Executive Spotlight: Ryan Bracken
Our Executive Spotlight series brings Carlton Technologies executives front and center to explore industry trends, discuss best practices and new products, and provide perspective on where the industry is headed. Today, we shine our spotlight on Ryan Bracken, Founder and CEO of Carlton.
Q: You founded Carlton Technologies in 1998. How has the company evolved since first opening its doors nearly 20 years ago?
Ryan Bracken: When we first started in 1998, we were focused on selling refurbished point-of-sale hardware to retailers. As our clients’ technology challenges evolved, Carlton’s offerings evolved to meet these challenges. The first significant evolution came with the boom in barcode scanners and wireless data capture devices. We offered this equipment to customers but quickly realized there were few options available to repair these devices. So, we expanded our services and started repairing mobile devices in addition to supplying certified pre-owned / refurbished equipment to our customers.
Taking what we did so well for the Retail industry and recognizing the growing install base in other industries, we expanded our offering to meet the rising demand. Instead of focusing on only selling and repairing devices for the retail industry, we’d begun to work with large organizations in the transportation, logistics, manufacturing and warehousing markets – where device uptime was just as mission critical as those used in Retail.
Today, we are undergoing another evolution, transitioning from selling and servicing refurbished equipment to becoming a total solutions provider by helping companies purchase, deploy, maintain, and manage their mobile devices.
Q: Technology is such a rapidly evolving sector. Discuss some of the adjustments made at Carlton this year to support customers’ ever-changing needs.
BRACKEN: The most significant change we made this year was to meet customers’ needs by building out our managed services offering to become more of a total solutions provider. Today, there are more companies with more mobile devices in more locations than ever before. Not only do these companies need their equipment to work correctly, but they also need a solution to help them manage their assets, to ensure they are in the right place at the right time.
Our work with Estes Express Lines is a great example of how we can help decrease downtime and repair costs by instituting better asset management controls and improving equipment utilization. Estes turned to Carlton to support the implementation of a large-scale technology migration. We handled it all from inventory management, staging and provisioning, kitting and deployment to spare pool and warranty management, and reverse logistics. [Read more about Carlton’s work with Estes.]
Another change we’re excited about is offering better support addressing customers’ needs via our asset selection and implementation capabilities. As our customers retire their mobile devices, we’re helping them select replacement technology, whether new or refurbished devices in addition to helping to retire their redundant devices. We’re strengthening our relationships with leading OEMs such as Honeywell, Bluebird, Datalogic, and others to provide this technology directly to customers.
Finally, we are taking on more complex opportunities with our customers by offering to manage their devices through professionally staging, kitting, deploying, and installing across their locations. A big value-add we are now offering is complete lifecycle support meaning we now help customers select the right equipment and get it up and running quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively. This also means when it's time to retire their devices and move on to another device, we'll help with redundant device retirements in addition to new device selection.
Q: Companies use technology in a variety of ways. Did 2017 offer any surprises about what Carlton’s customers want in technology or how they are using technology in their businesses?
BRACKEN: For me, the most significant surprise is how quickly the pace of change has accelerated for businesses. Of course, technology has always spurred change, but I don’t think anyone ever imagined the rapid pace at which new technology is becoming available today. The speed at which companies are adopting new technology and how quickly they can be left behind if they don’t embrace the change is a phenomenon which we are constantly advising with our core customers.
Auto ID and Data Capture (AIDC) technology is vital to running an efficient operation, and the sheer pace of innovation, development, and adoption is staggering. This is especially evident in the retail sector, which is experiencing an unprecedented level of change and disruption in the industry.
Q: What lessons did you and Carlton learn this year about how to best support customers? Were there any areas that Carlton was not active in that have now become a focus?
BRACKEN: One lesson that we learned is that we need to be better at not only how we listen to our customers but how we action it. It's critical to watch what they do, and adapt to changes in the market. We’re working to better identify what our customers need and then being more flexible enough to create a solution which meets their unique needs.
Admittedly, we’ve been slow to make changes to our business, but we’re improving in that area. One means to accomplish this is for our executives to maintain a dialog with customers and stay abreast of technology trends and requirements. We’re also continuously evaluating our offerings to ensure we continue to exceed our customer's expectations. We’re always considering how our repair process and operation can be more innovative which would offer more device uptime to our customers. Questions we are constantly asking ourselves to remain good partners include: Are our solutions priced appropriately? Do they provide the correct functionality? How can we deliver a better product? How can we operate more efficiently? What unique insights we can offer our customers given our years of experience in the industry serving our core industries?
A major area we’re improving is our device insights reporting. In doing so and keeping communication lines open we ensure repair data and intelligence being provided is offering game changing data which will have a positive impact on our customer’s operation. If it isn’t, we’re making changes to ensure we deliver the metrics that have the most impact on their business.
Q: Looking ahead, how will Carlton Technologies continue to evolve to meet customers’ needs?
BRACKEN: It all goes back to the speed of business and pace of technology change. Since business is moving so fast, it’s crucial that we understand our customers, not just so that we can respond to their needs, but also so that we can anticipate those needs.
Carlton will continue to innovate, adapt, and improve our products and services to ensure our customers can do the same. We’ll accomplish this by building out our capabilities and transitioning to a full, end-to-end service solutions provider. We’ll continue to foster relationships with the leading OEMs in the industry so we can bring innovative technology to customers quickly, which positions us to address customer’s needs while helping to determine what equipment they need and when. In knowing this critical information, along with our insights we’ll help configure, test, and deploy the appropriate equipment into the field.
Essentially, our mission is to help customers maintain and manage their devices through our expert repairs, shepherding them through technology updates and helping to control inventory control and deployed assets. We are going into our 20th year and looking to have a huge impact on our customers' business. We are excited to make a positive impact by helping them choose best devices for their environment and ensure their deployment is flawless. This is brand new to Carlton and we are excited to work alongside our customers throughout the entire lifecycle of their devices, as their preferred mobile device partner.
Ryan Bracken founded Carlton Technologies in 1998 and started small with by outsourcing refurbishment work from the spare room of his apartment focusing on the AIDC and Retail POS markets. One year later he set-up a refurbishment and repair facility in Chicago and the company began the rapid growth trajectory which let to today’s presence in Holland, Michigan. To this day, he remains committed to a corporate culture incorporating the same energy and concern for detail that drove Carlton as a startup.