Sponsored by FireKing
The traditional store safe served retailers well for decades. But those spin-dial, square boxes have come a very long way. Today’s cash management systems do much more than simply provide a safe haven for cash assets. They provide useful intelligence, operational and business visibility, and the power to proactively manage loss prevention and capital. And the evolution isn’t over.
Safe technology really started to improve around 2007, according to Jim Poteet, executive vice president, sales and marketing at FireKing (at right). That’s when safes moved beyond mechanical enhancements like bill reading and currency tabulation “into more 1s and 0s functionality,” with the ability to transmit out information, said Poteet. And about a year or so ago, connected safes made another significant leap forward. “That’s when cloud-based really started to expand,” said Poteet. “The information still goes out to a central repository but we can now drive information back to the safe, to conduct diagnostics, and design proactive business rules to trigger alerts.”
There are countless scenarios in which cloud-based systems can prevent loss. For example, among many other alerts, today’s “smart safes” can trigger a text, email, or phone call to appropriate personnel if:
- deposits are not made when they are supposed to be;
- the amount of safe drops violate established business rules;
- a safe door is left open;
- someone logs into the system after hours;
- cash is removed on a day/time when it shouldn’t be;
- a cash cassette is almost full; or
- a site alarm is activated.
The visibility of cash transaction detail, such as who accessed a safe, when, and what they did—within seconds—helps reduce bank deposit discrepancies and cash shrinkage. It also helps LP identify trends, such as a store that habitually fails to do their 3:00 p.m. drop, say, or a cashier that doesn’t do the required number of drops per day. “The more data you collect centrally, the easier it is to trend and see patterns and conduct remote research before going out to a store,” said Poteet. It’s a vast improvement over cash management systems that only provide LP with an occasional report of past activity. “When I only get a certain amount of information at the end of the month, and only certain bits of data, it takes a lot of research to find out what happened, or if a problem might be a store procedure. We’re now eliminating those false positives with real-time data that can rule things out quickly, and entering a proactive world of LP management.”
Two-way smart safe communication also cuts costs associated with maintenance and service. For example, systems continually perform a series of health checks, issuing status reports, and permit remote troubleshooting. And updating permissions, such as adding or deleting authorized users, can be made at the central repository. Configuration changes can be pushed out to 1,000 stores at once. “For larger retailers there is significant administrative burden associated with profile management and having technicians go out and do local updates,” said Poteet. “Now that it’s cloud-based, all of that can be done remotely.”
Preventing loss and reducing technician calls are perhaps the most obvious value drivers, but the return on investment from smart safes also derives from other factors, noted Poteet. Cloud-based cash management systems give retailers what they’re looking for: faster, more detailed information on cash activity to increase cash flow and productivity. When a retailer can get a near real-time picture of its cash assets, it can make use of that working capital. “Increased visibility of transaction data, the velocity of information—it helps you make better business decisions, reduce bank fees, reduce risk, more accurately understand what’s going on in the store, improve compliance, and improve the quality of deposits.” As interest rates climb—and they eventually will—the value to businesses of having nearly real-time access to cash deposits will only increase.
Despite the many remote capabilities—and there are others, like a map-based monitoring tool that gives at-a-glance intelligence on any units, anywhere, having a problem—it’s not a particular function or feature that LP executives are most taken with after upgrading to a cloud-based cash management system. “More than any individual feature, it’s that it helps LP transition from an investigation role, of something that happened yesterday, last week, or last month, to being a proactive partner in managing store assets,” said Poteet. “These solutions elevate LP and they become part of the discussion on revenue improvement. It becomes about more than LP’s investigation role, and about their role in asset management.”
As a cloud-based solution, it’s not only corporate LP leaders who can—and do—make use of the data that today’s smart safes generate. Poteet sees regional managers and treasury folks using the data to make better decisions—and even marketing is starting to get in on it, “looking to make correlations between a specific ad campaign or sale and cash intake.”
The path to payback is perhaps most obvious for big-box retailers with many stores, but Poteet says he has yet to partner with a client for whom an investment in new safe technology can’t provide a positive return on investment. “We’ve had sole proprietor stores, that took in less than $1,000 a day in cash, that made the ROI work.” It’s one reason that Poteet believes all retailers should be investigating new cash management systems and examining how an investment in it stacks up against other improvement projects.
There is yet one more reason to keep an eye on the changing nature of the humble store safe: even more functionality is on the way. From multi-currency in a single device to real-time adjustment capabilities from mobile devices and not just a central repository, “we’re going to see a continuing evolution in this market for quite some time to come,” said Poteet.