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Store Operations

Take Two

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I n a challenging retail environment, Redner’s Markets will expand its 39 warehouse markets and 14 Quick Shoppe convenience stores by four additional stores this year, with decisions by senior management to support IT investments contributing to this growth pattern.

“We try to operate lean and mean, and we use technology to help us,” says Nick Hidalgo, director of IT, citing the company’s installation of Dell KACE’s K1000 and K2000 appliances about four years ago. “I don’t think we could operate the same way without it because of what it does for me — the time savings and the elimination of headaches.”

Headquartered in Reading, Pa., Redner’s operates stores in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, with some 4,300 employees, 600 POS terminals and a nine-person IT department.

The executive team of the family-run business — CEO Richard Redner, COO Ryan Redner and executive vice president of procurement Gary Redner — “fully support the IT department and these initiatives,” Hidalgo says. “We have not hired anyone in my department in four years, and we have added new locations. ... The K1000 and the K2000 are the equivalent of having two additional employees.”

Hidalgo initially went looking for a systems management solution to address patching headaches and help desk needs, but with the two Dell KACE appliances he gained capabilities and efficiencies that include inventory tracking, software distribution, configuration management, patch management and systems imaging.

“The whole solution is a big time-saver,” he says. “We can write a script for any task we are going to do repetitively. What used to take two hours is now down to five or 10 minutes.”

The speed and efficiency gained in patch management also ties into PCI compliance. Earlier this year, an auditor’s detailed inquiries required Redner’s Markets to demonstrate system functions.

“Rather than us being able to say, ‘Yes, we do this,’ he watched us going into the tools and pulling up that information — and he was perfectly happy,” Hidalgo says.

Redner’s IT team has gained more control over a whole raft of systems and is better informed about who is using what software throughout operations, quickly answering questions and solving mysteries. And as happened recently, surprise compliance audits were handled without disruptions to routine operations. “We had all the information they needed,” Hidalgo says.

Having that control over multiple systems helps nip issues in the bud. “If someone calls in with a problem, we can check to see if they did a patch job and then didn’t reboot,” he says. “We can also find out if someone ... installed software that wasn’t approved.”

Besides the increased efficiencies and control made possible by the Dell KACE appliances, Redner’s Markets reports a 512 percent return on investment, a 75 percent reduction in annual software distribution time and costs and a 200 percent reduction in deployment costs.

Multi-faceted solution
Dell acquired KACE in 2010 to assist businesses in meeting security and compliance needs, improve the accuracy of IT inventories and expedite help desk responses. Last November, Dell KACE announced 300 percent growth in its customer base and continued product innovation along with its expansion into global markets.

“PCI compliance is an ongoing need,” says Mike Adams, practice lead, retail solutions for Dell. “I’m in front of retailers all the time and we see a lot of different levels of compliance, sophistication and abilities in meeting PCI needs. Some think they have done the required compliance, but others are struggling and looking for ways” to determine where they aren’t in compliance.

“When retailers come to us, they want to find their assets and how they are configured,” says Ken Drachnik, director of product marketing for Dell KACE. “Second is patching, third is software updates and new pricing structures and fourth is engaging in PCI compliance. KACE simplifies those steps for understaffed retailers in a consistent, organized way.”

Within individual companies’ internal operations, Drachnik points to POS terminals as the area in which clients require the most security help.
“Having a good inventory of your systems and assets is … a very important starting point, [as is] being able to scan the network to see if something is missing,” he says, “and more importantly, seeing something in the network that is new and unauthorized.”

Adams echoes that concern, noting that a company’s employees pose a security risk through access to company and consumer data, just as they do with traditional shrinkage. This is especially the case, he says, with decommissioned or old equipment that can have large amounts of data stored inside.

Features and benefits
“The high-level benefit in Dell KACE features and functions is about time savings,” Drachnik says. “Retail organizations tend to run lean staffs, so they need a tool to perform functions in an automated fashion, such as optimizing licensing expenses, identifying the warehouse vs. the management suite and controlling costs by matching licenses to the actual functions. And it greatly enhances the security of the entire network by patching.”

Redner’s uses both the K1000 and the K2000. “The K1000 is the system that manages day-to-day operations in inventory, asset management patching of operations systems and third-party applications. It also has an integrated service desk,” Drachnik says. The K2000 helps minimize the manual tasks involved in building images. In the case of Redner’s Markets, which had a variety of PC models, the K2000 made the time-consuming task of building images more manageable.

“I don’t know if there is another solution that fits what Dell KACE does with all the modules,” Hidalgo says. “For the overall package, I haven’t seen anything that is better.”