Wincor Nixdorf – The Interview – Richard Pascoe speaks to The Grocery Trader

richard-pascoeWith over 50 years’ experience, Wincor Nixdorf is a trusted partner to many leading UK retailers and retail banks. Its intimate knowledge of the retail environment, from back-end operations to front-end point of sale, together with its knowledge of cash handling, makes it a safe pair of hands for any retailer, large or small.

Wincor Nixdorf helps retailers optimise their supply chains, business processes and the shopping experience through a mixture of best of breed hardware, software and service. By integrating technology and utilising its vast experience of retail best practice, Wincor Nixdorf delivers highly tailored solutions that help reduce costs, increase customer loyalty and maximise profits.

A key part of its Professional Services offering, Wincor Nixdorf’s retail consulting practice works with retailers of all sizes, providing flexible, results-oriented services that deliver business value in the short and long term. Richard Pascoe, Head of Retail Consulting at Wincor Nixdorf, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – How does the retail consultancy practice fit into Wincor Nixdorf’s business? What retail areas do your solutions cover?

As a company we provide retail clients with hardware, implementation and so on, and have done for many years. In 2009 we felt the missing piece was consultancy, hence we set up the retail consultancy practice. Our enterprise solutions manage all retail functions, including WMS, stock control, financials and the supply chain.

GT – How do you service retailers?

We have a team of account managers with retail experience, who offer our services to customers and engage with them over any pain points in any business area, including integrating different systems into one after an acquisition. We know and understand retailers’ businesses, probably even more than we understand their IT needs.

GT – How does the consultancy practice work?

We go in with an open mind, and seek to understand clients’ problems. A particular issue may just need time and advice. We can help customers put together an Invitation To Tender (ITT), making sure they ask vendors the right questions and reach the right specification.

We can be ‘agnostic’ in identifying the right vendors and products for a given solution, because we run many different types of third party software on our hardware. We’re used to integrating, and have wide experience providing the right solution.

m081118_win_0665There have been occasions where we have judged that our software wasn’t appropriate and recommended another supplier. We have a level of autonomy within Wincor Nixdorf, and see customer relationships as more important than simply selling something with our name on.

GT – Which other technology companies do you partner with to develop solutions? When might you use another vendor’s product?

We are a certified SAP VAR (Value Added Reseller), so if they’re the right fit, we use their kit, and conversely, they also call us in. We’re currently working for a client on a project where our own software simply wouldn’t fit: they had requirements for mobile and static retail and food service operations, and we didn’t have the entire suite in one cost-effective solution, so we found the best piece of complimentary software.

GT – What sets you apart from other consultancies?

Consultants vary widely in objectivity: we seek to become trusted advisors and be open and honest with customers, and build long-term relationships.

Because we’re particularly strong in UK retail and retail banking, we have a depth of expertise across the piece, in hardware, software, electronic funds transfer, cash management and optimisation, backed by a vast knowledge of retailers’ concerns across the board.

GT – When was the retail consulting practice set up?

The practice has been in its current form since February 2009. We have 120 consultants worldwide, mainly in Europe but also the US and Asia. Wincor Nixdorf has a presence in over 100 countries and can interlink with other global customers.

GT – Do you have similar consultancy practices in place for other industry sectors?

Wincor Nixdorf Professional Services also cover hospitality, healthcare and governmental services and in Germany especially, manufacturing.

GT – Where is the UK office? How many retail clients do you have here?

Our UK office is in Wokingham. We have touch points in the top five UK supermarkets, and relationships with other retailers to various degrees. We work with everyone from Tier 1 to Tier 2 and 3 retailers.

GT – Can you tell us about your involvement with specific companies?

To name a few, Morrisons were the last of the UK’s biggest grocers to deploy Automated Checkout systems into their stores, and are the only UK grocer to adopting the advanced recycling technology. The solution recycles the cash used for payments for change. The checkouts use proven technology developed for the retail banking industry, and can accept and recycle every UK coin. A key part of Marks & Spencer’s EPOS estate are Wincor Nixdorf EPOS systems, including our BEETLE POS terminals and peripherals including the receipt printers that deliver ecological efficiencies due to the merits of the 80plus power supply, which reduces the stand-by power down to just 10% of the normal power used when a printer is in ‘stand-by’ mode. Wincor Nixdorf Automated Checkout solutions are being deployed in store environments outside grocery including B&Q, the first UK home improvement retailer to deploy Automated Checkout, and IKEA, who have a unique solution that fits their store environment.

GT – What kinds of retail problems are you called in to solve?

A frequent problem is growth outstripping current systems, calling for leaner stock control. Another is growth after M&A and the need for shared services. Many retailers have been holding back on investment in IT because of the recession, and are suffering as a result.

GT – What jobs are the people in who call you?

We work for a mixture of people, from IT managers to board members such as CFOs. We get a lot of calls from finance people saying they need help to use cash more effectively, and first enquiries from IT people, leading to conversations with the board.

GT – What sizes of retailers are your target customers?

sap-gold-partnerOur main focus is Tier 2 and 3, the retailers currently most needing our help. For Tier 1’s, we do specialist work on particular areas: their internal departments often don’t have R&D, something we invest in substantially, so if they’re trying to get an edge, for example with leaner self-checkouts, we can help. There’s a lot of crossover between banks and supermarkets, and we’re actively bringing technologies together, offering POS solutions expertise and leveraging our R&D.

GT – What kind of retail experience do your consultants have? Are you looking for more consultants from within retail?

