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Dealers embrace computerization: Reality proves better than fantasy for computer users

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Dealers embrace computerization: Reality proves better than fantasy for computer users

Although many folks' first exposure to a computer might have been the malevolent voice of Hal, the power-mad computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey," we have adjusted to recognize the machines as the convenient, certainly Space Age-induced miracles they really are.

Tire dealers we spoke with sing praises of their computer systems, and wonder how they ever lived without them.

Pete's Tire Barns Inc. headquartered in Orange, Mass., uses its ASA Tire Systems' computer system for all office functions, in its service areas and in its retread facilities to track production.

One of the software system's most useful functions is its capability to double-check for inventory in all the company's 14 stores, says Christine Richards, the company's sales and purchasing analyst.

A couple of years ago, the company also bought laptop computers for each of its 16 outside salesmen. The salesmen come in the office in the morning, download current information and take it with them. "It's better than having a printout," says Richards. "They can take it on the road and have the latest information at their fingertips."

They are not "live" with the information via laptop yet, "but we're looking into upgrading in the next couple of years."

Ryan Smith, store manager for Advanced Auto Service & Tire Center in Mesa, Ariz., says his two-month-old Tire Guru computer system is most useful as a source for tire information when working with customers. "We can pull up information instantly on tires, find out the mileage, tread wear, Uniform Tire Quality Grading system numbers and compare them instantly with other tires," he notes.

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All Advanced Auto Service & Tire Center's 14 stores are linked with the system, making inventory lookup a snap, too.

Larry Griffin Jr., vice president of Cornelius, N.C.-based Griffin Brothers Companies, told us his company uses its computer system for point-of-sale, inventory, accounts receivable, "everything except accounts payable."

Griffin Brothers installed its first computer system, one from Andreoli & Associates Inc., when it opened its second Griffin Brothers Tires, Wheels & Auto Repair location in 1991. The company recently held a grand opening for its seventh shop.

Griffin finds the computer system most valuable for recordkeeping, customer history and customer follow-up. They also like the ease of ordering tires via Internet links with tire manufacturers.

"We use the computer to do everything -- to build tickets, check stock, write invoices and estimates, says Tim Williams, an assistant manager of a Lamb's Tire & Automotive Center. The company is based in Austin, Texas, and has 15 outlets. "Without computers," says Williams, "we'd be back in the Stone Age."

So, even though a new generation will be contending with Edi -- a computer-based jet flight controller that's struck by lightning and not only begins to think for itself, but starts an attack that could launch World War III (in the just released movie "Stealth"), people will continue to embrace computers in more and more phases of the work environment.

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