A building supply and home center store integrates a variety of technologies, including AIDC, POS, and time and attendance together to improve operational efficiencies.
The new system included: an IBM Pentium server with 25 IBM and Wyse terminals; an Oasis station; Ithaca Peripherals receipt printers; Ultimate Technology pole displays; Digiboard communication ports; Exide Electronics power protection; and Percon bar code scanners, handheld data collection units, mag stripe readers; and Dimensions' software. The complete hardware and software solution was installed in about five days.
The New Integrated System At Work
The Dimensions software ties different functions together under one system: point of sale, accounting, inventory control, security, time and attendance and truck scheduling, says Faris. Each employee has a user name and password that allows him access to designated menus on the system. For example, cashiers can not access or see the menus for accounting. This password access also helps track employee time and attendance. Information about the time an employee logs into and out of the POS terminal is sent to the payroll system.
The software also performs inventory control functions. Items are deducted from inventory as they are purchased. The software can be customized to examine past buying patterns and future business conditions to automatically determine amounts for reordering, says Faris. For example, if building permits are up 20% for the year, the system will order more inventory. The software has purchase orders that are sent straight to a supplier from a computer modem. The handheld data collection units are used for inventory counts. Johnson explains that each department will do checks to make sure that the actual inventory matches the amounts listed in the computer.
Training For The New System
"Moving to a new system was a pretty big scare for our employees.," says Johnson. "Our fears were calmed because the system was very easy to use. The system has six ways an employee can look up an item such as lumber: manufacturer number, catalog number, inventory number, type of wood, type of cut, etc. Keyword functionality was also added. So, we can type in the word 'plywood' and all of the different types of plywood appear on the screen," he explains.
New Technology To Be Added Down The Road
Colonial is presently looking to add RF-based handheld computers from Percon to their operations. "With our present handheld data collection units, we can only collect so much data in a batch mode before a unit needs to be downloaded to the computer. RF units collect information and transmit it to the computer automatically," says Johnson.
He is also looking to adopt the mobile laptop computer solution that Dimensions offers. Faris explains, "Lumberyards have outside salespeople that meet with contractors at construction sites. A laptop plugged into a cellular phone would allow the salesperson to tap into the store's computer and check availability of products and process an order - without ever having to return to the office."