We’re always looking for more consultants. Our people have solid business experience as merchandisers, warehouse managers and others: they’ve gone through several cycles of hardware and software changes and have the battle scars, so are well qualified to empathise with clients. When times get tough we roll up our sleeves and help the client sort things out on the shop floor.

GT – What kind of work do your consultants get involved with for retail clients?

We focus on helping retailers automate standard business processes and integrate them with the rest of their processes to achieve differentiation and a better offer. We believe in keeping it simple: we won’t change systems unless the customer gains business advantage.

GT – Which standard processes do you help automate?

From a back office perspective, we automate such systems as goods receipting, invoice matching and processing, where there’s no benefit in paying people to do it. Automated processing frees accounts payable people to do other things, and releases buyers for more constructive negotiation.

GT – In non-technical terms, what is the typical outcome of your work?

We help clients tackle the complexities linked with inventory management and merchandising strategy, driving costs out of the bottom line and bringing products to market faster and more efficiently, while always applying our rule of keeping it simple.

GT – Can you identify any warning signs that mean it’s time to call in the retail consultancy practice?

Some telltale signs are poor on-shelf availability and high value of stock turn, and duplication of processes. If anything else is going wrong, there’s definitely a problem!

GT – I gather you have used your depth of experience to develop ‘tool kits’ that you bring in to solve common problems. What do those cover?

We have ‘toolkits’ for enterprise implementation. We don’t reinvent the wheel every time, but prefer to put forward standardised solutions unless there’s a need for competitive advantage. Using existing technology means we can implement SAP and other solutions faster, cheaper and make it accessible to the wider market of smaller Tier 2 and 3 retailers.

GT – How do you draw on the lessons of your previous solutions to benefit of other retailers without incurring confidentiality problems?

Where our work has no bearing on competitive advantage, we provide a route to best practice. If we’re asked to help in “competitive areas,” we work with clients to develop a tailored product that goes beyond the tool kit to measure and improve efficiency.

GT – What kinds of timeframes do you work to in arriving at your solutions?

Back office solutions can take 12 weeks from consultancy to implementation, or less depending on the company’s culture, ability to adapt and change and in-house IT skills.

GT – What are the commonest IT and other problems you find in retail as a result of business growth and Merger & Acquisition?

The commonest problems are duplication and incompatibility of processes. We’ve been brought in behind the scenes after a number of M&A situations, and have a growing number of reference customers.

GT – What experience do you have of helping retailers plan for, and manage growth?

wn_logo_claim_a_4cWe help manage growth once customers hit pain points, and also during M&As: we’ve done some planning with one retailer and then helped implement the changes for their first acquisition, and now we’re helping plan a second.

GT – How scalable are your systems as companies grow?

Our systems are very scalable: another of our strengths is support with applications, hardware, general services and ongoing consultancy as they hit the next pain point. It’s never a case of ‘rip and replace’ with our installations, which reflects their scalable nature and our commitment to ongoing consultancy.

GT – How do your solutions make business-critical data more widely available, with real-time visibility throughout the business?

We provide server-based, real-time, fully integrated solutions including updated accounts, stock situations and warehouse information, giving a consistent picture of the business.

GT – What is your specific experience of improving efficiency in retail supply chains?

For our client QD we stripped cost out of the supply chain and improved on-shelf availability. In Europe we’ve helped various retailers improve stockholding along with advanced forecasting for replenishment. Our solutions in this area are going well in Germany particularly, and the UK is waking up to their potential.

GT – Do you produce any case studies showing the kinds of improvements you can achieve, and the bottom line returns?

Yes we do on the opposite page.

GT – When a retailer decides to migrate from their bespoke IT system, can you help them move to an industry standard one with minimum pain?

Yes, we do a lot of work in that area. Many retailers are buying off the shelf products from us, and adapting them to suit. Tier 2 and 3 retailers are more constrained with cash, so will listen more readily to the benefits of off shelf. Larger organisations are more likely to keep everything bespoke, but the reality is, if they’re not providing competitive advantage, bespoke systems are a pure cost and should be avoided.

GT – Do you train retailers’ management and staff to use the new systems to maximum advantage?

Yes, it typically happens on site. We run courses ranging from a one-day intro to more in-depth training of up to three days, for people at all levels including dashboard reporting for CEOs and MDs to help them get the best from the system.

There’s a lot to learn initially, but when you’re recruiting new people later, if they’ve got experience on our systems from elsewhere the skills are transferable, so you save on training costs.

GT – As retailers look more at multi-channel retailing, can you help them understand the priorities and decide on the right path, and then implement it? Can you talk about any customers you’ve helped go multi-channel?

Multi-channel retailing is one of our biggest growth areas. We cover the whole spectrum, including web stores, concessions, call centres, kiosks and airport outlets. We work with customers in all of these, including the Garden Company, Stephen Webster Jewellery, QD and Garrard and Co.

GT – Finally, where do you see the retail consultancy practice going from here?

I see us continuing to grow stronger. As I’ve mentioned, our biggest current opportunities are the Tier 2 and Tier 3 retailers, the latter probably most of all. IWe offer the people who have weathered the recession well and are growing, an alternative to putting in big, expensive solutions in the form of tried and tested, standardised ones.  Another major source of rapid growth is our relationship with SAP, which is putting a lot of business our way as investment revives.

Wincor Nixdorf Retail Consultancy Practice   Tel: 0118 936 5000   www.wincor-nixdorf.com