Last week, I participated in the judging panel for the annual Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award, where we reviewed all of our U.S. award finalists. The experience reminded me why I love working with the small and medium business sector so much – these entrepreneurs have some amazing stories. And learning about such a wide variety of industries is fascinating. Especially when they are demonstrating just how much technology can revolutionize how they run their businesses.
For background, the Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award, recognizes entrepreneurs who are using technology in innovative ways to better meet customer needs and grow their businesses. We’ll be announcing the U.S. national winner this fall and the global winner in mid-November. In the meantime, I’d like to introduce you to the 10 U.S. finalists in a series of posts starting today.
American Wire Rope and Sling
American Wire Rope and Sling sells hook lifting equipment, wire rope, chain, synthetic lifting slings, safety equipment and overhead hoists. Not only does the company have a large amount of equipment to keep track of, they are under stringent OSHA and customer requirements to conduct safety inspections and track equipment repairs. Often their equipment is being rented by customers and keeping their customers safe is their primary concern. The company has been in business for 35 years, has fewer than 50 employees and is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The company stands out in an industry that is still using paper and pen to conduct inspections and inventory. A few years ago, American began using bar coding and RFID for more efficient inventory control and inspections. Each of their products has a default location in their shop and is bar coded. They use handheld PDAs to scan items and upload the information via wireless access points so that inventory can be verified, and RFID to track repairs and inspections on slings and hoists.
The results have been tremendous. Previously inventory took four entire days and two nights with the entire staff working overtime. Now, it can be completed in two 8 hour days greatly reducing overtime expense and staff exhaustion. Even better, they can keep production running while doing inventory so they are meeting their customers’ needs.
The RFID inspection system provides their customers reports within 10 minutes – and that used to take two to three days. That’s an enormous industry advantage over their competitors. It helps protect records by making them available electronically and guards against errors in transposition. What’s more, it eliminated the need to duplicate work that is done in the field.
American now uses email messages to pass information internally and is able to coordinate orders and inventory with customers electronically saving time and money, and allowing them to provide a better customer experience. They are at the forefront of tech trend that has fundamentally changed how they operate. RFID allows them greater customer insights, and more efficient delivery of goods and services.
This is a great example of a small business that really stands out in their industry because of their use of IT. Congratulations to Jarod Ray and the entire team at American Wire Rope and Sling for being named one of this year’s finalists.