Do-It-Yourself POS Software

Ron Eggers

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For at least ten years now I've used Microsoft Works spreadsheets and databases to handle my pricing and order writing, inventory control, customer list, and materials ordering. I use a macro recorder and an elaborate set of hotkeys to navigate around the system and transfer data between components.

Before you say, "What is wrong with this guy?" I'll tell you that it works very well for me and it's infinitely flexible. The main drawbacks are its very steep learning curve and the fact that I have to manually update prices on chop, matboard and other supplies.

Until recently, I assumed I was probably the only framer in the world that did this, but I ran across another Grumbler today that uses MS Works this way and I'm hoping we'll be comparing notes to help both of us. So there are two of us. If there are any more, I'd love to hear from you.

There are probably some who are using Excel and I think the procedures may be similar.

Ron
 

Bob Shirk MCPF

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My wife wrote a POS program for us on Excell that also runs on Lotus. She is much better with this stuff than me. Our system works pretty well and it is not that hard to learn.
Bob :eek:
 

Mitch

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Ron

I have been working for about five years on an Excel POS and would love to exchange ideas.
 

ArtLady

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Are any of you folks using the Developer package and Access? In my former life I was a systems analyst on an IBM System 38. I am looking at Access and wonder if it can really work.

Ron, can't you import the price update file to MS Works and write a program that updates the prices with a few keystrokes??

shutup.gif
shrug.gif
 

Ron Eggers

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<blockquote>quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by ArtLady:
I am looking at Access and wonder if it can really work.

Ron, can't you import the price update file to MS Works and write a program that updates the prices with a few keystrokes??
<hr></blockquote>

ArtLady,

I'm quite sure Access could be developed into a powerful POS system. If I ever disappear for 6 months or so, it'll be because I'm sitting in a cave somewhere (read: Home Office) trying to do just that.

The problem with importing pricing files into MS Works is that there are no files to import. The only vendor I'm aware of that publishes price lists in a file (dbf or csv, I think) is Williamson. It takes me a couple of long evenings to update moulding prices from, say, L-J - usually twice-a-year. I do the same for the other vendors as well as matboard from 4 suppliers. If I ever switch to a commercial package, this will be the reason.

Ron

PS Mitch, I emailed you yesterday and received a notice that delivery was "delayed." Let me know if you don't get that in a few days.
 

ArtLady

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Ron,

There is a Microsoft Office Developers kit for folks who want to write their own software.

Access is fabulous. I would get frustrated with Works in 10 minutes.

shrug.gif
 

William Ross

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Question: Why develop your own framing program when there are so many very good programs on the market? I have been writing computer programs for over 30 years, but I have never written one for my frame shop. We have moved thru three other programs before getting to FrameReady, which is one of the best. If you are incline to want to hours, days, months or years writing programs then good luck. Frameready allows you to use FileMaker Pro (its database) to make changes, if you need. If you are doing it to save money, you will not.
Question: How do you update your vendor files? We just download the information from the internet. :D
 

Ron Eggers

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William,

It may have started out that way, but it's no longer a question of saving money. (I'm the guy that spent $16,500 for a next-to-useless Mat Maestro.) The last time I looked, which was a while ago, the commercial packages just wouldn't do what I wanted. For example, my matboard database tells me, in addition to price and vendor, the color-wheel placement, surface texture, core color, maximum size available, inventory (down to partial sheet) and a list of equivalent colors from other vendors. It lets me set an inventory level for automatic reorder and it formats and sends faxes to my distributors to reorder. (It will not help the delivery guy lug the boxes off the truck, but I'm working on it.)

Updating vendor prices, as I've mentioned, is a major pain in the butt. For this reason alone, I'll probably take a look at the commercial packages at the next trade show I attend.

Ron
 

William Ross

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Ron:
FrameReady has a special program just for you.
(you will have to sign a non-disclosure, because he will be giving you his code design work)

It allows you to add you own database item to their regular program. Best of both worlds. As I stated before, this program is written in FileMaker Pro and allows you to enhance you reports without any "real" computer programing.

Talk to Bert @ Frameready and you will see that it is the program you you.
 

Ron Eggers

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Thank you, William. I'll check it out. I probably spend 60 hours/year or so updating vendor info. I'd rather turn those into "billable hours."

Ron
 

Mitch

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Ron

I did get your email message, It was a long time in coming. What you wrote leads me to believe that we both are going around the same tree in the same direction but in different vehicles. Excel has the macros built in which would mean there would be no need for MS Works. Of course the real bummer is to update files (See my answer to Williams Question).

I tried to send you a copy of the program I use but it was aborted - Not enough storage was allocated. If you or anyone else would like to see it, Let me know. I may be able to get it on a floppy, I do know it will fit on a Zip disk.

