Microsoft Windows Embedded Customer Solution Case Study
U.K. Retailer Selects Microsoft Windows Embedded over Linux for Improved Reliability
Overview Country: United Kingdom Industry: Retail Customer Profile Wickes is a leader in the do-it-yourself market. With 171 standard and eight Extra stores, the company has one of the best sales-per-square-foot rates in the United Kingdom. Business Situation The company wanted to replace its existing point of sale (POS) system, which had reached the end of its life cycle and could not deliver Chip and PIN services. Solution Wickes rolled out a POS solution—powered by Microsoft® Windows® Embedded for Point of Service—across all of it stores. Benefits Support for Chip and PIN peripherals. Maintenance reduced by 90 per cent. Development costs avoided. Improved customer satisfaction. Long life cycle.
“When we considered Linux and Microsoft, we were more certain with Microsoft. There was no doubt the Microsoft solution would work with Chip and PIN.” Carl Collins, IT Business Manager for Store Systems, Wickes
Wickes is a leading do-it-yourself (DIY) retailer in the United Kingdom (U.K.) whose success relies on IT processes that maximise price competitiveness and customer-service excellence. Wickes wanted to replace its existing point of sale (POS) system, which was increasingly expensive to maintain and lacked the ability to deliver Chip and PIN services. After considering Linux, the company chose Microsoft® Windows® Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS) because of its ability to reliably support new services. Wickes then deployed WEPOS-based retail blade devices to all POS locations in all stores. Chip and PIN services are now running smoothly, and POS-related maintenance calls have fallen by 90 per cent. What’s more, Wickes is confident it now has a predicable technology—with plug-n-play features and excellent driver support—that can support growth.
Situation Point of sale (POS) systems can create competitive advantages for retailers. They form a vital link in the chain of IT processes that help reduce costs and boost sales throughout the industry. However, to exploit the potential of POS systems fully, companies need reliable and flexible technologies that can support change, providing new services consistently.
“There was no doubt in my mind the Microsoft solution would work with Chip and PIN. And you don’t want to take a gamble when you’ve got unmovable deadlines such as Chip and PIN.” Carl Collins, IT Business Manager for Store Systems, Wickes
Wickes is an established brand in the do-ityourself (DIY) market in the United Kingdom (U.K.). Wickes stores are designed to appeal to serious DIY customers who carry out more complex projects and tradesmen who undertake general repairs, maintenance, and improvement projects for households. The company has a portfolio of 171 standard and eight Extra stores and boasts one of the leading sales-per-square-foot rates among DIY retailers. The company’s existing POS solution, however, was struggling to deliver continued business success. The system—based on MSDOS and running on devices of different ages—had become increasingly expensive to maintain. Administrators, for instance, had to manage multiple images, which often varied from store to store. The company also found the system less and less predictable. It was harder to find the right drivers to support new services, which left the company unsure about its future development. Carl Collins, IT Business Manager for Store Systems at Wickes, says: “The administrative overhead from the existing POS was a burden, and my team spent much of its time on routine administrative tasks instead of more strategic development roles.” The decision to roll out Chip and PIN services spelled the end of the company’s POS system. According to a timetable set out by a number of major credit card companies,
retailers in the U.K. needed to install Chip and PIN services in early 2005. With the new services realistically beyond the capabilities of the existing POS system, Wickes launched a refresh programme to find a replacement. For any major retailer, this type of programme is high risk and relies on a number of factors for success. The POS system needs to work properly from the start and be incredibly reliable, secure, and easy to use for till operators. “Reliability is crucial,” Collins says. “If a till is unreliable, we lose money. We have spent enormous amounts of time fine-tuning till software to make it more resilient. Security is also important. We need to be able to lock down to prevent non-authorised access.”
Solution Linux and Microsoft® Windows® Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS) are two technologies on the market that support POS systems. As part of his assessment of these two options, Collins attended a Microsoft seminar in Reading, U.K. “I recognised that WEPOS was ideal for a retail environment,” Collins says. “It is aimed at retail organisations, a standardisation of the Windows Embedded environment for a retail machine. And you can be confident a Microsoft solution is reliable.” One important attribute of the WEPOS technology is its predictability. Organisations can rest assured that the technology is flexible enough to support their changing business needs. This reliability gave Wickes more confidence that WEPOS—as opposed to Linux—would provide Chip and PIN services without problems. “When we considered Linux and Microsoft, we found we were more confident with Microsoft,” Collins says. “There was no doubt in my mind the Microsoft solution would work with Chip and PIN. And you don’t want to take
a gamble when you’ve got unmovable deadlines such as Chip and PIN.” Wickes then approached DigiPoS Systems Group in the U.K., which supplies purposebuilt POS systems for retailers. It reviewed the company’s DigiPoS Retail Blade device, running WEPOS on an Intel Celeron CPU. In tests, the blade solution performed well. For Wickes, it delivered the right combination of powered serial and USB ports, reliability, and low-cost maintenance.
