Micros Retail & Manufacturing – The Interview

paulw.jpgSupply chain IT specialist Micros Retail & Manufacturing Ltd was one of the stars of June 2008’s Retail Solutions show. It’s a little known fact that some 90% of all UK retailers use the same solution from Micros to ensure their product data is accurate, reliable and traceable throughout the supply chain. Micros offers software tools and services to suppliers, labs and artwork design houses – in fact anyone involved in the process of bringing products to market and with an interest in the data aspects of traceability. People in the grocery business probably know Micros best for its award winning Creations solution, but there is much more to the company than that. Paul Woodward, one of Creations’ creators and now Managing Director of Micros Retail & Manufacturing Ltd, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – First of all, how big is Micros overall in turnover and staff numbers?
Micros employs 4,300 staff worldwide and turns over US $785 million annually.

GT – What proportion of your overall business is in retail?
Retail currently accounts for 10% of our overall turnover.

shop6.jpgGT – How big is Micros Retail & Manufacturing?
MICROS Retail has an annual turnover of £50m worldwide, with the UK division turning over £6 million.

GT – When did you (Paul) join the business?
I have been with the company for 16 years, and assumed the role of MD in 2008. I was one of the original founders of our Creations lifecycle management and supply chain solution.

GT – As MD, what is your role day to day? Do you get involved with individual customers?
I have full responsibility for the growth of Creations into North America and the launch of MICROS’s portfolio of retail products into the UK. I still get involved with customers, and retain an active role as head of sales and marketing.

GT – Where is the head office of your part of the business (MR&M)?
Our head office is in Nottingham. We develop our Retail & Manufacturing technology in the UK.

GT – In 30 seconds, can you sum up what Micros Retail & Manufacturing Ltd does?
We provide market leading IT solutions to retailers and manufacturers that help them develop and protect their own-brand consumer goods, manage their supply chain, protect themselves against internal fraud and be more competitive with their marketing and selling. In a nutshell, if you are a retailer with an IT need, you should be talking to us!

GT – Can you explain how your software helps in each of those areas?
The new product delivery and protection and supply chain collaboration is managed by Creations. The loss prevention is managed by XBR Store Analytics, the POS by Xstore, the retail CRM by Relate and the merchandising by Enterprise.

GT – What proportion of your business comes from your Creations solution? Who is it aimed at, and what does it do?
70% of Micros Retail & Manufacturing Ltd’s business comes from Creations. It is aimed at retailers and manufacturers, offering a suite of applications for the management of suppliers and own brand product lifecycle and safety.

shop3.jpgGT – In non-technical language, how does Creations do this? Does it involve either bar codes or RFID, or is it something different?
Each customer uses the Creations secure web portal (internet) to collaborate with their supply chain on the collection of supplier and product technical data. A range of value add modules then offer each level of the chain the ability to calculate, validate and manage the data accelerating speed to market, whilst ensuring the highest level of accuracy. The range of value add modules include the management of: new line brief and supplier sourcing, recipe and formulation development, supply chain auditing and performance, product quality assurance, and incidents.

GT – How many different products is Creations currently being used to protect?
11 major retailers and over 100 manufacturers worldwide currently use it to develop and manage over 70,000 products, worth over £100 billion.

GT – Can you explain how Creations improves collaboration?
The use of Internet technology enables the entire lifecycle of supplier and product management to be shared across all parties involved. This enables single entry of data, improving accuracy, visibility and communication improving productivity, and speed of response to market demand and consumer awareness.

GT – What kinds of products are you talking about here?
We support private label or own brand products across food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and fashion.

GT – What size companies are your target customer?
The Creations suite offers a module for all levels from farmer to retailer. Solutions start from less than £1,000.

GT – Is the technology behind Creations new?
Yes and no, Creations was first launched in 1997 and quickly became the leading application of its type, based upon its proven award winning capability. Over the years Creations has continued to evolve offering greater functionality, utilising the latest technology whilst maintaining its stable and proven core. In 2009 Micros will launch the next generation of Creations (C3G), which utilises the very latest web technology to further improve collaboration and sharing of product data from the field to the consumer. C3G will offer a range of new modules that can be downloaded and utilised as and when needed, removing large cost outlays across the supply chains, encouraging greater adoption and full visibility.

GT – What is the level of adoption of Creations?
Creations is currently used by over 100 of the world’s largest grocery and cosmetic retailers and manufacturers.

GT – What’s driving the adoption of Creations now?
We are introducing affordable modules to enable retailers and manufacturers of all sizes, markets and levels to have the ability to gain the same benefits as the top brands. Creations technology offers the ability for any market to utilise the due diligence controls associated with legislation. Creations can be uploaded with any regulatory requirements or private label guidelines.

GT – Do these intelligent labels mean consumers will be able to type a product code into a search engine and find out such information as fat content and risks of allergy?
The concept of intelligent labels is driven by consumer need for greater information on products than the label holds. The data to support this is already collected through Creations, and is made available through the retailer online shopping sites. The intelligent label is an extension of this, offering information through service desks, kiosk and shelf edge technology.

shop5.jpgGT – Is the technology there for the consumer side yet? What do consumers need to do to access it?
As mentioned above, the information is already provided to online shopping sites, and can be accessed by the consumer directly. Kiosk technology is available and is currently being trialled in certain stores. Advances in technology over the next 12 months will allow C3G to offer greater options to the consumer.

GT – Which countries is Creations available in?
Micros operate out of 44 countries worldwide, with distributors in most others. Creations is currently operated by users in over 16 countries.

GT – Do you work with various IT partners to offer these services?
Micros operate a partner programme across 3 categories: technology, software and industry. Our partners offer either technology, services and complimentary software products or industry or market knowledge and services. Partners include IBM, Oracle, HP, Verizon, Innovation Software, QADEX, British Retail Consortium and GS1.

GT – How does Creations fit in with other Enterprise Resource Programs and management information systems that companies already have? What does it add to them?
Creations extends the reach of traditional ERP solutions by offering greater control and depth of technical supply chain data. In all installations, Creations is integrated with the core business system.

GT – What is involved in developing a solution for a customer? What’s the shortest possible time from go ahead to go live?
Each module is different, both in complexity and in its ability to be tailored. Most modules are adopted as packaged without any tailoring, and can be delivered within days or weeks of order. The larger, multi module and tailored solutions range from three months to nine months on average.

creations-logo.jpgGT – What kind of costs are involved for a company using one of your solutions? How long does it take to see a return on investment?
This will depend on the module or modules adopted. Solutions are offered from as little as £1,000. Larger installations have publicly reported and won awards for returns within 12 months of going live. ASDA reported an annual £3m additional profit through Creations.

GT – What awards have Creations and your other solutions won?
Creations has won two National Business Awards; one with Safeway and one with Asda, two Effective IT Awards with Asda and Somerfield and a Computing Award for Excellence and a Grocer Gold Award with Asda.

micros-logo.jpgGT – Finally, where do you see Micros Retail & Manufacturing Ltd going from here? 
MICROS is launching a new range of retail products into the UK this year focused on store and point of sale management. This allows us to offer the supply chain and retailers the total package of applications and services to support the full lifecycle of products. We have also launched the MICROS Academy, which offers our customers class room and online training on a range of software products, and next year we look forward to launching Creations 3G (third generation), to further expand the reach of Creations across Europe, North America and Asia.

Micros Retail & Manufacturing Ltd
Tel: 0115 971 4545
www.micros-retail.co.uk