Magazine Article | December 16, 2008

Experience Complete Inventory Visibility

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

This multichannel retailer's enterprise management system enables users to run real-time inventory reports.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, January 2009

Tilley Endurables is an international multichannel retailer that sells hats and travel apparel through five Canadian retail locations, mail order catalogs, Internet sales, and wholesale partners. The retailer purchased an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system in the 1990s and operated its entire business with this system for more than 10 years. As the company grew, it developed a need for real-time inventory tracking, as the retailer housed inventory in both the United States and Canada. In addition, the only way to obtain inventory reports was to ask an IT technician to generate them. It was difficult for other employees to access or generate inventory reports on their own. This process was time-consuming for users and IT technicians alike. "Users received inventory reports a day or two after they requested them," says Thurstan Berkeley, CFO at Tilley Endurables. "Our employees couldn't get a clear picture of the inventory in a timely manner. By the time they received inventory reports, in-stock positions had changed."

A few years ago, the retailer's ERP vendor planned to upgrade the solution's CRM (customer relationship management), inventory, and accounting modules. Implementing new modules would have cost the retailer far more money than it was willing to spend on such upgrades. In addition, the retailer's wholesale business had grown significantly in recent years, and the system did not address wholesale operations in any way. Berkeley soon realized that the company needed to reevaluate its ERP system in order to meet its inventory and wholesale needs, in particular.

Together with an outside consultant, the retailer conducted an RFP for a fully integrated ERP solution for its North American retail, mail order, Internet, and wholesale operations. Of the 12 vendors the retailer considered for the project, only 2 provided fully integrated solutions. Berkeley chose Magstar Total Retail enterprise management system, which includes POS, CRM, merchandising, order entry, accounting, and warehouse management modules. "This solution meets every retail, mail order, and wholesale need we have," says Berkeley. "It offers real-time inventory tracking. Users now know inventory status across all five retail stores. Also, it manages order entry, invoicing, and accounts receivable for wholesale."

Customize Modules Now, Avoid Future Problems
Before Magstar conducted the implementation at the head office, the retailer overhauled every piece of hardware in its stores. The retailer's IT team installed new back office servers and installed Dell POS all-in-one hardware. Magstar assigned a project manager to work closely with the retailer's team, which included Berkeley, the director of merchandising, and the IT manager. The vendor's project manager and the retailer's team worked together to customize each module to meet the retailer's needs. Berkeley insisted each module be tested thoroughly before the system went live. As test modules became available, the retailer conducted extensive testing in a lab environment. For example, when the POS test module was ready, the retailer tested all standard transactions performed in a normal week (i.e. individual sale, returns, etc.). If the retailer had a problem during testing, Magstar was informed immediately. The vendor addressed the problem, and the retailer retested the module. This process continued until the module was error free. The implementation process took one year to complete, and the entire solution went live in one day. "Each module went live on the same day in case we ran into problems," says Berkeley.

Berkeley participated in the vendor's three-day end user training. Once Berkeley had been trained, he trained the rest of the staff on the general functions of each module (e.g. how to access and print inventory reports). Additionally, the vendor provided written manuals for future reference. 

Tilley Endurables now experiences complete inventory visibility in its North American retail and wholesale operations. Employees can now create reports on their own in minutes. Biannual companywide physical inventory counts and reconciliations, which used to take up to six days to complete, now take three because the process is more efficient. The new system's yearly maintenance fee is half that of the old system, and technical support response time has been reduced to hours as opposed to days. Also, the vendor operates a tracking website for support issues. Finally, Tilley Endurables can produce financial statements electronically for both the United States and Canada, which allows for the differences in currency. 

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