How one retailer rolled out thousands of tablets to 600 stores across the nation

tablets-in-retailA small project for a large organization is often nothing of the sort. One recent example is a large national retailer’s plan to deploy 8,500 tablets to 600 stores.

As part of a mobility push, the retailer sought to equip thousands of store managers and other personnel with tablets. After working through a proof of concept with a number of options, the retailer chose a family of Microsoft Surface tablets (primarily Surface 3 devices) for their size, light weight, touch-screen capabilities, and ease of use in the store environment. The tablets allow managers to track inventory and monitor sales from anywhere – in the office, on the floor, or behind the register.

But the company needed help on two fronts: The project would have strained in-house IT staff on top of its regular workload, and it had to complete the deployment quickly. The company anticipated the deployment of approximately 8,500 devices in two phases – a two-month window (May and June) to deploy 2,500 devices and another 6,000-device rollout from January through March of the next year.

The magnitude of the deployment in two compressed timeframes weighed on the retailer. Afraid it would lose out on incentive money and unsure it could image, asset tag, and deploy close to 8,500 total devices on a tight time table, the retailer needed a partner.

2,500 devices in 45 days

This national retailer worked with SHI to plan an initial rollout of about 2,500 devices.

But an early problem added pressure: The image was delayed in the testing phase, leaving SHI just six weeks to stock, image, asset tag, and ship all 2,500 devices to meet the customer’s deadline.

SHI’s plan relied on several vendors delivering small shipments to its warehouse. Working with a handful of vendors better aligned shipping schedules with the project’s timeline. After each delivery, SHI quickly configured the tablets and shipped them out to the retailer’s stores, ensuring a steady flow of product.

Sure enough, SHI and the retailer deployed all 2,500 tablets before the deadline. But another challenge lay ahead: The next deployment was twice as big and had to be completed in just three months.

Improving run rate by 15 percent in 90 days

Phase two of the initiative involved a 6,000-device deployment, which amounted to around 700 devices each week. This time, the retailer and SHI established a secure VPN that allowed easy imaging and faster response time should a change be made.

When SHI received the shipments, its deployment teams created different kitted bundles for different users at each store. Each tablet was imaged and asset tagged, and then bundled, which allowed the devices to be shipped directly to end users. This allowed them to take the device out of the box and start using it right away with minimal impact on the IT department.

At the start of this second deployment, SHI’s configuration capabilities stood at a run rate of 150 tablets daily and about 700 tablets were scheduled to be deployed weekly. But when SHI’s Integration Center came online, its capabilities rose to 175 tablets per day – a nearly 17 percent increase.

That improvement arose from the greater capacity, efficiency, and agility the Integration Center brought to the process. SHI was able to kit, package, and ship as many as 1,000 tablets a week until all 6,014 were deployed within the three-month timeframe, bringing greater mobility to the retailer’s stores.

Tracking sales and inventory nationwide

Deploying 8,000 tablets is a challenge, especially with hard deadlines and potential funding at stake. Working with many different vendors to source the tablets, SHI met the retailer’s every deployment deadline. SHI’s new Integration Center helped too, enabling more complex and customized tablet bundles for the retailer while also increasing the run rate.

Now, managers at 600 of the national retailer’s stores have better access to data from the sales floor, including current inventory levels and day-to-day sales trends. Managers are no longer tied to their offices and can better mentor sales associates and serve customers without losing sight of the big picture.

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