When is the last time you took a good, long, objective look at how your School Nutrition P.O.S. hardware — which you depend on for hundreds of transactions each day — is holding up?
If you’re like many of your Child Nutrition program counterparts, it probably has been a while, which means your hardware could be costing you valuable time and money.
Let’s find out. Below are 5 signs that your School Lunch point-of-sale hardware is too old and should be replaced in order to speed up your lunch line and ultimately save your program money.
1. The hardware is physically worn out.
Are your buttons or keys loose? Do they stick? Are the symbols worn off the face? Does that number 6 key no longer work? If so, this may be forcing your team to waste time by working more slowly to make sure the information they enter is registering correctly with each keystroke, or else it could be compromising your data with information that’s been entered inaccurately.
Look into available touchscreen hardware. Not only is it faster and more accurate because the team member entering information is looking right at the screen as the information goes in, but also touchscreens last longer than traditional buttons and keys because the screen won’t wear out as easily as would a physical button. This will save your program money in the long run.
2. You’re stuck in one place.
Older hardware forces you to operate from a single computer in a single spot. Not only are there wires tethering you to that spot, getting in the way, and just waiting to be accidentally unplugged, but even without the wires, your hardware probably is too big to physically take anywhere (it’s not like you’re going to lug that monitor from room to room).
It’s easy to view this as not that big of a deal, but it’s very likely costing you time through the inconvenience of having to go to that one computer every time you want to enter information.
Maybe you’re used to it, but it’s important to realize that you could be getting more done if your work could physically come with you to the different rooms and sites where you have to go.
This problem actually only seems like a hardware problem. In fact, the solution here is to look at your software.
In order to be able to use smaller hardware, like tablets, that let you stay mobile while working, you need to find software that lets you operate from the cloud. Even if you don’t feel you need to be “on the go” while working, the cloud-based software will work across all your hardware simultaneously. This not only is more convenient and saves time, it also keeps your numbers accurate while multiple team members are entering data in real time.
3. Bulky computers take up valuable space.
Step back and take a look at how much room your Point of Sale (POS) hardware actually takes up. Try to imagine how much space there would be if you removed the hardware from the picture. How much more efficient would your serving line be if the cashier’s view of approaching students wasn’t obstructed by a bulk relic from the past?
Every bit of space is important. The amount of available room dictates how your line flows through the serving station and the register. If you waste space on oversized hardware, you’re missing opportunities. Maybe you could even use that space to sell cookies or other small items to increase revenue.
This problem is easy to solve because hardware continues to get smaller and more compact basically each year. Depending on how old your current hardware is, you might be surprised at how much room a new solution will add around your register.
Here again, a touchscreen comes in handy because it would eliminate the keyboard and free up more space.
Having even a little extra room can help speed up the flow of your line, saving time and creating happier students (and staff). Plus, as mentioned above, it also allows you to sell more food and increase revenue.
4. For once, “long ago” was NOT a simpler time.
People like to remember the past as “a simpler time.” But, when it comes to hardware, the opposite is true. Older hardware — even from just a decade ago — was more complicated because they didn’t have the technology we have now. That’s why a lot of older equipment adds steps to the process of accepting payment from each student, which is costly because each additional keystroke steals time from your team. As we pointed out in an earlier School Nutrition article, wasting even two seconds per student, in a school of, say, 800 students, could cost you nearly half an hour each day.
Does this sound like a challenge your School Nutrition program faces?
As long as you purchase the new hardware from a good company, you’ll easily find a big improvement in how “user friendly” it is. That’s because some hardware providers will focus on either performance or UX (shorthand for “user experience”). So the hardware either will be capable of doing what you want it to do, or it will feel intuitive and easy to use… but not both. If, however, you find a company with designers and engineers who understand what it takes to run a successful School Nutrition program, you’ll be able to have your cake and eat it too (excuse the food-service pun) because they know that both are equally crucial. Performance obviously is important; but ease of use isn’t just a luxury. It’s critical for your team to feel comfortable using the hardware in order to work more effectively. Remember, the faster your team can work, the faster your line can move.
5. Your hardware is slow.
Staying on the point of speed, another sign that your School Lunch hardware is too old is if it is slow in processing. You’ll hear a lot about how different software solutions are faster — it’s true, some are faster than others — but what people don’t always realize is that the physical hardware plays a huge role in how fast the software moves and the screens load. Your software can only move as fast as the hardware’s internal processor.
Think of hardware like a TV, and the software like the shows you watch. If a show is broadcast in a high resolution, but you’re watching it on an old, boxy TV from the 80’s with rabbit-ear antennas, then the broadcast resolution is irrelevant because you’re not going to get that quality resolution on your outdated TV set.
When assessing new hardware, be sure to ask what the processor speed is like. Better yet, be sure to have your technology director ask what the processor speed is like. She’ll be able to tell you how it compares to other speeds — whether it’s faster or slower — which is important because without the context of comparison, a product’s processor speed is just a random number.
Take another look.
Now that we’ve run through the telltale signs of outdated hardware, where does your system land? Is it definitely outdated? Is it “not bad” or maybe “good enough for now”? You may think your hardware is fine, but making an investment in order to improve your team’s efficiency could save you more money than you think.
Plus, the great thing about hardware is that it generally is “budget friendly” because implementation can be done in stages as your budget allows.
But even if it were expensive, it still likely would be worth it.
To look at just one way you could save: newer hardware is much more energy efficient than older solutions because it uses less electricity. Older-style CRT monitors, for example, use about 80 watts of electricity, whereas new LCD monitors use about 20 watts. If you use the monitor for, say, 4 hours each day at the U.S. average of 12 cents per kilowatt, you’d spend $3.00 per year on the new LCD monitor compared to $14.00 per year with the older monitor. That means you’re spending four times as much by not updating your hardware. And, while that’s a savings of $11.00 per monitor, ask yourself: how many monitors is your school running?
Harris School Solutions’ own School Nutrition P.O.S. hardware, eTrition, can help your program overcome all of these challenges.