Photo by Yutaka Seki (Flickr)

Photo by Yutaka Seki (Flickr)

You know that old saying that “Such and such is the greatest thing since sliced bread?” Disregard for a moment that sliced bread really isn’t that much of a breakthrough (I think the Polio vaccine was a lot more notable, but I guess the thinking here is if it were never invented, at least millions of Polio sufferers wouldn’t have to slice their own bread). The point is we like to find ways to make things easier on ourselves.  It’s one of those adorable human qualities: we’ll spend thousands of hours developing machines and processes, testing prototypes, filing for patents, and investing in production, all so that we don’t have to spend 10 seconds cutting through a soft, spongy thing every time we want a sandwich. Maybe this sounds like a reductive example, and that’s because it is. Automation is not some silly quirk of human desire, it’s a pretty powerful and time saving way to make things go faster. I’m just bitter because I don’t have a dishwasher. I’d rather stick a whole bunch of plates into a machine and have it wash them all simultaneously than stand hunched over the sink, scrubbing each plate one by one, silently cursing the children for always wanting to eat and mess up the dishes I just cleaned.

It’s like that with your POS and, well, almost everything else you need to do to keep your business running clean. Think of the data on your POS as a sink full of dirty dishes. You’ve got all this data sitting in there, and you need to clean it all up and put it back where it needs to go. The sales revenue needs to be recorded into your ledger along with overhead costs and this all needs to be reconciled with your bank account (or something like that, I’m not really sure how accounting works). Employee hours need to be calculated and then they need to be paid. Customer accounts need updating to reflect any recent payments or purchases. Inventory data needs to be reviewed, so that low stock can be replenished. Purchase orders must be generated. Each of these take time; they’re multistep processes. You can scrape, scrub, and rinse each dish of data individually, or you can turn your POS into a dishwasher and have it do the repetitive stuff machines are so great at doing, by doing it all at once. Let’s use the inventory example to see the difference between the sink and the appliance:

  • Rinse it off, flip it, scrub it down. Let’s just assume that we’re at least dealing with a POS that does the bare minimum automation of counting inventory down every time an item is sold. To get this dirty dish out of the sink, you run an inventory report that shows you how much you started with, how much you’ve sold/consumed, and how much you have left. You go through the numbers and identify five different items that need replenishment. You source these items from among three different vendors. When you create the PO, you manually choose the items you’re buying, manually choose the vendor, update the quantity, and then generate the PO. You do this two more times, one for each remaining vendor. You then record the purchase in your ledger.
  • Dishmaster 3000. You select the Inventory tab in your POS dashboard and see an alert notification: You’re low on five different items. Push this button to download all three POs that were created hours ago. It’s cool, I already told the accountant how much we’re spending.
Photo by pjen (Flickr)

Photo by pjen (Flickr)

Now, I could continue on with this little trope, going through all the steps one by one for each task I mentioned above, plus a few more. I could take up a lot your time with that. Worse: I could take up a lot of my time. Nothing personal. But let me automate this process: take any multi-step task that’s assumed by your POS, and reduce it down to the push of a button, or less.

Think of how long it took to read the two different bullet points of how to handle inventory. Then think how long it took to read the last sentence in the paragraph that followed. That’s roughly the ratio of time savings you see in each of these tasks, with a margin of error for the fact that I just made that up. But still, it was a drastic reduction in time to say essentially the same thing. Imagine reducing hours-long tasks like filling out and submitting payroll to having the whole process done behind the scenes by software. Imagine the same savings with all the other time consuming tasks. What will you do with yourself when you have time for everything but the kitchen sink?