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Department Store Ahead Of The Times

Smith and Caughey’s has been at the forefront of retail technology right from the start. Now Smith and Caughey’s has made its latest move - this time implementing a new integrated retail, distribution and financial computer system developed by Quanta.

Even in 1890 Smith and Caughey’s was ahead of the times – introducing what the New Zealand Herald described as “an ingenious American invention”, a ‘railway cash management system’ which moved money between salesman and cashier using the principles of a catapult.

Then, in 1904, the store upgraded to the faster and more secure pneumatic system which sent money shooting through tubes to different parts of the store. The pneumatic tubes remained in operation until 1975 when they were retired in favour of the electronic cash register. Smith and Caughey’s first introduced computerised systems in 1985.

Now the new integrated computer system represents the latest technological advance. “Like many places Smith and Caughey’s had several different systems in operation – one for back office systems, one for point of sale transactions and one for accounts,” Quanta consultant, Diana Darby says.

“The beauty of the Quanta system is that it fully integrates every single business process. Whether a transaction occurs at the till or on a purchase order that information is linked right across the system.”

The Quanta back office system has been seamlessly integrated with AdvanceRetail Point of Sale (usually a stand-alone system).

“Now the computer can do an inventory update every 30 seconds,” says Darby. “It can tell you what you’re out of and what you need to buy. For a company like Smith and Caughey’s which has over 100,000 different products in store, managing inventory is very important.”

Deborah Wallis, Smith and Caughey’s Financial Controller, says that the biggest change was for Smith and Caughey’s buyers. “Previously their jobs did not involve any work at a computer at all,” she says. “But in a couple of months purchasing can become a completely paperless process.”

Wallis says that cross-functional teams were used to decide which system would be appropriate for Smith and Caughey’s and were involved in the detail of implementation. “All staff understood why the change was necessary right from the start and so we’ve had excellent buy-in,” she says.

The project involved customisation of the software to accommodate Smith and Caughey traditions and a significant training effort for staff. “We commandeered the board room for 15 days to train staff because the new system represented a massive change in the way things had always been done,” says Darby.

The changeover to the new system – described in-house as the ‘big bang’ - needed to be done in super-quick time as Smith and Caughey’s is open seven days a week. Staff from AdvanceRetail replaced all hardware on the shop floor including screens, cash-drawers and printers, while Quanta staff converted the most up to date stock and debtors files.

“Smith and Caughey’s has a record of service broken only by the Auckland power cuts of 1999,” says Darby. “It was very important that there were no problems.”

Deborah Wallis, Financial Controller at Smith and Caughey’s says that the Quanta system was implemented very smoothly. “Our staff are managing the change extremely well and looking forward to the benefits of the new system,” she says.

Quanta Systems Ltd commenced business in 1978 as a software development and consultancy company specialising in the design and implementation of systems for the retail and wholesale distribution industries.

Today Quanta's strength lies in the marketing, installation and support of the locally developed Quanta Distribution & Financial Systems Software.

… ends …

For more information please contact Grant Lester, Quanta on 302 3760 or 021 809 683.

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