Magazine Article | February 1, 2006

Centralized DSD System Enables Rapid Issue Resolution

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Giant Eagle centralized its DSD (direct store delivery) system to enable data access from stores using a thin-client application on handhelds via a WAN.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2006

Giant Eagle, Inc., founded in 1931, is a large grocery and fuel retailer and food distributor with approximately $5.5 billion in annual sales. The retailer has 138 corporate and 78 independently owned and operated supermarkets, as well as more than 90 fuel and convenience stores, throughout western PA, OH, WV, and MD. Giant Eagle offers a variety of food and grocery items in addition to convenience-oriented services such as dry cleaning, video rentals and sales, in-store banking, on-site film developing, floral shops, and pharmacies.

Several years ago, Giant Eagle adopted a strategy to better manage the hardware and software resources supporting its store applications. The strategy included moving applications out of the individual store environments into the corporate offices and integrating them, allowing reporting on a per-store basis, as well as on a corporate basis. Working toward this goal, Giant Eagle chose to implement a centralized DSD system for managing merchandise moving from its DC to its stores. Giant Eagle previously used SofTechnics' Chaintrack DSD system in all stores. Russ Ross, senior VP of information systems and CIO, and Mike Krugle, VP of applications engineering, oversaw a team tasked with researching alternative centralized DSD systems and implementing a solution.

"The main problems with our existing DSD were service and support related," says Ross. "With 200+ instances of hardware, software, and the database running separately, the care and maintenance was very cumbersome." After researching a number of alternative systems, the team chose SofTechnics' SoftGrocer system. SoftGrocer is a store receiving, ordering, and inventory replenishment system using a thin client for access. The decision to implement was based on the functionality the system offered, the lower cost to upgrade licenses as opposed to purchasing new ones, ease of transition from the old system to the new one, and the strong working relationship Giant Eagle maintains with SofTechnics.

Handheld Web App Provides Swift Data Access
SoftGrocer is a Web-based application that allows the retailer to choose its own configuration; options include a centralized configuration with data storage at headquarters, a distributed configuration with data storage at each store, or a combination of both. In addition, the application is customizable to meet the retailer's workflow, with the ability to design screens and choose displayed data. Each Giant Eagle store has handheld devices with a thin-client solution, allowing employees access to the main replenishment application and inventory database. The application and database are configured centrally at headquarters and are accessed via the retailer's WAN by each individual supermarket.

The SoftGrocer system is one component of a larger suite of products, including a corporate data repository, retail pricing support, in-lane price evaluation, perpetual inventory, and computer automated ordering. Giant Eagle has yet to implement any of the other components.

"In terms of maintaining the system, upgrades that used to take weeks or months can now be done overnight," states Krugle. "Having all 200+ supermarkets' data located centrally in one database allows us to analyze and resolve issues much quicker than we previously could."