VAI Introduces Tablet App to ERP Customers
July 9, 2013 Dan Burger
Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers that use VAI‘s S2K ERP software are getting acquainted with a new tablet application that provides order entry capability to a mobile sales force. The app was announced in late June, but has been available since mid-May. For now, it’s available only for Android-based tablets, but the company predicts a mobile apps for Apple tablets and both Android and iOS smartphones in the first quarter of 2014.
The S2K Tablet Order Entry application is designed so that S2K customers can have their sales reps quickly take orders from the field with the convenience of a tablet and whether or not they have Internet connectivity. It allows the sales person to view product catalogs; select products; view prices and see gross profit; edit the price; then store and send an order. It also provides real-time data sync with the ERP system when Internet connectivity is available.
The features and functionality are similar to the Web-based S2K Sales Force CRM–it hits the same tables and files–but its native-tablet operation brings offline capabilities and the functionality of the tablet, which is primarily the GPS navigation and tracking. Sales reps can easily locate customers and the home office can easily locate sales reps.
“This is a quick way for a sales rep who is walking into a store or meeting a customer to place an order without investigating the items to the extent that S2K Sales Force provides,” says Joe Scioscia, vice president of sales at VAI. “It can also be used by route sales people who do deliveries and sell off a truck. It tracks the merchandise on the truck.”
The app will reduce the time and errors by streamlining the order entry processes, Scioscia says. Without the tablet app, sales reps are taking orders using Excel spreadsheets and using laptops to send orders to the back-end systems.
In addition to product information and customer name and address, the app can be designed to include customers’ accounts receivable balances or summaries, open invoice, or anything the sales rep finds useful into the app, as long as the rep’s home office agrees.
The app requires a user profile and authentication. It is programmed to pull data from the ERP system and keep it locally on the database that resides on the tablet. Administrators get to decide what specific information is made available to a user, and have the capability to switch off any user and make any device unusable.
VAI designed the app to be compatible with all versions of its S2K ERP and uses the standard fields that are universal across any release. Most ERP customizations should have no effect on the structure of S2K or the capabilities of the order entry tablet app.
“This is not a one-shot consumer app that is downloaded and used as is and either you like it or you don’t,” says Das Debajyoti, VAI’s chief architect for mobile development. “This app is configured and set up on a customer-by-customer basis.”
“We are creating an app that our customers can brand and then sell to their customers,” says Scioscia. “When we sell this it becomes the customer’s app not a VAI app.”
VAI has a secure website where customers download the tablet app. Typically, VAI helps with the ERP connection because it requires a middleware layer that runs on the IBM i operating system that takes care of security and the data synchronization. Each installation is a custom fit.
Pricing is in two parts. The middleware is a flat fee of $10,000. The second part is the tablet application fee, which is $200 per device for the order entry capabilities.
Scioscia say VAI has additional apps in development, including a proof of delivery signature capture app and a route sales app. Pricing will be commensurate with the complexity of the app–some will be cheaper than order entry and some more expensive. Joe says those apps may be available by Q4 2013.
Currently, VAI has one customer using the order entry tablet app: Joshen Paper & Packaging, one of the country’s largest distributors of paper and packaging materials. According to Joshen officials, it has eliminated the number of customer service calls from the sales team and improved the overall customer experience.
Several other VAI customers are in progress with the mobile app implementation. For more info, see www.vai.net.