EFFINGHAM, IL -- Veteran operators with long memories may remember a time when route accounting could be done on a napkin. More recent arrivals probably have used "off the shelf" software, so called because it was pulled off a shelf at the local office supply store.
For better or worse, those days are gone. New equipment categories and revenue streams, and the demand for efficiency have made the related tasks of accurate accounting and route management more intricate than ever.
Enter AmusementSmart's software suite. A cooperative effort between J&J Ventures and System Development Services, the Windows-based system was designed specifically to meet the complex needs of today's route operators.
The two companies, both headquartered Effingham, IL, applied SDS's software design expertise to J&J's operational challenges to develop software for managing a route that extends over four states with multiple equipment types. The result is AmusementSmart. First released in 2009, the proven software package allows operators to accurately capture and maintain operational data, and to drill down into it. This facilitates performance analysis and the management high-value route functions.
"It's a product strictly for the amusement route industry, designed from the ground up," said SDS's Steven Schallert. "When we began developing it, we thought we'd eventually sell the suite to the industry. We looked at the market and found there wasn't the right product out there that meets the needs of today's amusement route operators."
According to Schallert, the software package, while sophisticated, doesn't require a sophisticated user. Operators can use as many or as few of the system's features as they wish -- those not used initially may come in handy later, if the operator wishes to add new types of equipment, such as ATMs, or expand a route through acquisition.
"We incorporated a lot of different features that other software systems don't have," said J&J's Sam Westgate. "With AmusementSmart you can track several different revenue sources -- including noncash revenue such as operator gift cards, credit cards, and mobile money. And then there are the fees, such as state and local licenses. We've incorporated a way to get all of that in one place," he explained. "Previously, you would have to look at several different places."
Beyond the basic backroom accounting, there are also myriad field applications built into the system. For instance, what Westgate calls a "dynamic routing" feature allows for efficient collections that can cut down on manpower and gas.
"Suppose there's a town that's halfway between two offices. Gas prices are high, so you want to collect every two weeks, but a handful of locations have to be collected every week," the operator explained. "Those two offices could be split up so they perform the weekly collections alternately -- and both would have access to the entire service history," he explained. "Without this program, it would be almost impossible to keep everyone up to date."
Westgate added that the system supports communication by email and text messaging, as well as GPS and location mapping. It also allows for tracking customer calls, maintaining service histories for equipment and locations, logging technicians' hours in the field, and preparing and managing work orders. There are features that assign priority levels to service calls, display reminders and accommodate specific sales comments for particular locations.
"At any moment, we can tell you a machine's entire history that will tell you anything it has done, at any specific locations and with any specific collector," said Schallert. "It's all there. All the different fee structures also come into play, as do different tax levels, with appropriate dates for both."
AmusementSmart is fully scalable to support a company's growth. It optionally permits "unattached" mobile collections using laptop computers and supports collection from any machine. And it manages all aspects of customer relationships, according to the developers.
The unanswered question is whether the AmusementSmart system will prompt operators to expand into new equipment categories and payment methods that they may have avoided previously because of the administrative complexities. As technologists like to say, "The more you can do, the more you will do." And with AmusementSmart, you can do a lot.
The software package is described in detail at amusementsmart.com.