Magazine Article | July 20, 2006

POS Hardware Upgrade Improves Customer Service

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

A retailer upgrades its POS hardware after experiencing computer crashes following a  software installation.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2006

Have you upgraded POS software and subsequently experienced performance problems with your POS hardware? If so, you aren’t alone. According to Murray Shostak, director of IT at Laura Canada, this is what happened at his company. This was no small feat, since Laura Canada has 140 stores across Canada, doing business under the names of Laura, Laura Petites, Laura Plus, and Melanie Lyne.

Laura Canada previously used a DOS-based POS software. This POS system was originally run on IBM PS2 registers, but over time, the chain expanded, and the decision was made to move to lower-cost PC clones from various vendors. Additionally, the PC clones enabled connectivity to several peripheral devices (e.g. printers, credit card authorization devices) through ISA (industry standard architecture) slots. “The POS is hostile to sensitive computers. There is little room for heat to dissipate, and hard drives, the most sensitive components in PCs, are subject to heat failure causing the systems to freeze,” says Shostak. “While using the DOS system, if the system froze, rebooting the PC or closing the DOS session was not time-consuming. However, we experienced more frequent freezes after deploying our new POS software, NSB Coalition. Rebooting a PC running Coalition, which ran SQL Server, took approximately 20 to 30 minutes. If that happened during a sale, we had unhappy customers and frustrated associates.” Shostak wanted to eliminate downtime with more reliable hardware, so employees could keep customers happy.

Shostak had visited DigiPoS Systems Group, a retail and hospitality hardware provider, at the NRF (National Retail Federation) show a few years earlier and was interested in DigiPoS’ concept of separating the heat source from the components that are heat-sensitive with the Retail Blade product.

After Laura Canada had Coalition installed at 60 stores and Shostak reviewed the calls made to the IT Help Desk, DigiPoS came to mind. He noticed that 50% of the calls from the stores running Coalition were related to overheating hard drives that caused computer freezes, so he investigated a few POS hardware solutions. The design of the heating components and the ease of service (i.e. removing a hard drive or adding a second CPU card without taking the processor apart) available with the DigiPoS equipment sold Shostak on the DigiPoS hardware. The retailer deployed the balance of its stores with the Coalition software running on the DigiPoS Retail Blades.

“Our uptime has drastically improved with the DigiPoS Retail Blades,” says Shostak. “The IT calls from stores encountering freezes at the POS have dropped. Our incremental costs compared to other hardware solutions were minimal to get the improvements we were looking for. We consider that money well spent compared with the potential for lost sales when customers walk out the door because they don’t have time to wait for our registers to reboot.”

Position Hardware For Future Expansion
The upgrade  positioned Laura Canada for additional functionality to be added to the POS machines. The retailer is currently deploying a time and attendance module to its payroll system, which will run on the POS machines at all stores. Its new traffic counting system is now available to store associates in real time, which helps correctly staff the sales floor. Additionally, a gift card application is scheduled for implementation this fall. All of these applications require greater performance from the POS machines. “This upgrade has positioned us for future initiatives,” says Shostak. “All of these software upgrades add pressure to the store register, which today is more than just a device for punching in sales and printing sales receipts. It is the heart of a complex store information system that must not be subject to failure.”