Dulux paints glowing picture of IT upgrade

Dulux paint maker AkzoNobel says it has improved customer service with new in-store technologies at its Dulux Decorator Centre stores network, replacing legacy in-store computers and printers to ensure standardisation.

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Dulux paint maker AkzoNobel says it has improved customer service with new in-store technologies at its Dulux Decorator Centre stores network, replacing legacy in-store computers and printers to ensure standardisation.

IT systems provider Computacenter delivered a "shop-in-a-box" solution, which included new thin client devices, multi-function devices and printers. It was responsible for sourcing, configuring and implementing the new technologies at 189 stores across the UK and Ireland.

The refresh provided AkzoNobel with the technologies it needed to standardise business operations. The implementation has also helped reduce energy costs, increase employee productivity and improve communications, with AkzoNobel saying it can now also provide better services to its customers to boot.

AkzoNobel has owned the Dulux brand since its acquisition of ICI in 2008. Headquartered in Amsterdam and employing 50,000 people across 80 countries, the company is also a specialist in performance coatings and specialty chemicals.

The 189 Dulux Decorator Centres employ a total of 1,000 members of staff and serve the needs of both trade and public customers. Further afield, the company owns another 250 stores across mainland Europe.

Chris Gibson, AkzoNobel IT Infrastructure Manager for decorative paints for UK and Ireland, said, “Many of our processes were manual or inefficient – for example the process for ordering stock – and that meant we couldn’t spend as much time with customers as we wanted to.”

To address these challenges, the company decided to consolidate its diverse electronic pricing systems across Europe with a single central retail management system, starting in the UK and Ireland.

The stores’ legacy desktop computers were holding the company back, however. “The store computers ran outdated operating systems that were not compatible with the new application,” said Gibson.

AkzoNobel therefore embarked on a full technology refresh to replace its 900 ageing store devices.
 
The technologies for each store included new HP thin clients running Windows 7. Stores also received a new communications cabinet, an HP multi-function printer and one or two smaller printers, depending on the size of the branch.

To minimise disruption, Computacenter configured the 900 thin clients at its operations centre in Hatfield before deployment.
 
Computacenter also disposed of the old equipment, ensuring that AkzoNobel abided by WEEE regulations and providing certificates for secure data destruction and a detailed report for asset management. At the height of the project, nine stores were upgraded each day.
 
Computacenter is now responsible for supporting the newly installed technology. “We have our own team of two engineers managing all our IT needs,” said Gibson. “Whenever there is a problem with the hardware our staff can log a call with the Computacenter service desk and an engineer will be sent to the store.”

Computacenter has also set up an online portal to make it easier for both AkzoNobel’s IT department and the stores department to order new equipment as and when they need it. The portal is configured with a predefined catalogue of products that can be ordered.
 
“The portal will be particularly useful when we open new stores,” said Gibson. “We can order the hardware needed and it will be dispatched from Computacenter’s configuration centre where a number of preconfigured items will be kept, ready to be sent out at short notice.”

The project was being extended to a further three European countries this month.

 
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