Dutch bookstore chain builds worlds first fully automated item-level RFID tagged store, with Progress Software technology

Fully integrated application suite cuts labour and inventory management costs for Dutch bookseller, enables visibility into supply chain operations and enriches customer service.

Progress Software Corporation, a supplier of leading technology to develop, deploy, integrate and manage business applications, today announced a significant breakthrough in remote store automation with the deployment of item-level RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) in a SOA (service oriented architecture) suite of applications. The deployment for the Netherlands largest book retailer, Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN) will generate dramatic labour savings, reduce inventory reconciliation costs, improve stock control, enhance visibility into supply chain operations, increase shopper basket size and enrich shopper experience. BGN is launching two new, fully-automated SmartStores that combine item-level RFID tagging and SOA to deliver a tightly integrated warehouse-to-consumer supply chain. The first SmartStore, named Selexyz Scheltema*, opens on Tuesday, April 25, in Almere, Netherlands, and the second store opens in Maastricht in October.

Unlike early generation RFID solutions that tag at the pallet or case-level, BGN is using item-level RFID to track the movement of individual books. This provides BGN with unique real-time visibility into both their store inventory and the overall supply chain. BGN is deploying technology from four Progress product lines that deliver this unique retail application: Progress OpenEdge as the platform for all transactions processed by the stores, Apama ESP for processing the RFID data, Sonic ESB as the integration backbone for the store automation applications, and Progress EasyAsk for natural language access to the application by end users.

The key to our success is our ability to deliver an outstanding customer experience when a customer enters one of our stores, said Jan Vink, IT Director for Boekhandels Groep Nederland. Equally important for us is providing the tools to our marketing teams that allow them to better merchandise books. With infrastructure software, ESP (event stream processing), SOA and intelligent search applications from Progress, we have accomplished all of our business goals for this deployment. On top of that, we have built the worlds first, fully-automated item-level RFID tagged store. This pioneering set of applications will go far to enhance the strength of the BGN brand with book buyers.

Back-office processes are enhanced with a tailored application, called Atlas, deployed on Progress OpenEdge that manages all the information on a books location from Centraal Bookhuis (literal translation: central book warehouse, a third party bulk supplier of books in Holland), to its shipment status, through to its arrival at each store, even tracking a books physical placement within the store. The Progress Apama ESP platform provides BGN with RFID event processing services that capture and analyse in real-time inbound RFID data gathered by the store at book delivery, associating that information with data provided by the distributor in electronic Advanced Shipping

The addition of Progress EasyAsk allows BGN to offer advanced search, navigation and online merchandising functionality through store kiosks and their e-commerce Web site. EasyAsk enables both staff and shoppers to search store inventory through a Dutch language interface, identify book locations, and order books not in stock. Upon ordering, a shopper can decide whether to be contacted by SMS message or email when a book is available or arrange for the book to be delivered to their home. Or if a shopper searches for a book at a kiosk and finds that it is out of stock but available at another store, the customer can arrange for it to be delivered to him or her, or transferred as a special to the local store.

 The Sonic ESB (enterprise service bus) provides the embedded integration engine that supports robust, scalable and highly reliable connections and manages the multiplicity of interactions among the various components across BGNs distributed network of stores. Remotely deployed services can be dynamically managed and reconfigured on-the-fly from a single IT centre with the Sonic ESB, thereby negating the need for an IT person to be on site at each remote store. With the new automated process, orders for books are sent to the Centraal Bookhuis order system directly from BGNs order system via the Sonic ESB. After applying the RFID tags, each encoded with a unique item level serial number, the books are packaged and shipped to the store; an ASN is then generated that lists each book in the shipment and the box in which it is contained. On arrival at the store, the shipping boxes pass through an RFID-tunnel that compares the shipment with the ASN, noting any discrepancies and allowing employees to immediately reconcile them. According to Brian Hume, president of Martec International, a leading firm of retail business process experts, there are typically about 30% of orders that require reconciliation due to pricing or incorrect quantities.

Our new system implements a process that is now completely automatic and real-time, reducing both the cost and time burden on our finance department associated with reconciliation, said Matthijs van der Lely, Chief Executive Officer for Boekhandels Groep Nederland. Our investment in item-level RFID and SOA enables us to streamline our processes and reduce costs across the supply chain, improve our profitability, and respond more quickly and effectively to shopper requests.

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