COPPELL, Texas -- Minyard Food Stores here will scrutinize vendor performance and track warehouse inventory levels much more closely with the launch of new decision-support tools next year.
The retailer will begin using a number of new software programs to enhance warehouse management, inventory control and labor management. Once the programs are fully implemented, Minyard may explore further initiatives like electronic data interchange and radio-frequency technology for its warehouse.
Minyard also plans to create a wide-area-network to allow store-level officials access to corporate data bases, said John Pittman, director of corporate information systems.
"It will be a network of dedicated phone lines linking our stores with the host system, allowing us to communicate better and giving the stores more information that they'll need," he said.
The retailer has purchased a new hardware platform to run a series of software programs that enable warehouse and corporate personnel to access point-of-sale and purchasing data to support decision-making, Pittman said.
"The store order management system will give our buyers much more information regarding historical trends and sales," he added. "It will give them a better feel on what we've typically consumed and ordered in the past and how we've done in efficiency of ordering."
Another software program will analyze individual vendor performances to give buyers increased leverage in negotiations.
"We get offers all the time from vendors who say if you buy an entire truckload, we'll give you a better deal," he said. Using the new program, Minyard can examine
past promotions to determine how long the supply lasted and whether the deal was profitable for the retailer.
Minyard officials will also gain a greater understanding of all the costs associated with a promotion. "Historically, we've never really taken into consideration carrying costs and things of that nature," Pittman said.
"This system will allow us to take a look at them and determine if a proposed deal is really going to be effective for us," he added.
Minyard also plans to upgrade store-to-corporate communication links.
Moving from an unstructured communication system of dial-up phone lines and faxes to a WAN should enhance the integrity of POS data and allow stores increased input on their orders.
"We'll have a direct link where people can share information and where we can broadcast information more effectively and more expeditiously," Pittman said.
"We'll be able to take advantage of e-mail and more effectively control orders that the stores are passing to us," he said. "Our stores will no doubt want to find out what orders have been placed for them and [if there are] any revisions to quantities and expected deliveries."
Minyard intends its first wave of software upgrades to be a springboard for additional applications. For instance, the retailer may equip warehouse personnel with radio frequency scanners as more in-depth purchasing and promotional data becomes available at the corporate level.
"People who are doing the putaways and letdowns for product will be able to communicate with the system via an RF communication link that will give them access to what they're receiving, what they're putting away and what they're letting down," Pittman said.
The system will also allow Minyard to automate its purchase orders and dive head-first into EDI. "Vendors are really begging us to go to EDI," he said. "It will be a big help to us."