by Adam Bender

MyChemist eyes 8-inch Dell tablets for shop floor

Nov 20, 20134 mins
Computers and PeripheralsData CenterEnterprise Storage

The pharmacy group that includes MyChemist and Chemist Warehouse may soon give Dell tablets to store staff as part of a planned hardware refresh, said the group’s CIO Jules Cardinale.

MyChemist is working with Dell to refresh all of the stores’ hardware over the next 18 months, Cardinale told CIO Australia in an interview at the Dell Enterprise Forum.

Existing hardware includes PCs that are used at the point of sale and for drug prescriptions at the company’s 350 locations across Australia, he said. Now, MyChemist is considering providing mobile devices for use by its 9,000 staff, he said.

“We want to use tablets on the shop floor.”

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The tablets would be used for a variety of tasks, including point of sale, stock replenishment and consistency of store layouts, he said. “Eventually, the way tablets are going, they may even replace the desktop PC,” he said.

Cardinale said he is looking at different form factors, but at the moment prefers 8-inch tablets because that size makes it easier for staff to hold the tablet in one hand and a store product in the other.

“A 10-inch device “to me is problematic,” he said.

The overall hardware refresh will see MyChemist upgrading from 32-bit to 64-bit hardware and migrating from Windows XP.

“We’ll probably go to Windows 7,” the CIO said. “I don’t think I’m brave enough to go to Windows 8 at the moment.”

The refresh follows a major rationalisation of IT at the MyChemist group of stores.

“The biggest challenge has been to simplify IT, to make it easier to manage and maintain,” he said.

Two to three years ago, MyChemist had Fujitsu servers and tablets, laptops, network switches and other boxes “of all sorts” across its 350 stores, said Cardinale.

Cardinale attributed this “huge mess” to the company’s basic strategy of keeping the business running and growing. “You just buy [and] bolt on.”

But this was not a sustainable IT plan, he said. Reliability was about 96 to 97 per cent and MyChemist experienced outages every other day.

The outages had a direct impact on store sales. Sometimes, an outage would prevent a price update from going through to every location.

“We’d reached the wall. We had to do a refresh,” he said.

MyChemist looked for a supplier to get its infrastructure in line. The company went to tender and received five offers. It narrowed those down to two, Dell and IBM.

The cost difference between Dell and IBM was slim, but the CIO said Dell provided better machines and a closer relationship between customer and vendor, he said. “It wasn’t so much the dollars, it’s [the] value.”

“Whereas [with] IBM, there were few add-ons and culturally, I felt like I was dealing with a solution provider who was talking through a vendor.”

Cardinale added that he liked the fact Dell was willing to reconfigure its proposal for the company when MyChemist decided it wanted to use Compellent storage rather than the original plan of EqualLogic. “They reconfigured within a week.”

Replacing the mishmash of old infrastructure with the new Dell equipment took about six months, he said.

“We don’t have downtime anymore,” Cardinale said. “The reliability of business services has gone through the roof.”

Since then, MyChemist has expanded its partnership with Dell and now meets with the vendor on a weekly basis to discuss its IT problems and strategies for the future, Cardinale said.

Adam Bender travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Dell.

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