C&S DEPLOYS NEW SYSTEM TO KEEP UP WITH PAYROLL

KEENE, N.H. -- To keep pace with its ever-expanding employee base, C&S Wholesale Grocers here has implemented a new HR/payroll system that it customized to accommodate employees across the U.S.The payroll system is part of a suite of financial applications, including general ledger and accounts payable, from Lawson Software, St. Paul, Minn.C&S, known for supplying chains, significantly expanded its

KEENE, N.H. -- To keep pace with its ever-expanding employee base, C&S Wholesale Grocers here has implemented a new HR/payroll system that it customized to accommodate employees across the U.S.

The payroll system is part of a suite of financial applications, including general ledger and accounts payable, from Lawson Software, St. Paul, Minn.

C&S, known for supplying chains, significantly expanded its business in 2003, taking on a large number of independent customers after its acquisition of Fleming assets. In May C&S ramped up its retail business when it agreed to acquire 104 stores operated by Bi-Lo Holdings, Greenville, N.C. C&S now has 12,000 employees.

The expansion led C&S to implement the Lawson applications, finishing the job this year, said Jeff Steinberg, business application delivery manager for C&S. The new customized payroll system prevented the company's payroll processes from becoming a "managing nightmare," he said.

With its company dealing with unions across the country, C&S has to cut payroll checks from many local banks, Steinberg said. The Lawson software, he explained, requires a separate file for each bank, noting the starting and ending check numbers for each one. "So we wrote code that did this automatically," he said.

In addition, C&S wrote code to combine each bank's file into a single file that could be handled by its check-writing software. As a result, C&S was able to reassign four payroll employees.

Because the Lawson financial suite comprises payroll, general ledger and accounts payable, C&S can more easily move data between those applications than it could under its previous systems, Steinberg said. For example, payroll files had to be manually imported into the mainframe system to interface with accounts payable.

"The Lawson system takes that file transfer and does it internally," Steinberg said. "We get a lot of mileage out of that." C&S must make that transfer when an employee's paycheck is garnished and part of it is paid to the government or another third party.

Steinberg noted that it's not uncommon for a retailer to customize software for the retail industry. "There are very few niche software players who do what we do," he said. C&S was able to customize and implement the HR/payroll system in seven months, using internal resources and a small number of consultants, he added. "Other vendors were amazed at how fast we got it done."

The Lawson system runs on an IBM AIX platform that resides in C&S' former headquarters in Brattleboro, Vt., about 15 miles from Keene, N.H.