LOS ANGELES -- By moving the ordering process to an on-line computer system that uses internal product/warehouse codes, Certified Grocers of California here has greatly reduced the chances for incorrect orders.
Retailers' enthusiasm for the interactive order system, installed in 200 stores served by Certified, led the wholesaler to recently introduce an upgrade to the system featuring additional functions.
With the basic system, retailers rent a personal computer and a handheld wireless device from Certified for $100 a month. Retailers collect ordering data in-store via the handheld device, and the system relays the information to the store-based PC. The PC is linked via modem to Certified's computer at its headquarters, so orders can be transmitted directly to the wholesaler.
Because Certified developed the system in-house, and it is used only by Certified customers, the chances of incorrect orders are virtually eliminated, said Marty Simmons, director of retail information systems at Certified.
"The reason we wrote it is that industrywide there's about a 2% difference between what the customer orders and what they get," he said.
"Now I have retailers, my customers, with a computer I know about and can communicate with. It's a system of my design, which I know how to interact with," said Simmons.
The upgraded interactive order system was born out of retailers' requests for functions that would make ordering even more efficient.
"As we gave [retailers] something better than they had before, they immediately came up with new ideas of what it needed to be," explained Simmons.
Retailers can now do separate, departmental billing. The upgraded system also allows Certified to keep retailers posted on extra stock they have coming for a planned promotion, for example.
The Windows-based software also makes it easier for retailers to make price changes, said Simmons. And the upgrade allowed Certified to add internal system checks to the program, especially in the area of order confirmation. Simmons noted that while many retailers have shown interest in renting the ordering-system equipment, supply is currently limited to 200 stores because of budget constraints. Certified subsidizes some of the system costs, so it rents this equipment to its larger-volume stores.
Simmons told SN that approximately 15 of the 200 retailers were upgraded to phase two. He said Certified will release a third phase of the system in about six months.
The system was developed by Certified, in conjunction with Symbol, Holtsville, N.Y., and Symbol's reseller, Creative Concepts, Irvine, Calif.