Traffic, video cameras and staying off the road

Can video save you money and keep you out of traffic? It most certainly can, and I’ll tell you how.

I know a fellow who owned a small copier repair operation in London. He serviced and repaired printers for copy shops. He also rented those giant printers used to make banners and signs.

He had about 28 copy shops as clients, all over the city. And all these customers had some sort of service contract that said when there was a problem he needed to fix it within two hours. Because he had customers all over a city the size of London, he had a bit of a logistical nightmare on some days. (I’m not sure how many of you have driven in London but it’s not the ideal place to find yourself if you’re in a rush to get from one end of town to the other end. Not that Washington is easy, but traffic in London is daunting, to say the least.)

Another challenge was staffing – not at his company, but at his clients’ businesses. Copy shops tend to run through employees on a fairly routine basis. What has this to do with the repair guy? Everything. New employees were always calling the service and repair line on the phone with some sort of printer problem. A repairman would have to race across London to the copy shop. On a good day the repairman might make it there in two hours. Once he was in the shop, the average time spent “fixing” the “broken” copier? About six minutes.

It was always something basic. A new employee put the magenta cartridge in the place where the yellow cartridge was meant to go, or the paper was inserted the wrong way.

Finally, my friend decided to use video to help keep his repairmen off the streets and those copiers up and running more quickly.

He installed cameras to monitor the copy machines at his clients’ businesses and covered the costs. By using video to look at a machine, a repairman -- without getting into a van and stuck in traffic -- could take a look at the problem and more often than not solve it. His clients paid nothing and got much better service. In fact, they actually saved money because of less down time for the machines.

So in the end, video saved my friend money and kept him and his repairmen out of traffic.

And this was several years ago. Now we have smartphones and smart video. We can view images in high definition in the palm of our hands. Our cameras can see better than we can now.

How we use that technology to improve our lives and our businesses is all up to us. And while I’m sure there are more noble pursuits out there, I think keeping anyone out of traffic is a great goal for us all.