Being able to understand its customers’ business and technology sides also is something Crespi feels gives ROI ROI an advantage.

    “It is important to be aligned with a company that can not only understand what technology you need but also your business and be not only a technology specialist but a business person.

    “I think that is very important because these technologies definitely support the business and if you don’t understand the business, how are you going to understand how technology fits into it?”

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