I made the copy and added comments and instructions to help others. Like you say, there is a long learning curve and there is a lot of work setting up the files of mouldings, mat numbers and distributors. As you will see there are some philosophical pricing quirks included in
the program, like pricing mat board for every eight inches if the longest length of the mat is less than 32 inches and every 10 inches if the mats longest length is over 32 inches. Since I made the copy I have added corner sample locations and mat color families, these two additions help when trying to find mat colors and corner samples in order to make price changes and deletions. I also added an oversize warning and an additional sales tax amount for the second location I sell from - in another city.

When I added the second location I had to hide files and protect cells from individuals that know very little about computers. This program canbe used by others with very little knowledge
I plan to add a status report when I need it and when I figure out what I want.


William

"Why develop your own framing program when there are so many very good programs on the market?"

I am a very small shop. I probably won't grow much larger for the next 8 to 10 years. I don't want to spend my capital on assets I won't use. I have three vendors and only add the products I use. I do not list all the mat boards and moulding sold by these vendors. Price changes and deletions usually take me an evening (now that I added the locations and color families to the mats and mouldings data). The formulas and formatting I had to learn were the most dificult. It helped that I was able to developed it as my needs grew. I started with a simple Apple spread sheet program to add up the frame orders. So far, home made works.
 

William Ross

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Sorry Mitch
I forget that everyone doesn't live in Southern Califorina and have 8000 moulding samples from 20 vendor and try to computerize everything. What I was trying to say was that if you were writing a complex frameing program, there are many very good ones on the market and your time could be better spent developing sales programs for your business. I write programs for our business for those items that do not have programs on the market.
 

John Gornall

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I set up a frame pricing system based on a database program called Q&A by Symantic. It's an old DOS program that I am very good at from years of use. It runs on an old 486 computer that I bought for 50 dollars. It's only job is to price framing - nothing else. This computer is located at the design tables and using the keyboard, no mouse, it's quick and easy to work up a job's price. There are separate databases in the computer for Matboards, mouldings, glass etc. The pricing database looks up the required information from these other databases. The program allows as many calculations as needed - markups, waste factors, etc to come up with an appropriate selling price. It can print a page showing the calculations allowing me to be sure a job is in fact giving me a suitable profit. It's fairly easy to update prices - if a manufacturer raises prices 4% I can do a mass update of their products in about 6 keystrokes. The point of this system is simplicity at the sales table. I want to be able to concentrate on selling - not systems. I still use a paper work order and while working with the customer it's usually face down and I am writting on the blank back side. while the customer is with me I can give them a price quickly, write down the basics, and keep upselling and communicating with my customer making sure I meet or exceed their needs without being distracted by systems. Then after the customer leaves (with a smile on their face) I can finalize the data. This is done by the framer in the back where there are a series of networked computers that do the real record keeping. The framer now does the exact design details, checks inventory and list materials to be ordered, enters the sale details in the customer database, prints invoices, etc. The framing is delivered to the customer at a separate cash/delivery counter where the sale is entered in a simple cash register - at the end of the day a report from the cash register is transfered back to the office computer completing the cycle. It's a system that has evolved from the store dynamics of our old paper system and it will keep evolving. It probably not the best but it works well for us.
 

Jim Miller

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What's your time worth?

In 1994 I decided to use computer software for order entry, order history, customer data and pricing data.

My objectives then were:
1. Accuracy of calculations
2. Speed of pricing & order entry
3. Data storage & manipulation
4. Savings of time (money) to keep pricing data up to date.

I considered writing my own program -- even bought MS Access for that purpose. But within a few weeks I realized that the months I would spend working on it would cost me more than if I continued manually for a few more years.

Then I fould FullCalc and bought it shortly after. No regrets. Indeed, if I had gone through all the motions and set up my own "perfect" software, I would by now have scrapped it in favor of a professionally-written and automatically updated program.

After all these years one benefit stands out as being absolutely the most valuable. That is the automatic updating feature. No matter how good a home-written program can be, it still must be manually updated, which still is a time-consuming task of major proportions.

Add it up:
One day (if you're really good) per quarter spent manually updating prices and part numbers =

8 hours x $60.00 shop rate = $480.00 cost x 4 per year = $1,920.00 per year to maintain the program.

And that does not include time spent creating your own tech support and problem solving if anything goes wrong.

The most expensive program on the market -- whatever it is -- can't cost much more than that the first year. And in subsequent years there is only the annual subscription for updates; a few hundred dollars.

I guess if you're a frustrated computer programmer, or have too little framing business to occupy your time, then it's OK to spend the time and effort writing and maintaining your own program. Otherwise, how could it possibly be justified?

What's your time worth? And what's the most productive use of it?
 

Ron Eggers

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I sure hope this doesn't turn into one of those home-based vs. storefront framer type issues.