“WEPOS is specifically aimed at retailers, delivering standard support for the retail drivers we need and the ability to prevent unauthorised access.” Carl Collins, IT Business Manager for Store Systems, Wickes
Ian Patterson, Managing Director, DigiPoS, says: “The DigiPoS Retail Blade is a brandnew concept for the business. For us, WEPOS is the leading product on the market, offering the best embedded operating system for retail-based machines. It is a cost-effective and flexible solution that offers a long life cycle with support for future device drivers in retail.” Wickes deployed 1,000 blades across its entire store network. Implementation was rapid and trouble-free, with engineers working closely with the Wickes help desk. Collins says: “Deployment went like a dream. A hardware engineer would ring the help desk and say the blade was installed. From this point, the help desk would load the image onto the blade, and the job was completed.”
Benefits Wickes has been able to adopt Chip and PIN services on schedule and now has a reliable and flexible POS system that delivers competitive advantage in the local DIY market. Solution Delivers New Services Reliably The reliability of Microsoft technology gives companies increased confidence when adopting new services. For Wickes, the results of deploying WEPOS to support Chip and PIN services were more predictable than with competing technologies such as Linux.
The company knew the Windows Embedded solution would provide the necessary level of availability to make the adoption of such a mission-critical service a success. “With a Windows-based solution, there was never any doubt we could deliver Chip and PIN reliably,” Collins says. “We had more confidence in WEPOS than in a Linux solution. WEPOS is specifically aimed at retailers, delivering standard support for the retail drivers we need and the ability to prevent unauthorised access.” Calls to Help Desk Cut by 90 Per Cent The stability of the WEPOS solution is illustrated by the fact help desk calls have fallen by 90 per cent and that Chip and PIN works well across all Wickes stores. The significant reduction in help desk calls has also improved productivity for the IT team, which now spends much less time on routine maintenance tasks and more time on highervalue, strategic tasks. “This is great for the future of Wickes,” Collins says. “We can now spend a lot more time on developing the POS system to ensure it supports growth. To other retailers, I would say WEPOS should be your choice because it specifically meets your needs.” Customer Waiting Times Reduced The combination of WEPOS running on an Intel Celeron CPU within the blade hardware delivers a high-performance POS system that handles customers rapidly. A key factor is that WEPOS is tailor-made for retail environments. The operating system is optimised, featuring only the functions and components POS devices need. The performance of the new POS system helps ensure Wickes can meet the expectations of modern-day consumers by providing quick and efficient payment operations. “We wanted to make sure the tills
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ran as fast as possible to reduce queuing times and maximise customer convenience,” Collins says. “WEPOS is definitely efficient, and you get better performance out of the processor on the DigiPoS blade.” Product Life Cycle Maximises Returns Retailers want solutions with long life cycles. Once they successfully roll out a system across stores, they are reluctant to repeat the process in the short term and disrupt business. By choosing WEPOS, Wickes gained an embedded operating system with one of the longest product support life cycles.
Microsoft Windows Embedded For more information about Windows Embedded products please visit: www.microsoft.com/windows/embedded
A number of factors crucial to retailers underlie the system’s longevity. Microsoft POS for .NET, for example, delivers a development environment that complies with the United Point of Service standard and delivers plug-n-play functionality that integrates and manages retail device peripherals easily. “Knowing you have the support of Microsoft makes a difference,” Collins says. “With WEPOS, you know the right drivers will always be available because manufacturers will always produce drivers for Windows. It is fully supported by Microsoft and, being Windows, it is easier to recruit experienced developers and support technicians. You know you’ve made a cost-effective investment that will support your business for many years.”
Software and Services Microsoft Windows − Microsoftand Windows Embedded Software Services Microsoft Windows Embedded for Point of − Microsoft Windows Embedded for Point Service (WEPOS) Products Service Windows (WEPOS) Embedded − of Microsoft
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