CHESTERFIELD, Mo. -- Dierbergs Markets here will launch a chainwide automated direct-store-delivery system early next year.
The 14-store rollout follows several systems enhancements Dierbergs has undertaken recently, including the expansion of client-server technology at the corporate office level and an upgrade of in-store processors.
By automating its manual DSD system, the retailer hopes to increase invoice accuracy and standardize store delivery procedures.
All stores will be equipped with hand-held radio frequency transmitters that communicate with the in-store processor.
"We'll be able to match quoted costs from the suppliers with the actual cost shown on the invoice," said Joe Holtgrewe, manager of management information services. "Before, there was sometimes a gap there.
"[Automated DSD] will also enforce procedures for proper receiving," he added. "When you don't have a computer system in place, it's very easy to circumvent the procedures. Now stores will be forced to receive in a prescribed manner."
Dierbergs' commitment to automated DSD is new, although the company had experimented with the technology in the mid-1980s "with varying degrees of success," Holtgrewe said.
"But as time went on, we've been seeing more and more justification to do it. We're going to forge onward with the [automated] DSD," he said.
The ability to launch such programs comes after an upgrade earlier this year of Dierbergs' in-store processors. "Putting in the [new processors] increased our capacity to put applications at the store level," Holtgrewe said.
"The biggest advantage at this point is the faster processing capability," he said. "The older-style technology was not able to keep up with the growing demands we had."
At the corporate office level, Dierbergs has been expanding the client-server technology it introduced last year. "In early 1993, we installed personal computers for our buyers. That was our first venture into true client-server," Holtgrewe said.
Client-server technology has so far been of most use to the buying staff at Dierbergs by allowing them to access scan movement data. "We keep weekly scan movements on-line on the server, and buyers can inquire as far as profitability of certain items when they talk with vendors."
Dierbergs currently uses a combination of systems, lending a high degree of flexibility to software applications. "It saves us a lot of expense when bringing in additional PCs," Holtgrewe said. "[Instead] of having them fully loaded with software and with large disk drives, you can minimize the size of the disk drives they need.
"We're able to respond a lot more to user requests," he added. "We don't have to re-invent the wheel every time somebody wants something. We don't have to develop software -- we can just extract from our client onto the server or create a pooled resource where multiple people can access it."
Dierbergs is also trying to reduce software expenses with more open systems. "In the past, because we didn't have a server, when we'd bring in a PC, people would want software," he said. "Now we can bring in a PC and the software's there.
"We're not trying to dictate what software they can use," Holtgrewe cautioned. "If somebody says, 'Gee, I want this one,' we'll bring in at least a two-user license so two people can share that software.
"We just have to make sure we don't start bottlenecking the network so you have 15 people vying for 10 license agreements," he said. "We often run statistics to make sure we have enough licensed copies of the software for the users."
Dierbergs' expansion into client-server may help set the stage for such initiatives as category management, but Holtgrewe said the retailer is not prepared for full-scale implementation of such a program.
"We're doing a smattering of category management," he said. "[Client-server] will definitely help that out, but it's very expensive for a smaller retailer to get into."