Nov 95 Level of Govt: State. Function: Natural Resources. Problem/situation: Issuing hunting and fishing licenses in Michigan was an inefficient, paper-based process. Solution: A point-of-sale device that saves time and automatically enters data into a database. Jurisdiction: Michigan. Vendors: Eltron International, EDS, VeriFone, Microsoft. Contact: Douglas Jester, State of Michigan. 517-373-3787
By David Aden Contributing Writer In some parts of the country, the beginning of hunting or fishing season is an annual ritual, a community event shared with family and friends. But something new, at least in Michigan, has entered the classic image of the small country store selling hunting and fishing licenses - the computer. Until March of this year, purchasing a fishing or hunting license from any of Michigan's 1,800 retail agents or state-run offices was a paper-based affair. "Under the previous system," said Douglas Jester, information systems manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) "the customer would buy a passbook - an ID card with a number of peel-off bar code strips on it containing the unique ID number for that passbook. The customer was required to buy that for one dollar when they got their first license. All types of licenses were prepared as self-adhesive stamps that came on sheets. When the customer purchased a license, the agent would take the stamp and put it in the booklet and then take a bar code strip from the booklet and put it onto the sheet where the stamp had been. This would give us a link to the person buying the license." The sheets with the bar code strips on it and a carbon copy of the passbook itself were sent back to the state. Collecting money from agents was also largely a manual operation. "We collected funds from agents based on the pieces of paper we sent them," Jester said. "They would remit based on what they said they sold and then at the end of the year the agents had to either buy what was left or send back what they hadn't sold. Accounting didn't happen until the end of the year." The average time from purchase to entry into DNR's computer system was about 73 days. That spoiled any possibility of using the data for law enforcement purposes, or for surveying to estimate annual harvests. "When I started looking at this problem 10 years ago," said Jester, "I was looking primarily at the survey problem but I concluded there was no way to handle our problem without capturing the data at the point of sale."
POINT OF SALE DNR developed a detailed functional specification for the system it wanted and put out an RFP. The contract was awarded to EDS in June 1994 and work started on the first of July. According to Guy Fucci, EDS' director of business development for state and local government, developing a reliable system for Michigan has not been a trivial matter. "There are about two million people who hunt and fish in Michigan and the state sells about four million licenses," said Fucci. "That equates to $50 million in revenue which is probably one of the top five states. Most states are probably in the $12 - $18 million range." The EDS system consists of a point of sale (POS) device with attached printer. Customer information is captured off-line by the POS device and licenses are printed on label stock. Since Michigan has 57 different types of licenses, printing them on site saves a tremendous amount of time that used to be spent printing and controlling a large distributed inventory. "We went to a single kind of stock for all kinds of licenses," said Jester. "It's basically just blank label stock. So we went from roughly 50 inventory items for each agent to seven, which includes pamphlets we give out." After normal business hours, the POS devices call an 800 number and download the day's sales information. At the end of