By: Linda Rosencrance
Imagine keeping your books in a bound ledger – every transaction meticulously recorded in a thick tome from the office supply store. Or, consider the risk of a customer rethinking their purchases as they slog through mandatory written forms.
That is classic firearms retail. That bound book is no tradition, it is a requirement of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). So is an FBI-compliant background check. And on any day, a firearm retailer may expect a federal or state audit about a gun purchase, or to aid law enforcement in tracking a gun.
So just as paper persists in this industry, so does the need for automation – speed for customers, accuracy in paperwork and background checks, all while minding the laws of the land.
System Solutions LLC has released the Microsoft Dynamics AX version of the Firearms Bound Book and Electronic Form 4473, which replaces the manual Firearms Bound Book system and provides electronic processing of ATF Form 4473 and the FBI NICS background check. It allows Dynamics AX to track serialized firearms and general inventory from receipt through sales, holds, layaways, returns, and more. The solution had previously been available for Dynamics RMS.
To understand the significance in labor savings and regulatory requirements, we must first understand the requirements.
The first is an ATF-compliant bound book (also known as the firearms acquisition and disposition record). This is a permanently-bound book maintained at the retailer’s premises, recording firearm purchases and sales. A Firearms Transaction Record, or ATF Form 4473, is required when a person buys a firearm from a Federal Firearms License holder such as a gun shop.
Traditionally, someone would complete some sales during the day and then have so many hours to grab a pen and enter the transactions manually in the bound book. In addition, that person must keep track of Form 4473, which must be numerically tied back to the information in the bound book. Both are administrative tasks – necessary to abide by regulations and keep the doors open, but, adding no customer value and no revenue.
“What the solution does is automate the process of filling out the required federal forms and the required state forms that need to be completed when a firearms dealer sells a firearm in the United States,” says David Durrenberger, principal, System Solutions.
The Firearms add-on is set up and tested in Dynamics AX 2012 R3 on premise, but System Solutions also has it installed in the cloud on Dynamics AX 2012 virtual machines.
Info from purchasers as well as dealers
The software automates the process of gathering the information from both the purchaser and the firearms dealer.
As Durrenberger describes the experience, “The purchaser and/or seller move through screens that ask all of the required questions and have the language that are traditionally found on the paper forms.” Then when that process is complete and the forms are properly filled out, the sale can be conducted; stopped if warranted; or put on hold pending additional information requirements from state or federal agencies. The electronic Form 4473 can be filled out by the user or the dealer’s employee on a PC or tablet, and at the point of sale.
“Native Dynamics AX processes the ordering and receiving and selling, whether it’s over the counter from a point of sale or through the back office, then our application kicks in and writes these records to an electronic bound book,” Durrenberger says. For example, users are prompted to “Add Received Items to Bound Book,” sparing themselves a chore for the end of the day.
“We do all that automatically just by virtue of conducting those native processes in Dynamics AX when you receive firearms or when you sell firearms,” Durrenberger says. “We’re keeping that bound book [electronically] that has reports associated with it so in the event of an audit or if the store wants to track what was sold and to who and what the status of something is. So it takes all the requirements, makes them happen automatically without error and makes for an automated approach.”
With Dynamics AX, dealers can create purchase orders and process ATF-compliant receiving, trades, layaways, sales and returns simultaneously with other items in the store, all while managing customers and inventory, says Durrenberger.
As a result, the retailer stays ATF compliant while maintaining “seamless, time-saving inventory and check-out processes and creating a great customer experience.”
Which firearms businesses are suited for an AX-based solution?
Although System Solutions doesn’t have any customers running the Dynamics AX firearms solution yet, Durrenberger says there are several prospects in the pipeline.
At first glance, Dynamics AX seems suited to retail chains versus single-location mom & pop gun shops. But, says Durrenberger, “this solution and the [Dynamics] AX solution in general, fits very well for a business of $2,000,000 or more in sales.”
Also true, firearms retailers are often far larger than they appear. Overhead is high, but so are margins. And even a small firearms business tends to have a lock on a given geography or at least a healthy share of it. So, $2 million is achievable.
And, Durrenberger observes of firearms retailers, “Many of these store(s) are already using a system (with integrated financials) that costs as much if not more than AX.”
Firearms retailers will see “signs of strain” when they need an ERP update or upgrade. “The store(s) are starting to get exposed to the pain of not having a fully integrated system. They have disconnected POS, QuickBooks for accounting, and separate Bound Book software, so they expending non-value added time [and humans are] needed to keep all the information synchronized.”
System Solutions has plans to also offer its firearms solution for Dynamics 365 for Operations (AX7). “We have prospects that want to just be in the cloud, so we will take the Firearms add-on and put it and our other add-ons into AX 7. Our plans are to sell and support that product.”