For DataPro Solutions Inc., a Spokane Valley computer services company that specializes in data collection and storage, the soft economy hasn't necessarily been a bad thing.
As companies struggle to cut costs and remain competitive, DataPro officials say, they look for ways to be more efficient, and that has played well into the company's efforts to sell some of the products and services it offers, says Robert Bordonaro, executive vice president. Sales at DataPro are up about 25 percent so far this year, compared with the same period last year, and are on pace to top $3 million, Bordonaro says.
The company, founded here in 1959 as a payroll processor, now sells and supports a variety of computer technologies, from desktop PCs to servers to mobile devices, as well as specialized software and consulting services targeted at data collection and storage. It employs a total of 21 people at its main office at 6336 E. Utah, near Felts Field, and at a sales office in Post Falls.
Although the technology industry has been hurt by slower business spending, DataPro believes its sales have grown in part because of its emphasis on mobile data collection and communication, which it sees as a growing business segment, Bordonaro says.
Within that segment, DataPro sells technology that enables a customer's employees to log information while they're in the field using a mobile device, making the information available to the client faster and often eliminating the need for the information to be documented twice.
"This reduces the expense of paper, lost production in administration time, and keeps the workers where they produce billable services," says Tony Cook, DataPro's director of business development.
Mobile data collection is "growing because businesses need to produce more with the same people, (which) nets a business ultimately more profit and growth through retained earnings," says Cook.
One such company that uses mobile devices to collect data in the field is DataPro customer Northwest Tank & Environmental Services Inc., a Seattle company that does petroleum systems testing for oil companies and has a branch office in Liberty Lake, says Cook.
"We helped identify enormous savings in their tank inspection process," he says. "Now they document (electronically) throughout the inspection process instead of taking notes, and then completing the forms in an office."
That, asserts Cook, has made Northwest Tank's field technicians more efficient.
DataPro also set up for Northwest Tank a work-flow management system that uses a single database, and devised improved systems for scheduling and dispatching of technicians, enabling them to complete more inspections, Cook says. Also, it reduced Northwest Tank's shipping costs by eliminating its need to send testing results through priority mail, because they now are transmitted electronically.
Another use for such technology is in the agriculture and food production industry, Cook says.
"Food traceability is a very compelling mobility application," he says, adding that some ag-related businesses use a database to track and maintain historical data of what's been grown and how it's been used to help recall a product if necessary.
"So we work with some businesses to help them feed the database the right information," Cook says. "When they don't have the ability to manage the data, we provide them the application to do so."
He says that many orchards use paper forms to track harvest data, but DataPro offers a mobility application, called bin tracking, that tracks such data electronically, reducing the handling of paper.
"With bin tracking alone, (ag businesses) have improved quality and timeliness of the information, and reduced administrative overhead," Cook says.
Other uses for such technology include tracking customer assets, billing for services, updating and using electronic medical records at bedside, issuing citations in the field such as traffic tickets by police agencies, and tracking legal evidence.
Other business lines
In addition to mobile data collection, DataPro offers technologies aimed at time-clock management for employers, information management, and computer network infrastructure.
"All four lines of business feed off each other," says Bordonaro.
In information management, DataPro sells software that helps customers organize their documents, retrieve them easier, and store them electronically, he says.
For labor-cost management, the company offers technology to help companies manage employee attendance, such as with a computer product that manages hours worked by employees. Sales of such labor-cost management technology account for about 40 percent of DataPro's overall business, currently its largest business segment, Bordonaro says. DataPro reviews customers' payroll systems and identifies areas where businesses can be more efficient, he says.
Most of its customers are in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, northern California, and Alaska, and include clients in health care, agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries. They all "have something in commona large specialized labor force and a need to control costs," Cook says.
Among its customers in the Spokane area are Wagstaff Inc., Haskins Steel Co., and Red Lion Hotels Corp., as well as the Spokane Regional Health District. Other public customers include the Grant County Public Utility District, based in Ephrata, Wash.; the Lewiston, Idaho, police department; and Kittitas County, in central Washington, says Bordonaro.
Past and future
DataPro was founded as Data Processing Services Inc. by five people, and changed its name to DataPro in 1991, when Doug and Ann Johnston bought it. In 2000, the company became employee owned, and now, no employee owns more than 20 percent of the corporation, says Bordonaro.
Four years ago, Bordonaro says, DataPro began culling the types of products and services it offered. He says it was selling too wide a variety of products, and that was undermining its ability to provide the level of service it wanted to.
"Basically, when we went fishing, we tried to catch every fish in the pond," Bordonaro says. "We had to dump some bags."
Today, he says, DataPro concentrates on retaining specific expertise on its staff so it can offer a higher level of service in the areas it still serves. Narrowing its focus also will help the company as it pursues its next big initiativeexpanding to become a regional company, he says.
He says the company hopes to grow its customer base by 15 percent annually.
"There's a lot of growth opportunity out there for us," Bordonaro says.
One market DataPro will be focusing on in the near term is Utah, he says, adding, "There has been a lot of growth in Salt Lake City."
Currently, the company has no plans to open offices elsewhere, Cook says.
He says DataPro also plans to begin pushing more aggressively an identification badge system it has been selling to the federal government for use at Fairchild Air Force Base. DataPro sells the hardware, software, and equipment necessary for the system, and provides support at Fairchild.
The badge system enables Fairchild to manage personnel access around the base, Cook says. Currently, Fairchild is DataPro's only customer for that technology, he says, though he adds that the company now is authorized to sell it to any Air Force base in the U.S.
"I've got another facility in the southern U.S. interested," Cook says. "I've got to contact the bases, find the person who cares about this technology, and convince them that a 50-year-old company in Spokane can take care of them."
He adds, "Marketing that product is a challenge, but a good one."
Subscribe today to our free E-Newsletters!SUBSCRIBE