The Beer Store gets a taste of J2EE efficiency

Need another reason to daydream about the May 2-4 weekend? How about faster service and your favourite brand always in stock at The Beer Store?

Ontario’s largest beer retailer will roll out a pilot project this spring with

Triversity Inc. using its Transactionware Enterprise edition and Yantra Corp.’s order management product in an attempt to improve inventory control and customer service.

The first location in the planned five-store pilot will be in the greater Toronto area, said Glenn Wood, director of information services for The Beer Store. It is hoped Triversity’s Transactionware Enterprise for J2EE customers will mean better service at the front end while Yantra will provide real-time inventory visibility throughout the supply chain on the back end.

“”It’s about having the right product at the right time and the right location,”” Wood said. “”It’s also about getting people in and out quickly.””

With The Beer Store’s proprietary system, which was created in-house about 10 years ago, the retailer, with more than 400 stores across the province, could no longer scale to increasing demand. Brand selection has grown by 250 per cent in the last decade and stores offer more than 300 brands from 70 brewers. It was time to upgrade, Wood said.

“”As the brand proliferation continues, if you’re buying several sizes and brands, the longer that process takes. Part of what we will be looking at is scanning in the back room as well, so if there is application in terms of mobile or handheld in the front store we can potentially move more people through more quickly,”” said Wood.

Ideally, if The Beer Store could also move wait lines faster at peak times it would be an improvement, he said.

“”That’s partly what the pilot will help us to determine — whether or not we can drive customer service and help move people through more quickly and as much as anything from a cashier stand point make it as transparent as possible.””

The Beer Store is also engaged in retail renewal program updating the look of its storefronts as well as back end systems.

“”A lot of the application gaps we have as a business are predominantly around best practices in retail, and the renewal is consistent with applying best practice retail,”” said Wood. “”Execution, technology and point of sale is really a part of that.””

Those elements involve both front of store selling and back office inventory management — something critical in managing the supply chain.

“”We go through a lot of beer in the summer and it takes up a lot of space. People expect it to be cold, that we’ll have their brand and it’s a peak demand type business. Long weekends drive a lot of volume and it’s about getting people in and out and having the right product at the right time,”” said Wood.

At times like Labour Day and the Victoria Day weekend, speedy checkout is important, but if The Beer Store runs low on a particular product they have to be able to replace it.

With the new POS transaction system, if the store clerk punches in an order for a 2-4 of Molson Canadian but that particular brand and package size is out of stock, the system will send a message to the Yantra store inventory application. It will then send back a message saying the 2-4 isn’t available but two 12 packs are available. The POS does the substitution and discounts the price of the two 12 packs to match the price of the 2-4.

“”What happens is in the back of the store a message comes back to the guy who is picking the product that he needs to grab two 12s and puts them onto the conveyor to the customer,”” said Colin Haig, senior director of business development with Triversity in Toronto.

“”With the Triversity solution we are able to get them not only financial but inventory information updated across the entire chain of locations in real time. For the stores on the wide area network we can have up to the moment inventory status, financials with sales analysis; all of the kinds of things that can help them make decisions and measure effectiveness of promotions,”” Haig said.

Managing the demand for new products and implementing new marketing promotions should also be easier, said Haig. For example, late last year Sleeman Breweries introduced a low-carb, beer called Sleeman Clear. Both Sleeman and The Beer Store underestimated the potential sales of the product.

“”They hadn’t even advertised it and they were sold out within five days. Then they started advertising and they haven’t been able to keep it in stock. The ability to manage that whole process is huge for them and the new solution will bring a lot to the table in that respect,”” Haig said.

Currently it can take six months to a year for The Beer Store to develop the capability in the application to support a new marketing promotion. With Triversity Haig said it can be done in minutes.

Yantra’s role is to provide an order management component within the store, according to Hunter Harris, Yantra’s vice-president of retail market development.

“”Triversity does an excellent job at the transaction speed and configuration of the point of sale check-out process,”” Harris said. “”In this particular case it’s a somewhat unique model in that the customer is placing the order in the front of the store and the store needs to fulfill it quickly and accurately on that. That last piece is the role Yantra plays in that.””

Harris and Haig said the two companies have the advantage of a common architecture. Both applications are based on J2EE and Triversity and Yantra have already integrated a number of capabilities in their mutual applications. Wood expects this will make the integration of the applications into The Beer Store’s system that much easier.

“”We have a small smattering of (the J2EE architecture) in-house already so that is leveraging the assets we have as much as possible in terms the infrastructure we have,”” said Wood. “”That’s a good part of the reason for going the J2EE route — to leverage the assets in terms of hardware and devices we already have and our network capability. It’s also about cost. Infrastructure from a cost standpoint hopefully is less for us as well.””

Wood declined to say what other vendors The Beer Store evaluated, only commenting that they were “”the main players”” in the industry and an “”intensive and thorough”” RFP process was followed with 10 companies given consideration.

The pilot will run over the course of the summer and then The Beer Store will determine what the exact investment will be with Triversity and Yantra.

“”It’s easy to go in saying this is what we think we’re going to get but there’s always going to be surprises along the way,”” Wood said. “”We will evaluate the results after Labour Day. We haven’t committed to anything beyond pilot.””

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