Magazine Article | July 24, 2007

Real-Time Mobile Auditing Solution Increases Productivity

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, August 2007

Heinz's U.S. Consumer Products Division is responsible for the success of the Heinz brand in major retail chains and stores. It oversees how products are presented on the shelf to most positively affect sales, and it manages third party brokers who ensure products in stores meet criteria set to affect retail sales.

Heinz employs Retail Business Managers (RBMs) to audit a sampling of stores and brokers to ensure everything is in compliance. However, that auditing process was paper-driven, including a 50-question checklist, and slow to deliver meaningful business information — the RBMs would key-in the checklist information into an Excel spreadsheet. Days, and often weeks, would pass before the information made its way into a reporting format that could be analyzed by sales executives. "We wanted to improve our analytical ability at the store level," says Eric Ginsburg, associate manager for sales operations. "We felt if we could see business opportunities as they developed, we could act on them faster."  Heinz determined a wireless solution would work best to solve this problem.

Heinz was already using the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and BlackBerry devices for mobile e-mail in its enterprise. BES enables the push mechanism for e-mail and contacts and also enables wireless applications to run securely over the air in real time. It was this feature that led Heinz to the conclusion that BlackBerry and Flowfinity, a BlackBerry Alliance Partner offering customizable wireless applications for BlackBerry, could provide the best solution for Heinz.

Flowfinity used its Flowfinity Actions application and brought in its Alliance Partner ATSG to assist with customizations. Through this partnership, Flowfinity delivered an Electronic Retail Audit application to Heinz. This converted Heinz's paper-based audit form into an electronic format. An auditor could carry a BlackBerry device, complete the form electronically, and submit store audits immediately. With the solution in place, Heinz estimates a 10% to 20% increase in the number of audits completed. "We've removed all the paper and the data entry," says Ed Bollinger, director of retail operations for Heinz. "Our RBMs, and in fact anyone in our company who has this on their BlackBerry device, is more willing to participate in the process. For a food manufacturer, this is invaluable because the more knowledge we have, the more we can affect store conditions to benefit our business."

All reports are available on an internal sales reporting Web site. The solution has freed up the time sales managers once had to invest in collating the data. "Before if we wanted to measure something, we'd have to dig into our files and build a progress report," says Bollinger. "Even then, I might be able to guess at a number based on what I saw. With the Electronic Retail Audit reports, I can quote to the decimal point how well we are meeting a particular objective."