Success Story: Joe Ragan's Coffee

DDMS helps manage a highly successful, multi-faceted business

Joe Ragan's

In 1966, Joe Ragan started a vending machine business. He placed machines that dispensed coffee, soft drinks and candy. By 1968, he was running a premier coffee vending business, having the beans selected and roasted according to his own recipe. Joe became one of the founders of the National Coffee Service Association, having no idea he helped give birth to an industry that has grown to over $3 billion in annual sales.

Noting that he saw office supplies being delivered to the same companies he serviced with coffee, in 1986 Joe realized that selling office supplies might be a good fit for his enterprise. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, Joe Ragan's Coffee is a diversified enterprise serving metropolitan Washington, Richmond and Baltimore that offers not only coffee supplies and service, but other break room supplies, including water, paper and janitorial products, office supplies and furniture, and printing and packaging services.

DDMS provides flexibility and custom reporting

Joe Ragan’s Coffee was using the Silver Plus system, which had become dated and was going out of business. ECi DDMS was selected because it combined the same type of feature functionality of Silver Plus with an even more robust software. Annette Engel, now VP and Senior Purchaser, started at Joe Ragan’s the first day DDMS was in place, so she and the system have grown together with the company.

“Choosing DDMS, since it was similar to Silver Plus,” Annette relates, “allowed us to deal with the least amount of conversion problems.

“I love the flexibility and custom reporting. I can get the info I need on just about anything.

“DDMS has really improved short buys for us. It has allowed us to function much faster and to facilitate orders faster. Day-to-day ordering is seamless.”

Success offering multiple product lines

“Probably the most important thing for vendors going into coffee is to classify their stock," says Annette. "The system (DDMS) allows us to do that.” Joe Ragan’s carries several thousand products, so they fully utilize DDMS’s ability to customize inventory functions.

Asked if multiple offerings have been beneficial, Annette replied, “Absolutely. It not only increases our profitability, it has secured us against the competition. Our customers can cut us one check for everything—break room supplies and office supplies. They don’t have to cut multiple checks and that saves them time and money.”

Another benefit of diversification is that one product line can protect a business when another is experiencing a downturn.

“We initially saw a drop in office supplies orders when the economy started to fall. Not fewer orders, but orders were a lot smaller. But break room supplies did not go down for a long time. That was interesting.”

Overall, about 75% of Joe Ragan’s customers order both break room and office supplies.

What gives Joe Ragan such an edge in the coffee business? Annette replies, “We not only sell the machines, we service them, too. So when you have that relationship with a customer, it’s hard for them not to buy supplies from you."

RouteTrak saves time and manhours

Joe Ragan’s also uses RouteTrak™ proof of delivery system. Delivery tickets are manifested in a mapping software and tickets then go to the warehouse to pack and go out.

“Getting orders ready for delivery used to take two people, now it takes only one, so we’ve reduced our man hours by 50%,” Annette says.

"I can guarantee we would not be in business today if we had lost our data"

In December 2007, Joe Ragan’s Coffee suffered a warehouse fire, losing 37,000 square feet and all of their equipment. Fortunately, their server, which of course housed all the records for their business, was located in the office and not the warehouse.

“The fire started at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning and there was still a ladder truck there on Tuesday,” Annette recalls. The cause of the fire has never been determined. "It was this event that lead us to offsite back up, realizing that we would not have been able to recover had we lost our data.

“We lost our last manual count but were able to recover everything else,” Annette said.

"We did utilize the offsite back up when our server crashed a few months ago and it made it much easier to load the replacement server. We were back up in minutes. It’s done over the Internet so you don’t have to wait for someone to send you something to get started.”

Using the remote back up, Joe Ragan's was able to log on to their account virtually. All data up to the last daily back up was available so the business could continue to function while their server was being replaced.

Joe Ragan's Coffee illustrates a good rule for success in today's economy--diversification. ECi DDMS provides enough flexibility to help a business expand into vertical product and service offerings.