EBE Technologies 50th Anniversary
EBE Technologies is celebrating 50 years in business beginning October 1st, 2022.
Based out of East Moline, IL, we are a privately held family company providing software solutions to boost productivity and job satisfaction within the transportation industry.
We have over 75 employees, including four members of the Kerr family, our founders. Those four are: Larry Kerr, President; Rita Hafner, Accounting Manager; John Kerr, Customer Experience Team; and Irene Kerr, payroll and accounting.
Together, we develop, maintain, and improve the solutions we implement for more than 650 active customers.
EBE has always been a pioneer in the tech industry, but we haven’t always been software developers. It's been a journey to reach this 50-year milestone.
To learn more about that journey, check out a Q&A with EBE President, Larry Kerr:
How did EBE’s business look in the beginning?
My father, Joe Kerr, was initially a service technician for Friden in Ohio. Friden manufactured business equipment like Flexowriters, which were basically machines that ran off punch tapes. Then he became a salesperson, and he was promoted to Illinois as a branch manager.
In the mid-1960s, Singer, the sewing machine company, bought Friden, but the combination didn’t work out, so in 1973, my father decided to strike out on his own. He called the company Electronic Business Equipment or EBE.
EBE started out selling Flexowriters, mailing machines, and calculators. Back then, an electronic calculator was about five-grand.
Friden calculator - Ridai Museum of Modern Science, Tokyo by Daderot
Friden Flexowriter NIK 3609 by Nightflyer under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license
What would one of those calculators cost today?
What was one of EBE’s first big changes to its business model?
In the late 1970s, my father started selling something called word processing. That was back when they had eight-inch floppy disks—I think 64K of memory on each floppy—and that’s what’s sitting out in our foyer, that big machine. I think that sold for twenty-five thousand dollars, and the printer was five-grand.
D630dwpxerox1981 by canon650 published under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
CPT 8100 Word Processor by Lehman UMN
When did you start working for EBE?
I did a lot of part-time shipping and receiving for the company in high school, but I started full-time after graduate school in the mid-1980s. At that time, we were evolving out of dedicated word processing into more of Novell. We sold a lot of Novell LANs in the Midwest.
Larry Kerr's 30th Birthday at the Office
Novell NetWare 2.0 packages published under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licenser
Why the switch to LANs?
Word processing, as a dedicated product, died. People were buying less expensive PCs, compared to a twenty-five thousand dollar dedicated word processing machine.
EBE Office Spaces
When did you move into executive leadership?
That was in the early 1990s.
EBE in the 80s
What did EBE’s business model look like then?
I started leading the company when we got more into imaging, which was probably ten years before we should’ve. The industry was in its infancy, and there was a lot of venture capital. We started as a reseller for a company called LaserData, moved on to Optika, and finally were resellers for DocuWare.
Front and back of photo of Joe and Irene Kerr
What did LaserData do?
PCs weren’t powerful enough to compress images and decompress them, so you’d have these LaserData boards that went in. Those boards were like eight-grand for a board that would allow you to compress-decompress an image. They were basically PCs inside PCs. We sold similar products for the other imaging manufacturers, but then I wanted to develop our own solution.
Why is that?
We were doing a lot of application layer development on top of these other products. Their APIs didn’t work, and we weren’t that high of a priority when we needed them to fix things, so, like my father did when he founded the company, we decided to control our own destiny, and we started building all of our own software around 2001.
You wanted to get out of hardware?
Why is that?
Everything was starting to become big distributors. You called somebody, ordered something, and they shipped it to you. We realized there wasn’t any future in hardware. It was going to be software and services.
We always wanted to be ahead of the commodity curve.
What happened after breaking away from hardware?
In 1999, we launched SHIPS.
What did SHIPS do?
The initial SHIPS product offering automated the billing process within a trucking company. Documents were scanned and placed in a workflow for billing and printed with the needed POD documents.
Has SHIPS changed?
Yes. We’ve created integrations to provide cross-platform visibility, mobile content solutions, and enterprise applications to automate processes within each department of a trucking company.
What challenges did you face while advancing SHIPS to what it does today?
Databases were proprietary for a long time. Everybody had their database structures that we couldn’t integrate to easily, but then databases became open, and as soon as we started being able to integrate easily, we started saying, ‘How do we take manual steps out of a process?’ That became workflow, which allowed us to start routing and completing tasks automatically.
Is there a specific term for that automation?
Yes, Robotic Process Automation or RPA. EBE is an early adopter of RPA.
How does RPA help your customers?
Through RPA embedded in SHIPS workflows, repetitive tasks within a department can be automated, which reduces costs, improves consistency, and allows knowledge workers to utilize the skills for which they have been hired and trained.
EBE’s next-generation RPA is named Emily. Emily performs on-the-job duties 24X7, completes routine tasks, and provides insight to exceptions for her co-workers to resolve.
Through reinvestment and listening to the needs of our clients, we have developed world-class solutions and workflows. This has created the ideal conditions for tremendous company growth and expanded service to the transportation industry.
To all our employees, customers, and partners who have helped us reach 50 years in business:
Thank you for your support!
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