For someone starting out today, I certainly wouldn't recommend trying to develop his or her own POS software. Mine developed over a lot of years. The first version ran, in BASIC, on a Timex Sinclair with a little thermal printer. At the time, the choice of commercial programs was extremely thin and the hardware needed to run them would have cost more than my house did! (I'm not exaggerating.) And, yes, I probably had more time than money.

I'll certainly look at the commercial software and try to find one with the flexibility and features I like. I don't think any of us with do-it-yourself POS systems would argue that they are in any way superior - just that they work. The time I spend tweeking and maintaining mine gives me the same kind of satisfaction that I imagine framer gets from making constant improvements to the Grumble. What's framer's time worth?

I agree 100% that manually updating prices, which happens twice-a-year with most vendors, is a horrific task and one which I would cheerfully abandon.
 

mbshir

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Ron,
As far as updating prices when needed......
this may or may not work for you depending on how your program is set up. In our POS program, I have a worksheet where the moulding # is listed in column A, the retail price is listed in column B and the the wholesale prices are listed in column M (way off the screen in case someone is looking over my shoulder). My program does an automatic lookup so I rarely have to go to this screen - only if something doesn't seem right and I want to double check. Anyway, I digress....Column B is formula driven - Column M times a mulitiplier to give us the retail price. When the vendor comes out with new prices - check them out - lets see, this year LJ had an average of 4% increase. Increase your wholesale prices 4%. After I do this, I do some spot checking. Normally we're off pennies. Takes about 15 minutes instead of hours.
Why do it when there's so many programs out there? Because I can do it better!
 

Ron Eggers

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Maryann,

Raising prices by the same percentage as the vendor would indeed work in probably 98% of the cases. With some vendors, Larson-Juhl, for example, that would work pretty well except that the only way to know if a particular moulding has been discontinued is to discover that it's not on the new price list. So I still go through the whole price list. Another vendors we use regularly publishes lists of discontinued mouldings but, on new price lists, maybe half the items will stay the same price, another 25% will go up by some consistant percentage and the remaining 25% will either go down, or go up by some incredible amount, like 35%. I find this especially true of distributors that get their mouldings from a half-dozen or more manufacturers.
 

CharlesL

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Reading all these posts makes me wish we could afford a new computer and POS software. We still do it the old fashioned way; plenty of sharp pencils.
 

Susan May

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Thanks Charles. You and I have a lot in common. (Hand me a pencil, would you?) I'm in the process of changing prices right now, and I hate it! I would love to get to a show to see the programs in use. (Then I would have to find the money to buy one.)
 

David Waldmann

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Maybe it's because we're a small company and care about the customer, but if one of our customers calls and wants a DBF, ASCII or whatever file of our current moulding list and prices, I spend the requisite 15 minutes or so and send it off. That is, if I don't already have it in a compatable format from supplying it to one of the commercial systems.

Have you tried asking the various companies who may not advertise the fact that they have electronic media if they can supply it for you?

The worst that could happen is they would say "What? Are you crazy?!!"

Good Luck!

<dnw>
 

bearcat99

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This is a little off the point and almost no one agrees with me on this approach, but even though we use one of the commercial POS software packages, I insist on manually maintaining and updating pricing in our databases as suppliers send us new information. We do this IMMEDIATELY upon receiving new pricing. This takes at most a few hours--except for the Larson pricelist--and the hassle is spread out throughout the year and amongst 2-3 trusted employees.

I am not comfortable leaving a matter as critical as our material pricing to a software company. A quick glance through the downloadable moulding databases from our supplier reveals numerous errors, non-desriptive descriptions, and other problems.

Our moulding and matboard databases contain only entries that correspond to the corner samples we have on hand. There is no need to have 25,000 moulding entries in your database when you are selling from the 4,000 (or less) samples on your walls.

As soon as we find out about discontined items, we pull the samples immediately and delete those items from the database. Maybe its the control freak in me, but I'd rather be sure.
 

omalleygallery

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Who has found POS that, either, links (completely) to accounting software or does the complete job?
Can we run accts rec'vbles, accts pay'ble, enter and pay bills, run our inventories, etc, etc. and run customer mailing lists with the capabilities of a Lotus Approach or MS Access?
If we are using POS to save time (not to mention accuracy in pricing), why do we have to spend time compiling data and transferring it to whatever brand of accounting software is used.
"Double Entry Accounting" is fine by definition
and Accounting 101 but not when I have to double my efforts to run to types of software.

Someone please tell me I'm wrong---but I don't think any company has presented a POS that does it all-----Sortof like taking Quickbooks or Peachtree or whatever accounting software flavor you like and marrying it up to either LifeSaver/SpecialtySoft/FrameReady or ???
 
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