NEW ENGLAND WHOLESALER UPGRADING ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Associated Grocers of New England here will upgrade its enterprise software program this fall, a move that will enable it to consider Internet and handheld services for the cooperative wholesaler's 500 retail customers, said Ken Peperissa, programming manager at AGNE."Recently, we committed to the Internet as a way to streamline our operations," he said in an exclusive interview

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Associated Grocers of New England here will upgrade its enterprise software program this fall, a move that will enable it to consider Internet and handheld services for the cooperative wholesaler's 500 retail customers, said Ken Peperissa, programming manager at AGNE.

"Recently, we committed to the Internet as a way to streamline our operations," he said in an exclusive interview with SN recently.

"Previously, AGNE communicated via a mainframe to PCs; this was slow and cumbersome and required frequent human intervention. Now with our current hardware and software, communicating with our customers is streamlined and requires no human intervention.

"We want to improve our communications with retailers via the Web in order to increase efficiency, which in turn, would yield greater profits."

AGNE uses PowerEnterprise from Integrated Distribution Solutions, Omaha, Neb.

"Basically, PowerEnterprise is a set of core applications to run a food distribution business. Software includes financial management, order processing, purchasing, price management and sales analysis. All of these are online, real-time applications, which enable more efficient and profitable business processes," Peperissa said.

The wholesaler also uses IDS' PowerWarehouse software, which is designed for route-based, multistop food distribution operations.

"The software uses bar-code scanning and radio frequency technologies to support the warehouse operations," he said.

Through the use of RF, AGNE's warehouse has seen significant gains in productivity, he said.

"Before, only a few workers had RF terminals and we only knew where the primary slot was located. Now, every location is known right down to the pallet. This means cleaner picking, and product can be scanned as it goes on the truck.

"Before, products might inadvertently get loaded on an adjacent trailer. We can always tell if the product is on the floor someplace. PowerWarehouse also gives us better date-checking both inbound and outbound, better product rotation and less waste. Substantial efficiency is now the norm in the warehouse," Peperissa said.

AGNE first installed IDS' PowerEnterprise and PowerWarehouse two years ago, replacing a "homegrown" system, he said. Because the IDS programs were initially designed for the food-service industry, some customization was needed.

The wholesaler decided on an enterprise system because its old system was closely integrated. "We knew there was no way to realistically buy one piece and try to integrate it backwards into the older technology. So we were looking to move forward and move everything to a new platform," Peperissa said.

On the warehouse side of the system, PowerWarehouse provided AGNE with a more accurate picture of inventory. "We have better tracking capabilities. We know when the inventory went into the warehouse, where it is in the warehouse or where it is in the receiving process. We can receive and put away faster because the program tells the receivers where to put it, instead of the receivers going to a general area and hunting for a spot that is big enough," he said.

The results have been greater efficiencies, including faster response time, especially for the evening batch jobs, Peperissa said.

"Much more detail is being maintained so the users have more detailed information," he said. User requests can be answered now in minutes rather than hours or even days as in the past, he said. "Overall, the company has a better handle on what's not moving and can more readily adjust purchasing relationships," he said.

With the upcoming upgrade of PowerEnterprise, AGNE is considering installing IDS' PowerNet for the Internet and PowerPalm for handheld devices, he noted.

"Looking forward, we would like to have some of what the PowerNet and PowerPalm offer to enable our customers -- the stores -- to see what is in our inventory," Peperissa said. "They can sync up the Palm Pilots before they take the orders. They will know if there is a sufficient quantity on hand, and if not, they might want to order a substitute. It will allow them to check on their orders online, look at their statements and their account balances.

"They will be able to do these things anytime they want. They will not be restricted to just the time when customer service is here."