To provide the information it needs to make smart decisions today and plan future expansion, Soho Cash & Carry Ltd, a Today’s Group member, has installed a Business Intelligence solution from STL Technology Solutions, the leading developer of IT solutions for cash and carry and foodservice operators.

A visionary wholesaler

Sohoprovides licensed products, soft drinks and snack supplies to both on- and off-trade businesses. In the last couple of years it has added a second, state-of-the-art, purpose-built, 50,000ft2 warehouse in Wolverhampton, more than doubled the size of its head office in Birminghamand started the ball rolling on a delivered operation.

In the near future it plans to launch a click & collect service and a full delivered business with online ordering. The company also hopes to open a couple more depots in the Midlands area in the next few years.

Efficient platform

Soho has already driven efficiencies throughout its cash and carry business by using STL’s Merchandise Management System (MMS) and tilling solutions to manage its stock and sales. More recently, it installed STL’s Sales Order Processing (SOP) system to underpin its delivered operation and achieve the same control over its order processes, which will be coming in via various customer touchpoints.

Based on Microsoft development tools, STL’s solutions are flexible, scalable and easy to use. They also provide Soho with a great deal of information about its sales, suppliers and stock levels.

However, executives could only mine this rich data seam to a limited extent. Reports were static and it could take time to integrate custom reports with others from other systems which undermined the quality of the output.

Going one better

To give it an even sharper competitive edge, Sohowanted a single, standardised Business Intelligence (BI) system platform to serve all its reporting needs across its operations and systems, now and into the future. In particular, it demanded a system that would:

  • Cater for a wholesaler’s needs
  • Be easy to customise and quick to implement
  • Be highly responsive and easy to read and interrogate
  • Offer flexible user usage options
  • Enable managers to set and monitor KPIs for suppliers, customers and stock
  • Enable users to quickly collate data from other areas and other systems

Bally Bahra, Soho’s Managing Director, said,

‘To expand profitably, we need an IT platform that is not only robust, highly functional and scalable, but that can help us extract useable, real-time information that will accurately inform our decision-making.’

The intelligent solution

In response, STL implemented its BI solution, initially to work with Soho’s Sales and Inventory operations. This solution is based on the Profitbase cube accelerator and MS SQL Server Analysis Services, integrated with STL MMS and tailored for wholesalers by STL.

It offers a wide range of pre-built templates, straight out of the box, to give wholesalers dozens of measures, dimensions and business intelligence that are ready to use in a matter of days.

It offers a wide range of pre-built templates, straight out of the box, to give wholesalers dozens of measures, dimensions and business intelligence that are ready to use in a matter of days.

Because it uses Microsoft Excel as a front end data discovery and as a dashboard, it was quick to implement and intuitive for staff members to use right away. Usability is further enhanced by features such as Drill Downs, Filters, Drag-and-drop, and the ability to switch between columns and rows.

Impressive results immediately

For Soho, STL created several custom dashboards with KPIs involving Deport and Supplier performance on item level, enabling it to compare suppliers and brands in multiple ways.

At the click of a mouse, the company can now view measures like:

  • Loss on margin (from suppliers’ promotions)
  • Inventory turnover
  • Weeks on hand with comparisons to previous year, month and period to period.

On using the STL BI system for the first time, Mr Bahra was clearly impressed. He said,

‘I never thought I would get so much information from our systems!’

Most excitingly, Soho is able to get dynamic, multi-dimensional views of its data and explore any ‘what ifs’ using any touchpoints. This phenomenal flexibility will enable Sohoto accurately assess the performance of all its brands, suppliers and products, and get an early jump on trends.

This will give the wholesaler the information it needs to respond quickly to customers’ changing habits, and constantly deliver the right mix of products at the right price, while optimising profit.

Looking forwards, this capability will also help Sohoto forecast accurately, and therefore profitably plan future business initiatives.

Mr Bahra said,

‘We had all this data before, but now it’s so much easier to view and interrogate. I could think of another 100 customers that could benefit from this solution.’